One of the things why I love joining blog activities/challenges is the book recommendations I get from reading other bloggers’ book reviews. This is exactly what happened when I joined Alison @ The Cheap Reader’s Project: Fairy Tale. Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook chose East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a fairy tale I was not familiar with before, and after checking out her reviews of the original tale as well as its retellings, I saw that she liked Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow best as compared to the other retellings of her chosen fairy tale. Her review of the book sparked my interest; thus, I decided right then and there to add the book to my list.
Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:
When a great white bear offers a woodcutter’s daughter untold riches in return for her company, she accepts, believing she has made a wise decision. Even though the lass is offered every luxury at the bear’s castle, she begins to feel like a prisoner. Then, when servants start to disappear, the lass realizes the bear may know more than he will say. Determined to learn the truth, the lass sets out on a windswept journey east of the sun and west of the moon to fight for the man she has only just discovered is her one true love.
I’ve read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow after reading the gist of the original tale to be able to at least determine the differences between the two. If you’ve been following my blog, you might notice my growing enthusiasm towards retellings that are written closely to the original tale like Beauty by Robin McKinley and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. And I must say, this book has the same effect on me as well.
The beginning of the story already catches my attention as it immediately offers a very intriguing setting and characters. The story centers on one family, particularly the life of the youngest child unnamed by the mother, living in a place where snow seems to fall endlessly. Being unnamed as she is, the protagonist is mainly called the lass or pika. As I am reading through it, I slowly come to have ill feelings toward the mother due to her hatred for having another female child. Gender inequality is very much practiced by the mother wherein she believes her sons will only be the ones to successfully provide for the family financially. Her daughters, as she puts it, are just nuisances. She just fails to see how her daughters have done so much for the family. On the other hand, I cannot help but reflect that this may have been the way of life during the early periods of time. I’m just glad things today are not what they were used to before, well, as far as I know.
Moving on, I like how the lass’s family is characterized with varied personalities. It shows how dynamic they are and readers will learn to sympathize with them. While some members of the family portray disliking behaviors, some show otherwise. The characterization of the lass attracts me the most. I love her bravery and patience toward her mother. Despite being thought less by her mother, she is treated well and fair by her father and other siblings. As the story progresses, her sudden, unique ability to communicate with animals becomes her strength, something that I wish I could acquire as well. Moreover, her persistence to learn drives her to help those she loves and through that knowledge, she begins to use that to her advantage in order to defeat her enemies. Aside from this, I also come to admire her growing friendship with Rollo. Their bond is so deep and Rollo’s loyalty to her is undeniably amazing. It makes me envious in wanting to understand my dogs’ feelings as well.
Jessica Day George narrates her story in a very descriptive manner that it becomes crucial in bringing out the magical element of the story. The mystery feeling it evokes is evident in the way the author describes the setting – from the hometown of the lass, the magical creatures, to the ice palace and trolls. One thing I notice as I am reading through the book where the relationship between the isbjorn and the lass slowly grows, their stay at the ice palace has a bit of resemblance to Beauty and the Beast. But the story takes its own course and builds up its own twist. Jessica Day George surely impresses me with the way she retells the story while staying faithful to the core of the original tale. Other characters, such as Hans Peter, have also played a significant role in the story that it doesn’t just focus on the lass and the isbjorn.
Overall, this is an interesting read and a good retelling of East of the Sun and West of the Moon. The story will have you reeled to the seat and mesmerized with the dark magic behind the façade. Things are definitely not what they seem. It will keep you guessing as you turn more pages of the book. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is another retelling worth-reading. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.