Author: Edith Pattou
On the Shelves: Retellings, YA fantasy
“Rose has always been different.
Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose’s birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home… but she can’t suppress Rose’s true nature forever.
So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it– in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family– she readily agrees.
Rose travels on the bear’s broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart– and finds her purpose– and realizes her journey has only just begun.” (Goodreads 2013)
This is the second re-telling of the Norwegian Fairytale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” which I have read- and arguably the best. “ICE” recently got it’s own review on this blog, but East wins all of the trophies where Ice fell short. The book itself is 500 pages, but I basically devoured the book in three days. The book is full to brimming with lovely details, descriptions and also has it’s own twist on the tales, so the re-telling itself does not follow the same plot “Ice” chose, and I think it’s better for it, personally.
Pattou, for this novel, has chosen to approach the narrative from the ever popular choice where each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective, these run between the four main characters: “Rose”, “White Bear”, “Neddy” and “Troll Queen”. To be honest, I think I could’ve lived with it excluding “Neddy”. While it gave a nice perspective from her family’s POV after she’d left with the White Bear, I really didn’t actually care too much about her family (which sounds awful), I just wanted the story to focus on the adventure itself- however, this is my personal opinion and I can see why the story benefited from having that extra point of view. Pattou uses this technique to the best advantage to create some of the best world building I’ve read in a while. I loved Rose’s mother’s superstitious beliefs, her dad’s carving skills, even the Troll Queen’s perspective which allowed the reader to see past the “good guy/bad guy” card and actually understand the motives behind the “villain” of the tale.
I love fairy tales, I love seeing how they’ve changed and been interpreted throughout the years, what is and is not edited out of them in their newer editions, in different cultures, and I love their cautionary tales. From the Wicked Queen attempting to murder Snow White four times instead of twice (Huntsman, Comb, Laces and Apple), to Cinderella’s slippers being made of fur instead of glass. I always remind people that fairy tales themselves are not the happy disney movies we have all been raised with, but if you actually read them, they are warped and scary as hell when you think about their intentions. I love reading re-tellings of them, there will be many re-telling reviews on this blog coming up, and arguably, “East” is one of the best re-tellings I have read.