September 03, 2008

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

By Jessica Day George
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

There seems to be an unending trend to rewrite fairy tales but I'm not complaining about this fresh version of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. "Lass" is the last child of a woodcutter in the endless winter of the North country, whose disappointed mother doesn't even give her a name. Lass is an uncomplaining child, devoted to her father and her eldest brother Hans Peter, who returned troubled and aged from his travels abroad. But when the lass saves the fabled white reindeer from hunters, it grants her both a name and the ability to understand and speak to animals. This power one night brings to the door a giant isbjorn, a polar bear, who tells the lass if she will come to live with him for one year, it will break an enchantment. He promises her family wealth if she says yes. Eager to help her family and the isbjorn, the lass agrees and he takes her to live in a fabulous ice palace. Slowly she begins to try and uncover what the enchantment of the isbjorn truly means and discovers more than she would like about trolls, magic, the cost of curiousity, and the true measure of courage. Readers will readily recognize elements from the more familiar Beauty and the Beast if they don't know East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Regardless, this is a well told tale of a strong heroine that will delight readers of fantasy and magic.