The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight, #1) by Katherine Arden

  • Title: The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight, #1)
  • Novelist: Katherine Arden
  • Publisher: Del Rey book
  • Category: Fantasy

The Bear and the Nightingale opens a door on the medieval Russian folklore. In a little village, Dunya tells her country’s legends by the fireside. These stories nourishes little Vasilisa who will have to arm herself to protect the ones she loves while staying herself.   

The novel has two parts. The first part unveils the context of the storyline: Vasya’s family, her father’s remarriage, the horrible relationship with her mother-in-law (as Cinderella) and the milieu where she is growing. That is a big introduction setting the universe and the pawns on the chessboard. We plunge into the 15th Century in Russia where Christianity stands alongside paganism that is still alive thanks to stories by the fireside and Vasya’s eyes who takes care of household spirits. The second part of the book presents the breaking of the balance. The newcomer priest and the mother-in-law, who is terrified by fantastic creatures, diverted peasants from daily behaviors that allowed the invisible ones to protect their homes. The shield fell at the worst moment: the awakening of the Bear is bringing a terrible winter.

This book is as a fairytale in which magic lives in the Russian snowy forest. The story isn’t original. It’s about the birth of a witch who protects the old traditions and who has a behavior opposite to what a girl should do. However, I like it because of the folklore and the authenticity of the tsar’s kingdom. Especially the Russian words that are explained in a glossary. I rarely read books related to Russia and its history. The author’s skill who makes alive this era, its environment, it’s beliefs and it’s atmosphere, convinced me. As her style that is poetic and full of imagery.

The character of Vasilisa is eye-catching and puzzling. She is the kind of little innocent girl who is able to tell you truths frankly and without animosity. It is making people wary. Above all the priest who doesn’t like her. When she is talking with the spirits, her sentences are naive sometime. It gives a certain style. She disturbs people because of her intelligent observations and her tomboy nature. She prefers running in the wood, riding a horse and keeping her freedom than sewing and cooking all day.

In short, The Bear and The Nightingale is a wonderful dive in snowy Russian lands where the folklore is still alive thanks to a child who is shaking the conventions up to stay free and to be herself.

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Friend Request by Laura Marshall

  • Title: Friend Request
  • Novelist: Laura Marshall
  • Publisher: Sphere Edition
  • Categories: Thriller, Mystery

Friend Request puts us on the dangerousness of Facebook. Louise Williams created her own interior design firm. She works at home and raises her 4-year-old son, Henry, alone since she divorced. One day, she received a friend request from Maria Weston who died in 1989. She is invited to attend the School Reunion Class of 1989. Louise wonders who is hiding behind that Facebook’s profile. Could Maria be still alive? The sea never gave back her body after all. Will Louise face the weight of the past that haunts her every day?

This thriller takes off at top speed with the reception and the acceptation of the Friend Request. Nevertheless, the rhythm slows down during the next chapters. Disturbing events happen but we know that the Reunion’ll be the most important moment of the story. The moment when something dark’ll occur. After that, the heroine will be more stressed and frightened. After the episode, I didn’t want to put the book aside. The end made me shivering because of the horror of the revelations.   

The book approaches a lot of concepts. The bullying at school. The desire to sacrifice everything to be a part of the group of popular teens. The power that makes some people feel not responsible of their acts. The effects of our school life on our future. The dangers of Facebook and the voyeurism. The children’s place in his mother’s life.  

Henry is the center of Louise’s universe. She doesn’t see her own force even though she is a single mother and a boss. She doesn’t feel confident and she is puffed up with the perfect idea of the family. In the novel, she draws on her energy and her hidden strength to prevent herself from succumbing to the urges she feels for her ex-husband. I like her evolution, her willpower and her bravery. 

The alternation between 1989 and 2016 immerses us in two eras that are different and have similar points at the same time. We learn Louise’s past and the link between that past and the present appears progressively until the final revelations. The writing of the novelist is simple and fluid.

In short, Friend Request is a novel blending a raw reality and morality. Laura Marshall used the vices of Facebook to offer us a thrilling story in which human horror is shown. 

Friend Request de Laura Marshall

  • Titre : Friend Request
  • Autrice : Laura Marshall
  • Éditeur : Sphere edition
  • Catégories : Thriller, policier

Friend Request nous embarque dans les dangerosités qu’engendre le réseau social Facebook. Louise Williams a développé sa propre entreprise d’architecture d’intérieur. Elle travaille à domicile et s’occupe seule de son petit garçon de 4 ans, Henry, depuis son divorce. Un jour, elle reçoit une demande d’ami de Maria Weston qui est morte en 1989 et qui l’invite à une réunion d’anciens élèves. Louise s’interroge sur l’identité de la personne qui se cache derrière ce nom. Serait-il possible qu’elle soit en vie ? La mer n’a jamais rendu son corps après tout. Aura-t-elle le courage d’affronter le poids du passé qui la hante ?

Ce thriller démarre sur les chapeaux de roue avec la réception et l’acceptation de la demande d’ami. Toutefois, le déroulement des chapitres qui suivent sont moins palpitants. Des évènements inquiétants se produisent mais on sent bien que c’est lors de la réunion qu’il va seulement se passer un élément clé de l’intrigue qui va bousculer encore plus l’héroïne et qui va augmenter son stress et son inquiétude. A partir de là, j’ai eu du mal à lâcher le bouquin. La fin m’a fait frissonner par l’horreur des révélations.

Les thèmes abordés dans ce livre sont multiples. Les brimades à l’école dues à la division entre les élèves populaires et les autres. L’envie de tout sacrifier pour entre dans la sphère des personnes populaires. La domination et le pouvoir qui donnent l’impression à d’autres de ne pas être coupables de leurs actes. L’impact de son adolescence sur son avenir. Les dangers de Facebook et le voyeurisme. Et l’importance de l’enfant pour une mère.

Louise place Henry au centre de son univers. Elle a du mal à voir la force qu’elle représente en tant que mère célibataire et chef d’entreprise. Elle manque de confiance et elle est imprégnée par l’image idéale de la famille. Au cours du roman, elle puise dans son énergie et sa force cachée pour ne pas laisser ses pulsions pour son ex-mari gagner. J’ai particulièrement apprécié son évolution, sa volonté et sa bravoure.

L’alternance entre 1989 et 2016 nous plonge dans deux époques où tout est différent tout en ayant des points communs. Cette technique permet d’entrer dans le passé de Louise et de relier peu à peu le passé et le présent jusqu’aux révélations finales. Le style de l’autrice est simple et fluide.

En bref, Friend Request est un roman mêlant réalité brute et moralité. Laura Marshall se sert des vices de Facebook pour nous offrir une histoire où la tension règne et dans laquelle l’horreur humaine s’expose.

The Invisible Library (#1) by Genevieve Cogman

  • Title : The Invisible Library (#1)
  • Novelist : Genevieve Cogman
  • Publisher : Pan MacMillan
  • Categories : Steampunk, Fantasy, Mystery

A cover that imitates the leather, a title that mentions a mysterious library, a summary talking about a book-based treasure hunt…You needn’t a bigger hook to catch me.

The invisible Library is a shelter of thieves! That place is out of space and time and is keeping many books from alternative worlds. However, it’s not just any works. Only the unique and specific to the world books can join the labyrinthine bookshelves. The librarians collect them because of :

  1. The senior librarians’ research.
  2. Their effect on the language
  3.  Their power to strengthen the link between the Library and the alternative world

Irene wanders the alternative universes for this secrete society. Sometime she puts her life in danger to get and to keep the precious pamphlets. Her intelligence and the language (a non-magic power that works on object when you respect their essence) help her to fulfil the missions. She is perceptive. She analyses the situations from every angles. She has her own librarian code of honour. She dares to use every tools or persons even the undesirable ones if it/he helps her to find the book.

During her new task, she must head an apprentice, Kai. Behind his good boy and newbie image, he is slightly mysterious. You can rely on him. He has a gift to get used to the situation. It is an important quality to melt into the worlds to find the target without drawing the attention. 

Our book thieves cross over the gate that brings them in a 19th century London where Steampunk stands alongside fantastic beasts. Werewolves, vampires, faes are common. The aim of the mission is to collect an edition of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. There are two problems. Firstly, this world is infected by the Chaos. Secondly, Belphegor stole the book and his owner was murdered.

Irène and Kai put on Sherlock Holmes’s hat and they make their own enquiries in avoiding their enemies and their metallic bugs. During their adventure, they meet colourful characters:  Bradamant the rival and Irene’s former mentor, and Peregrine Vale, the famous detective.

Genevieve Cogman built a fascinating and complex universe where the literary genres and references melted. One of the strong points of the novel is the working of the language and its constraints. The action blends with the investigation using fight and strategy. The boredom is absent. However, some episodes are similar and leave a déjà-vu feeling. Faes, dragons, magic and other beasts match with science and technology of the 19th century perfectly. I like that the novelist mentions small countries even if the main plot is taking place in London.

There is only an extract that made me gnashing my teeth because it leads to the idea that smile can distinguish women and men. « His lips curved in a smile that was somehow more a man’s than a woman’s. » I could have understood it if that sentence was said by a native of this alternative world. Its etiquette might cause a different behavior according to your sex. However, Irene is from another world, she experienced a lot of universe and society. Therefore, it’s illogical that she has such kind of idea.

I have a mixed view about the end. I wasn’t expected such development. Because of the synopsis and the kind of series, I had thought it was something more classical. I’m both curious and fearful about the next opus.

Briefly, The Invisible Library is a novel that is at the crossroad of genres (mystery, steampunk, fantasy). It has a captivating and complex world.