Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
by Jessica Day George
The lass leads a lonely life. She lives in a remote little Norwegian village that is blanketed by a strange, never-ending winter. Her mother refused to name her, and she is largely disregarded by all but her father and her beloved eldest brother, Hans Peter, who seems to the lass to be hiding a deep pain. But when the lass is blessed with the strange ability to be able to speak to animals, her life begins to change. People of all kinds seek her out for help -- and then, so does an isbjorn, a massive polar bear with a trouble and a loneliness of his own. When the isbjorn promises the lass that her family will be wealthy if she will agree to live with him in a remote castle for a year, the lass agrees and finds herself in a strange palace of green ice, waited on by even stranger servants. But the plush surroundings mask a dark secret, and soon the lass must decide to risk everything she has ever wanted for something she never knew she could have, and embark on a fantastic and daunting journey that has the potential to change the world in which she lives in this well-wrought retelling of the tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon".
It's hard to write about something when it's either very bad or very good, so this will be a (fairly) short review:
There is very little I didn't love about this story.
Something to understand about me: I am a tabber. I have a crazy amount of those little post-it flags in just about every color, and as I'm reading I tab things I like or want to be able to find again. There are no tabs in this book -- I flew through it too fast, and was too absorbed to reach for the tabs.
Jessica Day George followed her passion and chose to study Norway, and that passion shows. She crafts a story that is layered and has depth beyond what is generally seen in a fairy tale or retelling. The traditional elements are there: the downtrodden heroine who, it turns out, has some pluck; the rags to riches; the fantastic element; the danger and tension; the family dynamics, good and bad, and the sort of "karmic" balance -- everything works together to create one of the strongest retellings I've ever read. George's love of Norway and fairy tales help her create a rich and believable base for a story that shines and flows beautifully. Things are well developed and rich. It is very visual and alive, and thoroughly enjoyable. The romance-aspect was enjoyable and not at all creepy, which I was initially worried about.
The only drawback for me was that, compared to the rest of the story, the end felt a little rushed and underdeveloped. It wasn't a complete bust by any means, but after so much layering and depth, I would have liked to see that followed through to the conclusion; an opportunity to pack in a bit more oomph was missed, but this should not at all keep you from picking up a copy. Now.
The "Beauty and the Beast"-esque story that is "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" has captured many writer's pens lately, but I have trouble believing that any of the other retellings will top George's.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow wasn't technically due to be reviewed for a couple of weeks, but I did my first Teaser Tuesday vlog this week, and I wanted this to be the one to kick it off, so it got bumped up. You can check out the vlog here and get a feel for the story.
Check out Geroge's site, which has a section for Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. It includes reviews, interviews, a bit about why she wrote it, and an "inside joke."
Read the original tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon for yourself.
Or read one of the other YA retellings of the tale:
East by Edith Pattou
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Nancy Willard (play format)
or Mercer Mayer's 48 page retelling of the story (same name).
You may remember East and Ice from Friday Face Off (week 4). Ice won. So now, how about a mini-FFO? Who did it better, Ice or Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow? It's a shame you can't get the full effect; the detail in both is gorgeous in person.
Jessica Day George told me this is her favorite thing that she's written, and that love shows. <--- That made it sound like we're buddies and chat all the time, which, though cool, is not the case. She told me in a teeny tiny little conversation we had, that was actually on a completely unrelated topic.