The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

4.5 stars rounded up to 5 because of the horses!

I love fairy tale retellings or re-imaginings and I love Russian folklore, so I was especially excited for this. The first chapter was utterly magical and held me spellbound — and then it was slow going for a while, as the evil in the woods was slowly awoken by little acts – or failures to act – over many years, on the villagers’ part. Once the action picked up again, I found myself turning page after page in my eagerness to know whether Vasya would triumph.

Things I loved:
Vasya was strong in the best sense of the word – she insisted on living her life on her terms while still remaining steadfastly loyal to her family and village.
The horses. Nobody told me this had such delightful equines in it! I’m a sucker for well-written horses.
The antagonists. Yes, there were more than one, and all of them were layered, full of believable motivations. As in real life, nothing is simple.

This well-researched and brilliantly written debut novel was a real treat to read on a cold winter night, and I’m looking forward to more from Katherine Arden.

**Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from NetGalley. This is an unbiased review and I would absolutely go purchase this novel.**

Tea with the Black Dragon – R.A. MacAvoy

I’ve been a reader of fantasy since pretty much the day I learned to read; and this book was published during my fantasy-reading heyday. So I’m not entirely sure how it is that I had never read it until this weekend, 33 years after its publication. My best excuse is that I spent most of the Eighties reading almost exclusively horse books, with a brief pause for Gone with the Wind and The Thorn Birds (hey, I got the romance bug somewhere…)
So anyhow, I had heard about this book over and over for years. It pops up all the time on peoples’ comfort-read lists, best-fantasy lists, you name it. And somehow I still had not read it. But I had it marked as “to-read” on my Goodreads, and Goodreads now has this (wonderful, terrible) feature that emails you when books go on sale…
I’ll cut to the chase. This is a snappy little amuse bouche of a novel, and I spent about half of Sunday reading it. It’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area at the very dawn of the computer boom, and is filled with delightful relics such as an 8080 text processor that runs on white tapes, and bank security systems with frighteningly bad security plans. Despite the historical aspect, the earnestness of some of the computer engineers – Fred in particular – rings as true today as ever.
This book has more in it than a look at the past though; it’s got crime (a heist story!) and romance (between people over fifty!) and lots and lots of Zen.
Oh, and tea. Don’t forget the tea.

I recommend you brew a nice cup of oolong and settle in for the afternoon with this one. Five stars.