The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Join Vasya, the young and wild protagonist of the first book in The Winternight Trilogy, a magical tale of frost-demons and house-spirits, set in the icy kingdoms of northern Russia

The Bear and the Nightingale

'If the domovoi wasn’t real, then what about the others?

The animals’ heat struck up from below and warmed the sweet- smelling loft. Vasya buried herself in a heap of straw, chilly, bruised, and baffled.

There was no such thing as a domovoi? Of course there was. They saw him every day. He’d been right there.

But did they see him? Vasya couldn’t recall anyone except herself talking to the domovoi. But— of course Anna Ivanovna saw him: Go away, she had said. Hadn’t she? Maybe— maybe there wasn’t such a thing as a domovoi. Perhaps she was mad. Maybe she was destined to be a Holy Fool and wander begging among the villages. But no, Holy Fools were protected by Christ; they would not be nearly as wicked as her.

Vasya’s head hurt with thinking. If the domovoi wasn’t real, then what about the others? The vodianoy in the river, the twig- man in the trees? The rusalka, the polevik, the dvorovoi? Had she imagined them all? Was she mad? Was Anna Ivanovna? She wished she could ask Olya or Sasha. They would know, and neither of them would ever strike her. But they were far away.

Vasya buried her head in her arms. She wasn’t sure how long she lay there. The shadows drifted across the dim stable. She dozed a bit in the manner of tired children, and when she awoke, the light in the hayloft was gray and she was furiously hungry.

Stiffly, Vasya uncurled herself, opened her eyes— and found herself looking straight into the eyes of a strange little person. Vasya gave a moan of dismay and curled up again, pressing her fists into her eye sockets.

But when she looked again, the eyes were still there, still large, brown, and tranquil, and attached to a broad face, a red nose, and a wagging white beard. The creature was quite small, no larger than Vasya herself, and he sat in a pile of hay, watching her with an expression of curious sympathy. 

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more