Monica!'s Reviews > East

East by Edith Pattou
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East of the Sun, West of the Moon seems to be retold (or sort of revised) on a fairly regular basis, which is unfortunate for me, since my first experience with the story was in an incredibly trashy BuffyxSpike fanfic, where Buffy wakes up every night to realize the lights are out and there’s a silent and unknown vampire in bed with her, and so she’s silently battling him but also becoming silently attracted to him and also not so silently coming to terms with her mother’s death, and eventually months later she unadvisedly turns on the lights and gasp it’s Spike, and if she’d only held out for another couple of months he’d have been free, but now he has to succumb to a curse and go be the tortured prisoner of the demon ice queen in a frozen realm of torment, so Buffy has to go and, with the help of a polar bear, save Spike and have hot hot sex with him.

Spike, not the polar bear.

So as you can imagine, no retelling is going to live up to that, but I struggle on regardless.

This picture has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. But I’m pretty sure I’m in love with Anthony Stewart Head.

Anyway. On to the actual book.

Like many fairy tales, East of the Sun runs the risk of being hard to translate into a good, solid novel. When the main plot consists of a dad selling his daughter to a bear, the daughter falling madly in love with someone she has seen for seventeen literal seconds, and a tense moment involving laundry (fun fact: only Christians can get candle wax out of shirts!), you know some things will have to change for the sake of modern readers.

And some things in East *did* change, thank goodness.

Rather than selling his youngest for petty cash, the father was all, “Get away from me, Bear! You’re not taking my daughter!” while the daughter was like, “Don’t tell me what to do, mom and dad! If I want to run away with this giant polar bear I will! You don’t own me!” Much more realistic.

And the daughter, far from being the most beautiful, delicate and lovely girl in the family, is described as being short, solidly-built, and possessing an entirely inappropriate desire to run around having adventures and getting muddy. To be fair, she also has “striking purple” eyes “that look black in some lights”, but I guess we’ll throw the teen fantasy novel a bone and look the other way.

So that was good, and the descriptions of the scenery were wonderful, and the long treks through the wilderness and the Vikings and the Inuit medicine women and the killing fields of the trolls… all of that was great.

But I continued to not be able to wrap my head around a couple of things.

Why, dear God why, is Rose attracted to the white bear? Does she go after him just out of a sense of obligation, because she doomed him to a life of marriage to a troll woman? Does she have a kind of Stockholm Syndrome response to him, since laying silently in bed with an unknown person was the closest thing to human contact she had for almost a year? Were those seventeen seconds of gazing at his Golden Hair (“glowing bright as a bonfire”!) and his Vulnerable Curved Fingers all it took to kindle passionate desire?

I can at least sort of--sort of--understand the Bear’s feelings, since he has been stalking her since she was two like a total creeper, oh my God, Bear, learn some boundaries… but none of Rose’s options seem like a great basis for a stable relationship.

Secondly, seriously? The dramatic end scene of this book is still going to be Rose washing tallow out of the Bear’s shirt? Really?! Don’t get me wrong, I love laundry as much as the next person, but I was having a hard time with this part. The dramatic music swells, the camera zooms in, and Rose… is heating up a cauldron of water and looking critically at candle wax stains.

I realize it would perhaps have been overkill to put Rose and the Troll Queen in the middle of a Thunderdome-type cage, to battle out their equally bizarre feelings for a fairly vapid, emotionless prince. Or to have them both realize they can do a hell of a lot better, and walk off as besties to start online dating profiles. But I would have preferred either to the Tallow Drama.

And then there were a couple of other nitpicky things I didn’t really love about the book, like the constantly shifting narrators, or the way Rose just sauntered blithely along having everything she needed handed to her, but that’s mostly just me never being happy with anything.

All in all I give it four stars for world-building, two stars for inexplicable romance, and three overall.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Mariel That's pretty much how I felt about it too!

Monica! And you have fantastic taste, which makes me feel totally vindicated about my opinion! Hooray!! :D

message 3: by Miriam (last edited Aug 04, 2013 10:13AM) (new) - added it

Miriam I didn't love Ice, but I did think Durst's reworking of the "trolls" was interesting.

Monica! *Wow* that's a pretty cover. I may have to read it solely on that basis alone. There's worse things than a marathon of reworkings of one particular fairy tale, right?

message 5: by Miriam (new) - added it

Miriam You could write a comparative essay at the end.

Monica! Ugh. No, no, I'm still in that out-of-grad-school high where the thought of writing anything more involved than a text makes my brain curl up defensively.

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