A book blog about Russia in English-language fiction

Tag: Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (2017)

Russia in Fiction has reviewed nearly a hundred books set in Russia, and read hundreds more. Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale is the first novel we have reviewed that is set in Rus’, as opposed to the modern state of Russia. It takes us also into a genre not so far covered here —that of historical fantasy— and from the point of view of the many fans of that genre, this is a high quality entry point.

The Bear and the Nightingale made the shortlist for several awards of the ‘first novel’ and ‘best new writer’ type, and the Winternight trilogy which it launched was also a finalist in the Best Series category of the Hugo Awards, given annually for works of science fiction or fantasy.

Katherine Arden sets her work in medieval Russia. More specifically, in mid-14th century Muscovy — a time of boyars and peasants, of hierarchy and hardship, of paganism and Russian Orthodoxy.

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Firesong by Joseph Hone (1997)

In Firesong, noted writer of espionage novels Joseph Hone (1937-2016) tries his hand at the sprawling epic; 700 pages following Prince and Princess Rumovsky, members of the St Petersburg nobility, in the tumultuous 14 years between New Year 1906 and Christmas 1920.

Firesong is then a ‘Russia in the time of revolution’ novel. Like others of this sub-genre —Barnaby William’s Revolution (1994), James Meek’s The People’s Act of Love (2005), Charlotte Hobson’s The Vanishing Futurist (2016)— Firesong sets up the pre-revolutionary life of its central characters and then explores the impact of revolution and civil war on the same.

The epic is not Russia in Fiction’s favourite genre. That said, there is plenty here to fascinate and to enlighten from the Russia-in-fiction perspective. Not least, we learnt stuff about Harbin.

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