“East” by Edith Pattou was simply enchanting. I did not know it was a retelling of a specific fairy tale, East of the Sun/West of the Moon. Instead, for the beginning portion, I thought the story was Beauty & the Beast. Then, when the Bear would come in at night, I thought it must be Eros & Psyche. The final portion I thought, ah-ha! it’s the Snow Queen! Although it was none of these, I could see how they may have evolved and influenced one another at some point historically or culturally. The constant changing of what I expected to happen next (based on which tale I thought it was) kept it surprising and unpredictable to me, all the while keeping that folk/fairy tale feeling.
I liked the personalities given to all the characters, which made their motivations and actions more realistic. Not only were they well-developed, they also changed and grew over time to reflect their experiences. This is true of Rose, Ned, her mother and the Troll Queen especially.
I do have to say I agree with -yellowblueeye- about Rose feeling guilty for looking at the Bear. She’s an outgoing, curious woman, exploring and questioning everything. On top of that, no actual rule about looking was ever actually told to her. And she was supposed to somehow know and follow this unspoken rule? It didn’t make much sense to me, but then again fairy tales often have bits like that. (That’s not even considering how Bear definitely got the short end of the stick for what was supposed to be the Troll Queen’s punishment).
The ending was very well-done, with time for the main characters to recover from their ordeals and to resolve loose ends, without rushing to the ‘happily-ever-after’. I do have a small nit-pick though: the book begins with an unknown person opening a box and reading about this story – but they are not brought up again at the end. I feel it would have been better to either omit them from the book altogether, OR at least close off with them again, perhaps even tying them into the story itself (a historian researching Ned’s old books, or France’s royal family trees, or perhaps even making it a future ancestor of Rose).
I loved how Rose’s hero quest spanned several adventures and countries. The way the language barrier was overcome was a great detail (and often ignored in other stories). The people she met along her journey, both good and bad, and the changing landscapes (Norway, France, the sea, Greenland, the Arctic Circle) made it all the more epic.
I have to say one of my favourite parts had to be the time Rose spent with the Inuit, and the shaman woman’s travels with her. She was kick-ass! All the cultural details of the old Inuit way of life was the icing on the delicious cake. And a delicious read it was. 5/5