In The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden tells a Russian fairytale, and she does it with a lot of feeling. The atmosphere is wonderful and a great mix of fairytale logic: everything is slightly off, belief and patterns carry more weight than logic, and if you’re clever, you’ll pick the right one of the two.
But the story plodded on and on. I felt like the author’s goal was to mix fairytales with realism (you get the spirits, but you also get the politics and the starvation), but it didn’t quite work. Ironically, the real-life parts were painted at least as black-and-white as the fairytale, and I didn’t enjoy the predictable and one-dimensional characters all that much.
That being said, the atmosphere makes the book still worth reading, even if I think that Naomi Novik did the Russian fairytale retelling quite a bit better.