The Bear and the Nightingale
I wanted to love The Bear and the Nightingale so much. It's a book that was written with my personal sensibilities in mind. It's a fairy tale set in the wilderness of Russia, a small village full of superstition and religion. It's a dichotomy that's lived in the village for generations and one that gets' altered when a new priest comes to join the village.
The story revolves around a young girl, Vasilisa. Like many fairy tales her mother passes away when she's born and she's stuck with an evil, demanding stepmother who wants nothing to do with her. So instead, Vasilisa is left to her own devices, living her life through her surrogate mother's stories. There are a ton of common fairy tale tropes, twisted in with religion, family dynamics, and a changing society.
What lost me in The Bear and the Nightingale was the bizarre and often nonsensical side tangents the story went down during the first half. There is family plot development for almost no reason. There are also a ton of Russian names that in the audio version made it hard to figure out who was who. I often got confused thinking that potentially we had shifted perspectives, or the story was going to a different place.
Towards the middle of The Bear and the Nightingale we get a harder focus on Vasilisa. She's an amazing character and I could have used more of her and less of everything else. Sadly though the climax and conclusion of the story did absolutely nothing for me. It completely missed any sort of landing it was going for, leaving room for future novels. I didn't totally dislike the book, it was fine, but I so badly wanted to love it far more then I did.