When I suggested this book I was unaware that it was based off the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, but I’m glad I did, fairy tale retellings are always a pleasure to read.
East was delightful to read, with the calendar folklore details, the imagery of the arctic which seemed both beautiful and brutal at times, and the different characters that Rose meets on her way to the North. It satisfyingly invoked some of the traditional fairy tale points, while bringing all sorts of other characters to life to fill out the story. Not to mention in the original tale, Rose is nameless; here she not only has a name but a strong personality and family and friends.
My only objection is one that came up when I read the original tale as a child as well; the fact that Rose feels so guilty, and is treated as a betrayer because she lit a candle to see who her mysterious visitor is. I remember feeling protective of her when I read the original tale, and felt the same here. Rose is a smart, curious, and intrepid girl, why should she be expected to quietly go about her days and nights without questioning anything, when she has had no explanation whatsoever?
I also enjoyed the little historical tidbit that the white bear was actually a dauphin, and that the author had done some research to tie it into the french monarchy.