East

By Edith Pattou

From Goodreads: Rose has always felt out of place in her family, a wanderer in a bunch of homebodies. So when an enormous white bear mysteriously shows up and asks her to come away with him—in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family—she readily agrees. The bear takes Rose to a distant castle, where each night she is confronted with a mystery. In solving that mystery, she loses her heart, discovers her purpose, and realizes her travels have only just begun.
As familiar and moving as “Beauty and the Beast” and yet as fresh and original as only the best fantasy can be, East is a novel retelling of the classic tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” a sweeping romantic epic in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine. *An ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults.

Why it’s my type: This story was otherworldly. Set as it was in a place and time so far from my own, I was immediately transported, and held on tightly throughout the entire ancient-feeling journey.

I’ve yet to read the tale which it’s based upon, so it was totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The magic and creatures were original, but I accepted them, their ways and histories easily, as Pattou’s storytelling convinced me to. Even the ‘normal’ folklore (the directional beliefs, for example) readily accepted by the characters felt right somehow, despite its newness to me.

Rose was one spunky lady, just the way I like my protagonists. She could not be tamed. And I think one word in particular aptly captures her (which just so happens to be one of my favorites): wanderlust.

The whole epic was wanderlustful. And it was an epic. After coming across so many series’ nowadays, it was nice to read a full, and fully-satisfying standalone story.

It’s told with alternating narrators, and they and their voices are all well developed. Especially intriguing is a certain female voice–who, to avoid spoilage–shall remain nameless. Ahem, it’s not Rose. Ironically, this female’s voice is also why I found the story just a smidge wanting in the end. I just wanted more answers from her.

Even so, East is an engrossing tale–with magic, mystery and travel, and one I was definitely sad to see end.

Standout script: “At last we came to the ice bridge.  . . . The sun was peering over the line of the horizon and its light caused the ice bridge to glitter, hurting our eyes, even with snow goggles. . . . Through my icicle-rimmed eyelashes, with the light dancing on it, I thought I could see all the colors of the rainbow. And it was a perfect arc, like a rainbow of molten light. . . .

As we skied down the slope toward the bridge, I thought of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge that connected the world of man to Asgard, the home of the gods.”

Recommendation: This read is like that backpacking trip through Europe you’ve always wanted to try but are not sure you’ll ever get around to for one reason or another; here you can get around to it from the comfort of your favorite reading spot. You’ll be in inspired by Rose’s courage and spontaneity. It’s like a movie fairy tale’s bigger and cooler bookish counterpart. Highly recommended.

Published May 2005 by Harcourt Children’s Books.

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