Summary 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.
East has been on my radar ever since I read, and fell in love with, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George a few years ago. However, I never got around to read it. I borrowed it from the library on numerous occasions, but it would just sit on my table, until I had to return it to the library. I think part of my hesitation was due to the fact the I adored Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. How could anything compare to that?
When Alison from The Cheap Reader started Project: Fairy Tale, I knew this would provide the motivation for me to finally read East (and also Ice). East is a retelling of a Norwegian fairy tale called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Here is my review of the original fairy tale.
I really wanted to like East. And although I didn’t hate it, I am far from adoration. I liked it quite a bit at the beginning. It’s told from the White Bear’s, Rose’s, Father, Neddy’s and the Troll Queen’s POVs. I actually liked that; it was interesting to see what each of these characters were thinking at different parts in the story. But, at the same time, I didn’t get a real idea of the different characters from their chapters. If I were to pick a particular chapter without knowing whose POV it was told from, I would have a difficult time knowing who was telling it. Except the Troll Queen, I guess. And maybe the White Bear’s earlier chapters.
Actually, I think that is what bothered me most with this book. There wasn’t enough character development. There was so much telling, and not enough showing. I am not saying that these characters are one-dimensional, but they just weren’t as well-developed as I like.
Another thing that I didn’t love about this book: the length. It’s nearly 500 pages (494)! I love big, heavy clunkers of books – if the book warrants that kind of length. This book was just too long. I didn’t think it would ever end. If you’ve read the fairytale (you can for free here) then you know that at one point Rose must go searching for the White Bear. About 100 pages of East was devoted just to Rose’s journey. And it got kind of boring. I think Pattou could have told everything she needed to get across in half that amount. And then, when I finally thought I was the end, there was more journeying. Ugh. I know I am being a bit harsh here, but seriously. This is ridiculously long.
Another thing that I wanted to see was more interaction between Rose and the White Bear. You know that they are supposed to end up together, but I wanted to see them falling in love. I wanted to feel what they should have been feeling for each other. But I wasn’t. I wanted less of the boring description of Rose’s journey east of the sun and west of the moon, and more showing of Rose and the White Bear developing feelings for each other.
I know I’ve been complaining a lot, but there were definite things I enjoyed. I liked the whole idea about how which direction children were born in affects their personalities. I thought that was such an interesting idea. And I really liked reading about Father and even Neddy, who isn’t featured at all in the original fairytale.
This follows fairly close to the original fairytale. There is, however, no mention of winds carrying Rose to the Troll Castle, but she does have lots of help from others along the way. Also, Rose does not trick the Troll Queen by giving her items.
So, obviously, this isn’t a favorite retelling of this fairy tale. It isn’t a terrible book, and if you are a fan of this fairytale then you should definitely read this one. I am definitely glad that I finally read it, but I much prefer Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow (I’m saving this for the end of Project: Fairy Tale).