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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George (updated)

Even though I reviewed this last year, I knew I wanted to share it with you for Winter Wonderland.  It's one of those stories that captured my heart, and that I wanted to reread as soon as I was finished with it.  When I think of winter and ice, I think of this story.  But I thought this love for it kind of grew on me all stealthy-like, but when I look back at this review, I realize that's not the case.  I was a smitten kitten right from the beginning.  What really made me realize this, though, was the realization that Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow was the first vlogged teaser I'd ever done for you guys.  Hell, it was the first vlog of any kind I ever did.  And I remember now thinking as I was reading that I needed to share it with you, needed to read it to you and connect with you through it, beyond the old Teaser Tuesday format.  And here we are, nearly a year later, with vlogs making up a nice chunk of the content on BR, and it's all stemming from this one book.
Pretty impressive, I think.
But if that's not a high enough recommendation for you, let me put it like this: I think this may be one of the few "definitive" fairy tale retellings for me; one that I use as the yard stick to measure all the others against.  And most fall short by comparison...

Anywho, here is Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow:

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.

And here's the infamous "first vlog".  Yes, it's awful. And it doesn't sync up.  And my hair is wet in it. But it stands for some real book love, so I can't hate it.


  1. I loved this book! I totally want/need to reread it. I read East by Edith Pattou after this one, and although I did really like it, it just wasn't as good as S&M, I&S. This was a great review/reminisce!

  2. LOVED this book!! :)

  3. LOVED this book!! :)


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