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.“
Synopsis according to Goodreads:
“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.
East is the retelling of one of my absolutely favorite fairytales, East of the Sun & West of the Moon. It’s fitting that this tale take place in Norway, as the original folklore is Norwegian, but Pattou detly weaves in historical and cultural facts about mid-1500’s Norway, Denmark, France, Iceland, and Greenland. She even touches on Inuit culture!
I love this fairytale, I think, because it has traces of Eros & Psyche (my favorite of the Greek myths) as well as Beauty & the Beast (another favorite tale). Also probably because it involves bears, a courageous woman (physically as well as emotionally), and Norse culture.
This is not the first take on the fairytale that I’ve read (you may recall), but it had a distinctly modern fiction approach. It downplays the enchanted/magic aspects, and even the insta-love aspects. It emphasizes family dynamics, and mitigates the evil actions of the troll queen (although her actions are completely wrong, you sympathize with her, emotionally). I love a humanized villain!
Overall, it was a quick read and an interesting, less-magic-based approach to a fantastical tale. I recommend it for fans of fairytale retellings (always interesting to see what takes authors have of it), female protagonists who can be both masculine and feminine in their approach, Norse-esque culture, and YA fantasy.