By Edith Pattou
Fantasy – Fairy Tales / YA
This is a retelling of the Norwegian Fairy Tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” where a poor family gives a daughter to an enchanted polar bear in exchange for wealth. She’s held captive for almost a year before she realizes the polar bear is actually a man also being held prisoner. As she tries to learn more about the strange circumstances, she accidentally makes things worse for the polar bear man and ends up needing to save him from a giant ice troll queen.
Why I chose to read this book:
I was looking for seasonal reads and wanted something that took place in winter or in cold weather. I love folk tales and fairy tales, and this seemed like a good blend of both. It also had a lot of great reviews.
Disappointments (if any):
This was actually difficult to read at times. Epistolary novels aren’t really for me, but this one fell particularly flat. The writing style offered no tension, no emotion, and felt exclusively full of “telling” rather than “showing.” Plus, there was a LOT of weaving going on. The main character weaves a lot and it’s one of her only skills. Her moments weaving didn’t always seem to support the plot or character development so it became tedious.
What kept me reading:
Curiosity. Plain and simple. I was not attached to any characters; I was not emotionally involved. I simply wanted to see how it would end and if there would be any redeeming emotional wins at the end. I also enjoyed the seemingly historical facts about the Inuit people and how they lived. I always enjoy discovering new historical facts in a book that makes me dig deeper and do my own research.
My personal opinion:
It was longer than it needed to be, but I liked the idea of the woman saving the man instead of the other way around. As far as I know, that’s not really how the original is told, but that was possibly the best part about this retelling. (I believe the original is more about trying to warn females to do their duties to their men, but I’ve never read it) The parts about the culture and Inuit way of living had my attention more than the magic bear and troll queen. Yet, even that seemed muddled, and it almost felt like two stories were working against each other. Worst though, as I mentioned, was the lack of tension. Things just happened without build-up, emotion, and sometimes without explanation. The entire book felt like a rough draft of a really great story. Some parts felt like this: “I did this, then this, and when this problem happened, it was ok because this other thing that I didn’t mention earlier creates a solution to this paragraph’s conflict, so I had the answer all along.” The reader doesn’t even get a chance to worry or wonder because the story is being told to you; you don’t get to live it.
Would I recommend:
This book was published in 2005 and still has lots of fans. So maybe I’m the odd man out. I do not usually review books I don’t enjoy, but I didn’t completely hate this book. I liked many elements, and learning about a new fairy tale is always worth it. The descriptions of trolls and their way of life was pretty cool; right down to their language. That bit of world-building was interesting. And as mentioned, it has a lot of fans, so perhaps it’s just a style of writing that doesn’t suit me. I know there are sequels to this story, but I will not be reading them. With that in mind, if you are just a book gluten and love fantasy series featuring female heroes, this may actually be a story for you. Put it this way, I didn’t stop reading it.
I’d love to know if anyone has any recommendations for books with Inuit stories.