Review: Anya and the Nightingale

Anya and the Nightingale by Sofiya Pasternack

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield

The characters from "Anya and the Dragon" – Anya (the girl), Ivan (the fool), and Håkon (the dragon) – are back, this time on a quest to find Anya's Papa and return him home. Finding themselves unexpectedly in Kiev, they agree to rid the kingdom of the Nightingale, a forest elf who is causing a lot of damage. Upon further research, they discover that the Nightingale, whose name is Alfrecht, is trying to free his brother, Wielaf, from the Kiev castle dungeon. The trio, now with Alfrecht, find their way into the dungeons, locate Wielaf, and are met with an angry, evil monster they must defeat in order to leave. The battle is vicious, frightening, and ultimately successful.

While reading the first book is not mandatory, it would be helpful just to know the characters and their backgrounds (which are only slightly reviewed.)

In addition, there are a lot of loose ends left hanging at the end of this second book: Papa is still not home; Anya has met a Jewish family and is attracted to their son, Misha; the identity of the evil monster in the dungeon has yet to be revealed; and Ivan is in love with Alfrecht; to name a few. It will be no surprise to read Anya and the Evil Monster sometime next year.

This book has an abundance of Jewish content, and fills an important niche of Jewish Fantasy, with time travel, spirits, elves, and more. Anya and her family live in a small town and are the only Jews, but Kiev is a multiethnic, multicultural city with a large and learned Jewish population. Anya experiences a level of Judaism she has never encountered before, during a Shabbat dinner at Misha’s home. References to Jewish rites and rituals are spread throughout the book, starting - and ending - with Anya building a Sukkah in her family’s field. The details are well researched and interesting. Overall this is a fun read, especially when viewed as a trilogy in the making. 


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Reviewer Kathy Bloomfield is the President of the Association of Jewish Libraries. She is working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic to upgrade her long dormant website, She lives in Seal Beach, CA.


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