This month’s FYA Book Club selection is The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden. Guys, I LOVE this wintery tale about a girl who must save her small Russian village from an evil demon after an ambitious priest comes to town and convinces everyone to turn their backs on the old gods.
Check out the discussion questions below! (Slight spoilers ahead.)
P.S. If you’ve already read the book, feel free to add any other discussion questions of your own in the comments!
The Bear and the Nightingale is a sort of Russian fairy tale, and fairy tales are a recurring theme throughout the book. Growing up, what was your favorite fairy tale and why?
1. This book features a number of mythical spirits or devils from Slavic lore referred to as “chyerti”: the domovoi in the oven, vodianoy in the river, the man-eating rusalka, or the vazila in the stables to name a few. Some protect Vasya and her family while others are dangerous. Did you have a favorite chyerti? Which do you wish to have in your home, and which do hope to avoid forever?
2. Did you agree with Dunya’s decision to hold on to the necklace that Morozko sent to Vasya for so long? How did it make you feel when she continued to put off giving Vasya the talisman?
3. Anna Ivanova is Arden’s version of the “evil stepmother” trope in Western fairy tales. Despite having the same second sight that Vasya does, Anna is pious and considers Vasya a witch. What did you think of Anna? Did you find her at all sympathetic? How was Anna different from the evil stepmothers in the stories we grew up with?
4. Who did you think was ultimately to blame for the evils creeping into the village? Father Konstantin, for his pride, rejection of the old gods, and the way he treated anyone who still believed in them? Or the villagers like Anna Ivanova who blindly followed Father Konstantin and turned their backs on the old faith?
5. What did you think of Vasya’s relationship with her father, Pyotr? Did your feelings toward Pyotr change over the course of the book?
6. Unlike many YA books, The Bear and the Nightingale follows Vasya from a very early age into her teen years. Do you think this affected the way you thought of Vasya? How did you feel about the time jumps in the story?
7. Father Konstantin is a complex character whose faith takes him on quite an arc before the end of the book. What did you think of him? Did you find him at all sympathetic? A victim to his own faith? Or did he deserve everything that happened to him?
8. Morozko is both the god of winter and death. He is portrayed as ominous and feared by many, yet when Vasya stays at his home in the fir grove, he is more human-like and gentle, and even gifts her the horse Solovey. Do you trust the winter king? What do you think he has in store for Vasya?
9. There are two more books in the Winternight trilogy – do you plan to read the rest of this series?