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When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe.

Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back — if Cassie will agree to be his bride.

That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her — until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice.

308 pages, Hardcover

First published September 14, 2009

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About the author

Sarah Beth Durst

34 books2,509 followers
Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of over twenty fantasy books for kids, teens, and adults, including Spark, Drink Slay Love, and The Queens of Renthia series. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA's Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University and lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. For more information, visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 852 reviews
Profile Image for Ceilidh.
233 reviews567 followers
June 16, 2011
I’ve changed a lot as a reviewer since I started blogging about YA almost a year ago. I’ve matured my writing style, I’ve learned more about the publishing business, I’ve started to ask more questions and I’ve even made a few friends. I don’t regret my snarky sparkly beginnings because I had a lot of fun and sometimes you have to make a few mistakes to learn from. Nowadays I think I’m a much stronger reviewer and pick my reading choices based upon a more varied selection of reasons beyond snark material. This is why I am glad I didn’t know about “Ice” until I saw it recently. Had I read this last year, I would have blown a gasket and written a review to rival the abusive angels. Now, all I can hope to do is articulately explain why this book made my skin crawl. For this reason, there will be major spoilers.

My interest in “Ice” was peaked when I saw that it was a retelling of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, a lesser known fairytale, and was intrigued to see how a YA retelling of a potentially highly problematic tale would work in a contemporary context. Unfortunately, “Ice” seems to be stuck in the Stone Age on so many issues, something that’s made all the more bitter by the fact that the book gets off to such a strong start. Cassie, at first, is a strong minded, hard working and intelligent young woman with high ambitions and an inquisitive nature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for her to slide into a state of uncharacteristic stupidity, occasionally relieved with moments of clarity. However, it wouldn’t be fair to blame Cassie’s decisions for all the book’s wrongdoings, especially since she’s so often left without any real options. She’s practically forced into marrying the Polar Bear King in exchange for her mother’s safe return. Later on, she’s treated even worse, even by the man/bear who supposedly loves her.

There are elements of “Beauty and the Beast” in this tale and it does feel as is “Ice” is trying to replicate the Disney film’s romantic feel (many of the things Cassie says about Bear feel inspired by Belle), but Durst completely skips over any romantic development. There’s a jump in time and all of a sudden, a few weeks later, they’re apparently in love. It further weakens a story that desperately needs a strong author’s hand to make it convincing. Bear may be many generations old with equally archaic ideals but this didn’t adequately justify his actions towards Cassie.

There are certain things a romantic hero should never do. Tampering with a woman’s birth control is one of them. Cassie, who has been on the pill, finds herself pregnant because Bear used his magical powers to fix the chemical imbalance in her that was preventing a pregnancy. He didn’t discuss this with her, there is no instance of a conversation taking place between the two that discusses such matters, and he doesn’t even tell her she’s pregnant until she’s 3 months gone. I do not care how gracious or kind Bear was to Cassie earlier on (her words, not mine), you DO NOT DO THAT! True relationships are built on trust and mutual understanding. He never even talks to her about this. What makes it even more blood curdling is that Cassie forgives him. She kicks up a completely justifiable fuss beforehand, but in the end, she’s completely willing to give up all her future ambitions of university, a career and a life with her family, including her mother who she hasn’t seen for most of her life, to be a teenage wife and mother with a talking polar bear.

Sadly, this isn’t the worst part. After Cassie has to go on a quest to retrieve Bear, who has to swear himself to the Troll Princess due to a rather convoluted loophole that I won’t explain here because it’s inconsequential, everyone she meets is obsessed with the safety of her unborn child. Not her, just her unborn child. Every other spirit, creature and guardian that she meets, of varying species and ages, cares not for her but for the fetus she just happens to be in charge of for the next few months. One character, who is thankfully painted as something of a villain, keeps her captive and indirectly harms her in an effort to stop her saving Bear because the life inside her is more important than her own. Cassie is also given the nickname “Little mother” by these creatures. Her entire worth is based on the fact that she has a functioning uterus and that’s a hell of a lot more important than her own mind and decisions. Cassie doesn’t like this attitude, it angers her, and rightly so. But why doesn’t she display this anger towards Bear, who admitted that he wanted a wife to bear his children, a task he decrees to be the most important purpose of the marriage? Cassie isn’t stupid, yet she is completely willing to let the designated love interest make these decisions for her, even if they involve lying, and in the end it’s okay? Bear says he loves Cassie but for me, all I could see was a liar who was willing to sabotage a young woman’s life in order to get what he wanted. Cassie was left to be nothing but a breeding specimen with one use.

To be truthful, this is a well written book that is generally well paced and has an interesting mythology throughout the story. The action scenes are well done and when Cassie was an active heroine, I really appreciated. But I would be lying if I gave this book anything more than 1 star. I can’t get behind a romance built upon a much older man using an 18 year old girl in that way. Tampering with birth control and essentially trapping the wife you forced into marriage doesn’t not make you the romantic ideal, it makes you sick. Just because the original source material is old, that doesn’t mean one is obligated to keep the retelling stuck in the 1950s. Cassie was much more than a “little mother”, so to see her happily accept the fate she was forced into as the ideal life made me so sad. She was worth more than that. We all are.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 27 books5,589 followers
October 18, 2009
This is a retelling of East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon, which some of you know I have also retold. (My version is called Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.) I have been curious and excited to see Sarah Beth's take on my favorite fairy tale, having loved Edith Pattou's East as well.

So how is it?


Ice is set not in Ye Olde Tymes, but in our century, and begins at an Arctic research station. Cassie has been raised there by her father, the head of the research team, and dreams only of continuing on, studying polar bears. But when she encounters the largest polar bear ever sighted, and he TALKS to her, she discovers that there really are things science can't explain.

Cassie uses her research to help her bear fulfill his duties guiding the souls of polar bears. When he is taken from her, she mets other such guardians, and finds that they are not all as wonderful and understanding as Bear. I loved this book. It was funny and harrowing and clever and sweet all at the same time. The descriptions of the ice, the landscape and even the musty research station were so evocative!

Profile Image for Mir.
4,780 reviews4,984 followers
July 19, 2011
There was a point, about 70 pages in, where I almost gave up on this book. I said (not out loud), "Wait, they're not going to storm the troll castle and rescue her mother? They're just going to hang around the Ice Palace making small talk? What is this, a rip-off of McKinley's Beauty with less interesting characters and prose?" But no, Stuff does happen, and I guess that slow part may be necessary for the reader to understand why Cassie is bored and lonely. Although personally I need no elaboration as to why an active young woman would not want to sit around alone all day with no books or activities in a glorified igloo one mile north of the North Pole, I did like that her decision is influenced by her desire to do useful work and not just about her feeeelings. I liked that the arctic research Cassie and her father were doing was actually relevant to the plot and not just a device to justify an 18-year-old girl being at the North Pole to meet the Polar Bear King. I liked that Durst managed to do interesting and original things while remaining true to both the outlines and feeling of the tale. The main weakness for me was the characters. I didn't dislike them, or think they were notably weak, I just didn't have strong feelings for them. In a sense this is true to the nature of fairy tales, which don't generally feature extensive character development, but in a full-length novel that focuses primarily on the adventures of one individual, I wanted her to be just a little more interesting, as a person.
Profile Image for Alicia.
58 reviews23 followers
December 5, 2010
Beautiful story, but I disliked the romantic aspects. The relationship between Bear and Cassie felt rushed, and in some ways was quite creepy. The Bear used his magic powers to forcibly impregnate her. Cassie had been taking BC because she had no interest in children, yet without telling her or asking for her consent, the Bear "fixed" her "chemical imbalance" caused by the pill using his magic and she was three months preggers before he told her what he had done. I guess this is the paranormal romance equivalent of using a pin to prick a hole in a condom. Of course, despite the fact that she had a baby put inside her against her will, she grew to realize the errors of her ways, forgive the polar bear who forcibly impregnated her and make a happy, perfect little family with him. Super realistic.
Profile Image for Irene Sim.
689 reviews76 followers
October 22, 2018
UPDATE 04/26/2017:
For Readathon-2017 1/26
In the category "A myth or fairy tale retelling"
Woman author: 1/14

I have mixed feelings about this story. I found it too far-fetched even for a fairy tale. It was a decent attempt from the author, the writing was pretty good but the heroine was too immature, too arrogant for my liking. The decisions she made were all in the impulse of the moment taking unnecessary, stupid risks that endangered others as well as herself. I know that everything turned out ok at the end and surprisingly, I really liked the end and how everything fell into place. Maybe if I was a teen I would have loved it but my 40 yearold self, not so much.
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 93 books82.9k followers
March 22, 2009
A retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," from the point of view of a young woman who has been raised as an Arctic researcher, specializing in--surprise! Polar bears! All her life Cassie has been told by her father that her mother died. The only differing opinion came from her grandmother, who used to tell her of the bargains made for and by the Polar Bear King, about Cassie's grandfather the North Wind, her mother who was stolen and hidden in the trolls' castle, of Cassie's own birth and the promise that gave her to the Polar Bear King. Now the Polar Bear King has come for her, and Cassie must find the determination to face the tale and make sense of her life. Can she save her mother--and her new love? Can she stop the polar bears from being stillborn and soulless?

Maybe you should wear your winter coat while reading this. Sarah evokes the Arctic setting so beautifully and so realistically that you feel a little snow blind when you look away from the book!
Profile Image for Becca.
Author 22 books31.8k followers
August 25, 2009
ICE is a beautiful and shivery tale of sacrifice and love with a strong-willed heroine who reminded me in the best possible way of Anne Shirley. The action had me turning pages automatically, but of course I slowed to savor the romance! Highly recommended, and just in time for the winter season. ICE will appeal to fans of Shannon Hale and Juliet Marillier.
Profile Image for Valerie.
249 reviews74 followers
January 13, 2015
I've already read the other two retellings of east of the sun, west of the moon (or was it the other way around?). I thought for sure I was going to love it like I did the other two but it didn't capture me as much as I had hoped. It is still full of romance (more so than the first two) and adventure. I can say that Durst is a good writer. She captures great scenes like the castle and I could vividly imagine characters like Bear. Durst shows real creativity in whole concept of "MOON-awk-sree". If you’re already familiar with the tale then you already know that the girl, Cassie, is taken away by a polar bear to his castle.

There is solid romance before Cassie does any journeying on her own. I could enjoy it and Cassie is obviously a modern girl who doesn't just want to sit around and wait for her husband to come home -not original but good nonetheless. The romance between the two is a bit different (even from the other two) but it is believable in the way that fantasy can be believable anyway.

The journey I didn't enjoy as much as East but it was still interesting. I like how Cassie finds ways to get to her destinations and her courage to put her trust in things she never even believed existed. Somehow I still felt like Cassie was a girl for almost the whole book, though I think the reader is supposed to feel that Cassie is a young woman. Cassie is very focused, driven, and determined. I could admire that. However, there is such a thing as too driven. Cassie is rash, and does things without giving much thought to how it will affect others. This annoyed me though she does redeem herself.

Overall I really could enjoy it and read it fast. Though I think I will always love East the best since it is the first one I read.
Profile Image for Cara.
280 reviews700 followers
March 27, 2010
I was way beyond excited when I heard this book was going to come out. Frankly I was downright giddy with excitement. Like many other reviewers have mentioned I had already read East and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow so I'm already familar with the old Nordic tale. I'm not going to say I didn't like it, I did, but it's hard for me to give it a hearty recommendation.

Cassie is a modern girl, but in her own way is quite different from your "normal" teenage girl. She has been raised by her father and his scientific crew out in the Artic. She has never called any other place home and plans to keep it that way for the most part. But a bedtime story that deals with her mother, an enchanted bear, a family of winds, and ugly trolls will become more than just a pretty words in a story.

I don't want to give too much away but I think if I say that the bear in the story has "special" powers that are pretty awesome wouldn't give too much away. It is mentioned toward the beginning of the book. Probably the most original part of the whole story. All the main elements of the fairytale are hit on and it was good to see the story take place in modern times when GPS isn't just 3 letters piled together. Cassie has to go through a tremendous journey and will have to use all her know how about surviving out in the ice, and just surviving in general to pull her through.

This book definitely did bring the tale from a different angle. Since Cassie is modern she is resistant in thinking all the magic around her is possible. She does her best to get accustomed to it and her strong willed personality helps with the changes. Slowly but surely she comes to realize how much she loves Bear, but one mistake could undo it all. The author does give rich descriptions of all the surroundings and makes the world totatlly believable. Humor is sprinkled throughout, but I do have a but... I liked Cassie and I didn't. Sure, it's tough having to feel betrayed and she is entitled to be angry. Honestly though she came off as whiny and another thing, there is this certain place she spends WAY too long in. I was just about to pull my hair out, but now that I think about that may have been the point. What did it in for me was the ending. Not bad, but less climatic than I expected, although I think that may have come from knowing too much about the general plot line. They weren't glaringly bad things, just my personal taste.

I do recommend reading it though and I have read other reviews that actually preferred this retelling compared to the other two. It depends on your personal taste. All the retellings are great and magical in their own way.

Marvelous cover.

Profile Image for Aarati.
64 reviews
August 11, 2012
Just OK.

The good: This retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" is fresh because Cassie is a modern girl who grows up on an Arctic research station. The underlying mythology (Munaqsri, trolls, etc.) is well developed and interesting. Also, the German cover is GORGEOUS.

The bad:

The romance (or more to the point, what romance?). The relationship between Cassie and Bear was rushed and there were no substantive interactions between the two. We weren't shown enough for even a friendship, let alone the deep love that had Cassie risking her life to save Bear. The author skipped over huge intervals of time when Cassie and Bear were married and lived together, which may be why the reader never sees their relationship develop. As a result, Bear's character is also never developed.

Cassie. I liked her for all of one chapter (when she determinedly chases Bear with the intent of tagging him for research purposes) before she started to rub me the wrong way. She was constantly petty and manipulative. She was also a typical angsty self-centered (stupid) teenager - this wouldn't usually bother me in a YA novel, but she is both married and pregnant in this story.

The pregnancy. Cassie's baby was conceived in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth (). However, I was more bothered by how Cassie was scaling mountains and engaging in other physically strenuous tasks while heavily pregnant. I also had no sense of time because of the random time skips in the story (which I also disliked). The resolution of the pregnancy was weird and confusing()

I could keep ranting, but I'll be concise and just say that this author's characters and style (blending modern with fairytale) didn't work for me.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,330 reviews451 followers
March 26, 2014
Probably I should start out by saying that I didn't know the fairy tale this is retelling, although I know similar ones (lots of overlap if fairy tales). The first part gives us a pretty normal modern teen, thinking about college, what to do with the rest of her life, etc. She happens to live in an arctic research station, researching polar bears. And then all fairy tale breaks loose, and life as we know it turns out to be really weird.

We pass quickly through the Beauty-and-the-Beast alone together part of the story. Zoom. Then comes the part I didn't know, the part fraught with really difficult tasks to save the Bear (Iorek Byrnison to me). And this, really, is where the story came alive for me, because Cassie works hard for what she wants. Fairy tale hard. And as crazy as the tasks she has to do are, she tackles them like a competent modern teen would. Really, her effort endeared her to me.

Happily ever after, etc., of course. Loved the arctic setting, loved the talking polar bear.

Library copy.
Profile Image for Angie.
645 reviews993 followers
December 8, 2009
As soon as I heard about Sarah Beth Durst's retelling of the East of the Sun, West of the Moon fairy tale, I felt that old familiar tug. I've read Edith Pattou's East and Jessica Day George's Sun and Moon Ice and Snow and enjoyed parts of both of them very much, though neither captured my imagination the way I really wanted them to. You see, as it is basically a Norse version of Beauty and the Beast, I've always felt I ought to love this fairy tale more than I do. But I've been vaguely but persistently dissatisfied with every retelling I've read. I'm beginning to think this is a problem with the source material, a mismatch between us if you will, and not necessarily with the retellings themselves. As I've talked about before, it's a problematic storyline in many ways and particularly difficult to pull off in novel form, I think. Yet somehow I eagerly anticipate each new attempt, hoping this one will be the one.

Cassie loves ice. She was raised on it and has very little inkling of or interest in the world outside the Arctic research station that has been her home for the past eighteen years. As a little girl raised by her dedicated researcher father, she lived for those nights when her grandmother would tell her the story of her mother. Even though she knew it was only a fairy tale, Cassie never tired of the story of the rebellious daughter of the North Wind who defied her father and escaped an arranged marriage to the Polar Bear King to run away with her father, only to be blown away to the land of the trolls for her transgressions. To a little girl desperate for her mother, this story serves as a precious dream about what life would have been like if it had all gone well. But when she turns eighteen, Cassie's life changes. An ancient and enormous polar bear shows up and talks to her. He tells her her time is up and he is there to collect on his end of the bargain her mother made with the North Wind. He will have Cassie for his bride and carry her off to his ice palace. Being the smart cookie that she is, Cassie makes her own deal. If the bear rescues her mother from the trolls in that land east of the sun and west of the moon, she will marry him. The bear achieves the impossible and off they go.

The first half of this book is extremely strong and utterly enjoyable. I loved that Cassie had such a forceful personality, and I loved even more that Bear was allowed to be a vibrant character. In my past experience with this tale, so much of my problem with it seemed to stem from a lack of development of the bear's character and, therefore, a distinct lack of depth to the relationship between the girl and her intended. This was not a problem at all in the first half of ICE. Cassie is rugged and determined and smart with it. Bear is equally intent on achieving his goal and on his responsibilities as a munaqsri, or guardian of souls. This aspect of the world building was especially strong. I loved how unique it felt and the way Durst drew on Inuit legends and folklore felt very organic and fresh. As a result of these strengths, combined with the fact that she actually gave her leads time to get to know each other, I was immediately drawn to their developing relationship. It is sweet and slow and readable and just an all-around treat. One moment when Bear is in his human form standing behind Cassie as the two of them gaze out at the beauty of sunset over the frozen tundra actually had me catching my breath it was so lovely. At about the halfway mark, the bear is captured and it's up to Cassie to rescue him. This is normally the point where things get awesome in a story and I am 100 percent behind the heroine going in, guns a-blazin', and getting the job done. Unfortunately, everything slowed down just when it should have sped up. Bear is out of the equation and, unfortunately and rather surprisingly, Cassie doesn't hold the whole thing up on her own. She's traveling, traveling, traveling in the ice and snow and some things happen but never to their full potential. By the time she finally reaches the trolls I've lost interest in whether she'll win or not. The momentum and narrative thread are scattered in ten different directions and the final page in which things wrap up can't make up for the loss. Once again I'm filled with a sense of so much potential somehow unfulfilled. I truly loved the first half, but it drifted slowly downhill from there. And yet. I remain hopeful. Maybe the next one will be the one.
Profile Image for Nemo (The ☾Moonlight☾ Library).
611 reviews302 followers
August 23, 2012
See this review and more on The Moonlight Library!

This novel is based on a lesser-known Norwegian fairy tale, and though I’d never heard of the tale before, this retelling was wonderfully imagined. I can’t say how much is Durst’s imagination, because it’s based on something else already.

Ice is a novel not without its flaws: to me, it promotes bestiality, domestication of women, Stockholm syndrome, and the disturbing fallout from Twilight's bland Bella’s grand ambitions: to give up a promising future and be nothing more than a wife and mother.

However, I did enjoy this novel. Cassie, our eighteen year old heroine (so above the age of consent) is independent, wilful, and brave to the point of insanity. She starts out absolutely wonderfully: chasing after a polar bear on the ice for her own ambitions, joy, entertainment and education. She follows through by sacrificing herself to save her mother – although she doesn’t at first grasp what exactly is required of her. When her new husband reveals his grand plans, she rightfully demands to be let go.

Curiously, it’s when she’s separated from her husband that she yearns to return to her more ‘exciting life’ – one of dancing in frozen ballrooms, eating delicious food and sleeping chastely in the same bed as her husband. Cassie actually thinks this life of no ambition – trapped in an ice castle while her husband works away from home, essentially – is more thrilling than any future her human family can provide: family, friends, a future college and a better than average chance of running her own research station in the Arctic.

So as you can see, I did have some issues with Cassie.

But Cassie is also insanely brave and incredibly resourceful. She manipulates people to get what she needs, and she had a single-minded wilfulness to get what she wants. Despite an ever-growing hurdle against her own body, Cassie manages to do what no one else has been capable of doing: rescuing someone from the troll castle. It’s breathtaking, to look back on the novel and see Cassie’s will, her grand ambition played out, and the mastery of manipulating others, even if it tries her own patience. She fearlessly takes on characters other are terrified of, and puts her own self at risk over and over to achieve her incredible goals. In a away, her loyalty to her husband is the most amazing thing to come out of this book, even at the expense of other things that are precious to her: her family, her friends, her future.

Durst is a fine writer. Her descriptions are lush and cinematic, and her dialogue is believable – if you find a talking polar bear believable, that is. However, the locations work against the novel: there’s only so many ways you can describe ice and snow. When I first started the novel, it wasn’t difficult to put it down and go about my daily life. Not that it was bad in these instances – in fact, the more I read of this novel the more awesome it became. It took until close to halfway when I realised I didn’t want to put it down, and the last quarter of the novel I simply devoured, desperate to know more.

If you like fairytale retellings, you’ll probably like this. If you like romance novels, you’ll probably also like this. I didn’t particularly like seeing Cassie go from career-woman to housewife but that’s just me. The novel, apart from that flaw, was still very good. It entertained me, made me laugh and cry. I am glad I read it and if it sounds like your thing, I hope you enjoy it as well.

PS - just LOOK at this German cover. Isn't is beautiful?

Profile Image for Steph Su.
943 reviews452 followers
November 9, 2009
Please excuse me if I break from my usual review style for ICE. That is because I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. It had everything I wanted from a book of its kind: a feisty female protagonist, epic adventures, luscious writing, and the kind of romance that stops hearts and makes you remember why romance exists in the world. It was love at first sight for me and this book, and our love will continue to evolve and endure as long as my memory does not fail me.

From the first page, I was ensnared by Sarah Beth’s writing, which I must describe as “clean and fresh”: it’s like wiping away a dirty window and gazing in wonder out at a beautiful, crystalline winter scene. Sarah Beth wastes no words, and yet manages to describe for readers an unbelievably beautiful and mesmerizing world with simple prose. Her writing style will appeal to fans of fairy tale writing, for its gorgeous, ethereal descriptions, as well as those of realistic fiction, so well grounded in our world it is.

Indeed, the way ICE inhabits a perfect space in between fantasy and reality is one of its unique and strong points. I love that this old Nordic legend is grounded in science: a research station with modern characters and real-time technology. We weave easily in and out of the magic and the real, making this an interesting reading experience. Cassie is feisty and snarky enough to make her a great 21st-century protagonist, and yet she is also courageous and incredibly determined, qualities that connect her with other epic fantasy heroines.

Of all the great parts about ICE, I think I like Cassie the best. You don’t find girls like her very often in literature or real life anymore, girls who will do anything for love, girls who tire of domesticity and want to be useful, girls who don’t want romance to consume their identities, girls who are scared of growing up too fast and making decisions that will affect them permanently. I related to Cassie so well and admired her so much, I think I cried. I loved how she faced problems of things like love vs. self-identity with—let’s admit it—mistakes and awkwardness. For a character of a fantasy novel, Cassie is remarkably relatable and can instantly be your best friend and role model for realistic issues.

And of course, I cannot end this review without talking about the romance between Cassie and Bear. Fans of Beauty and the Beast (especially Robin McKinley’s Beauty) will see strong echoes of that kind of gradual love in ICE. Bear easily won over my heart with just a few lines of dialogue; if you want a nice-guy love interest, well, here he is. Gradual development of attraction and love are hard to come by nowadays, which is one of the reasons why I’m so happy the romance in ICE was done so well. Theirs is a love that grows subtly out of undramatic scenes, and is proven to be eternal by a literal “epic journey.” It is, once again, the result of the perfect blend between fantasy and realism.

ICE is certainly not without some weaknesses, of course. Supporting characters, especially Cassie’s parents, are rather underdeveloped, and super-picky readers may have trouble following the occasionally choppy plot. However, readers looking for an old-fashioned fairy tale would do well to check Sarah Beth Durst’s ICE out. Maybe I read it at the right time for me to fall head-over-heels in love with it—but I think that you’ll be able to appreciate the gorgeous world-building and story, no matter what kind of genre you enjoy best.
June 26, 2016
Actual rating: 2,6 stars

This is another retelling of the Norwegian fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and it is not the best retelling of this fairy tale. If you want to enjoy this story, then you should try to read East by Edith Pattou.

Well, the first part of the book was pretty good. It was sweet and funny. I liked the relationship between Cassie and Bear. (the main characters) It developed slowly and passed the phase of mistrust, then the phase of friendship, and ultimately the characters fell in love.
In the first part the author plunges us into the world of science with a pinch of magic. There is the Arctic, permafrost, a research station and studies on polar bears behavior, a mysterious polar bear, possessing magic. All of these things are mixed in an interesting story, in which our heroine collided with unseen magic. And when Cassie meets Bear, she finds out that the world is full of ancient magic and the tale told by her grandmother is true. That’s where this story begins and where the interesting part is over.

The second part was not so good. The author decide to lead the heroine through a lot of trials. Shows to us that Cassie is strong, brave and unstoppable. But unfortunately Sarah Beth Durst overdid it.

I have a strong feeling that the author didn’t even know whether the main character will survive or not throughout the book, she was waiting when the heroine kicks the bucket. Durst put Cassie in dangerous situations, in which an average man could not remain alive. it is ridiculous.

For instance, when Bear was gone, Cassie went to search him and she got into a snowstorm with little or no food and, imagine, she took refuge in a sleeping bag from the storm. *rolling on the floor laughing* How could she survive?
In this case Cassie had to freeze to death, especially, considering her position The human body is weak and fragile, it can not survive under such conditions. The cold is a huge stress for our body, when it begins to act on the human body we have a low heart rate, an irregular heartbeat, a shiver, slackness, drowsiness, problems with coordination. It all leads to inevitable death. No matter how our heroine was strong and stubborn, she could not survive, though.
And I must say that at the first days of her journey she had no help of magical creatures. And even if she had their help, it would look unnatural. Cassie is unkillable. She is Koschei the Deathless.

And I have many examples like that. If you read the book you will see.
Oh, and all this circus going on in the third part of this book...

The ending was undeveloped. Throughout the book Cassie wrestled for her happiness (the wrestling was stupid, thanks the author) and this ending just canceled out it all.

Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this one. The beginning was quite good, the continuation was naive and unnatural. But in general it was ok.
905 reviews257 followers
August 30, 2017
I don't think I'll ever get enough of this story. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is my favourite fairytale of all, and this is a particularly interesting re-telling. I loved the inclusion of science, and the blending of myths from around the world, but somewhere near the end it all got a bit carried away. The characters felt a bit off at times too, or the language never quite matched up to the maturity of the story. Still, a lovely effort.

I did miss the golden carding combs, but I think the fault is mine - I'm a little textile-obsessed at the moment!
Profile Image for Renee Thomas.
72 reviews45 followers
February 21, 2014
It started out with an interesting concept, a fairly likeable heroine, a unique and detailed environment and some classic fairytale elements to admire. Even if I never want to venture into the Artic and make my living on the ice fields, I could admire Cassie's resiliance and her determination to focus on what she loves, and work for it. The opening chapters really seemed to set the stage for a quite different adventure and journey to take place.
Then, along came the central relationship development, and quickly it all went to poop for me - the love story felt bizarre, and somehow superficial and rushed. And when the "Breaking Dawn" moment occurred - try as I might, I just couldn't continue. Pity, because I was quite looking forward to this one. Why must my morals always be challenged with these young female protagonists?! Why are they all incubators?! Why do their male partners use them so?! WHY?! This isn't romance, it's just plain warped!!!! And it's being passed off as sweet and genuine and simple in it's life-affirming emotional message..... ugh. *rams head against wall*
So sad...
Profile Image for Sara Saif.
539 reviews218 followers
November 21, 2018

I didn’t know it until after I read the summary of the original fairytale but East was pretty much exactly the same as the original East of the Sun West of the Moon story. Ice deviated a lot, it was just as addictive but a bit odd, honestly.

The book is divided into neat halves. The first half is enchanting, full of ice castles and dangerous expeditions and while there’s a talking bear and all, it’s still grounded in reality. The second half is a riot of magic and strange things, it’s a complete opposite of the ‘grounded in reality’ tone of the first half and it is thrilling, sure, but also disturbing.

The book has a modern setting, the heroine lives on a research station and is a determined and feisty girl who leaves with the bear because of a bargain and marries him. She struggles with her situation but finally finds a way to be happy. That is when the shit storm hits.

I mean, I have to hand it to the girl. The kind of epic misery and misfortune she endures to get her husband back, just… YIKES. Her hardships were downright depressing and agonizing and it was uncomfortable to read but kinda fascinating, in a sick way. This is why the book is odd, there is no seamless transition between the two halves. First there’s just ice and the bear and life is quiet, then there’s imprisonment, torture, near-deaths and all the while the girl is pregnant, about to pop. Y-I-K-E-S. She doggedly pressed onward until she got what she wanted and I admire that.

The concept of ‘munaqsri’ and how that ties with trolls was fresh and intriguing. But, it was not terribly impressive? Or maybe impressive is the wrong word. I don’t think it was very well-put, that’s all. The big and only problem is that bear’s imprisonment makes no sense. Those trolls were lost souls and bear knew it. It took minutes for Cassie to realize this and all she had to do was make a bargain with them herself and present the human munaqsri who absorbed them. Bear was with them for SIX months.

Are you KIDDING me. Even though he knew it, why didn’t he placate the trolls by making a deal with them and taking all those of lost souls like Cassie did? He wasn’t stupid, he should have done it. It nullifies all of Cassie’s suffering to save him and I can’t make head or tails of it. Six months is a long time and the bear wasn’t even drugged or unconscious the entire time that he couldn’t talk to them.

It was a cool book anyway.

Profile Image for Mary .
265 reviews6 followers
May 14, 2010
Once again Durst tries her hand at mixing 21st century American teenage attitudes and modern technology with retold fairytales. This time it doesn't work very well. The story is an interesting idea, but Durst struggles with the prose about two-thirds of the way through. She tries to put too many adventures and too many messages in too small a space and as a result her characters begin to flatten as the story progresses and her description falters and becomes choppy and rushed. The transformation of her protagonist, Cassie, from an angsty teenager to a determined rescuer attempts but does not succeed at moral depth and insight. Her relationship with Bear starts off poorly with mutual deception and coercion and fails to become deeply believable. And there are jarring insertions of oddly placed modern morality, for example, a no-nonsense, tidy grandmother off-handedly refering to sexual relations in the back seat of a pick-up truck.

Her description of pregnancy and childbirth is alternately shallow and over-the-top. The insertion of the troll princess soul into the newborn babe is just too weird and also created a very rushed denouement. By the time I was heading into the last three chapters I had suspended belief about the limits of Cassie's 21st century human strength and grown weary of flat characters so many times that I no longer felt affinity for Cassie. I wished her and her Bear well, but that was about it.

For a better retelling of this tale, try "Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow", by Jessica Day George.

Profile Image for Celia.
Author 6 books469 followers
January 26, 2019
What a trip! I have read quite a few East of the Sun, West of the Moon reimaginings, but this one takes the cake by far.

First off, it's set in modern day Alaska. Cassie lives with her father at a research center, tagging and tracking polar bears, of all things. (insert winky face) She'd grown up hearing stories of the Polar Bear King and how her mother had been swept away to the troll kingdom. It turns out; all that stuff was real. Coming to collect his bride, Bear takes Cassie to his home in an ice castle and tells her she's his forever and will have his babies. The only thing she has to do is NOT look at his human face when he transforms at night. Cassie follows all the heroines of this story and does the opposite. Adventure ensues.

I honestly thought this was good despite all my whacky updates as I read further. Things got bizarre, but it set itself apart from the others. I think Sarah Beth is my new Amy Ewing in that she comes up with craziest ideas, but manages to make it work. I am curious if her other works are just as nutso.

Spoilerly Stuff

This is the first book of this retelling where the girl brandishes a weapon and kicks the human-bear from her bed when he crawls in at night. I thought this appropriate and refreshing.

But things got weirder and weirder. Cassie went off back to the research station briefly and snatched up some birth control because she decides she loves Bear and wants to do the dirty. Bear has some crazy magic though and thought her body was out of whack and basically overrode the birth control and got her pregnant. Honest mistake, I guess, but it didn't sit well with me. I also cringed a lot when Cassie goes on her journey to find Bear after her major F#$k up because I was pregnant and I sure as shit didn't want to do all that adventuring. I could hardly get up in the morning or, like, eat without puking.

That forest guy was such an ass-hole. He made me want to punch him so hard the way he wanted to keep her only for her baby's sake and caring nothing for Cassie herself. It reminded me of those radical pro-life jerks. He deserved a worst fate.

The trolls were crazy and creepy, and I loved every second they were on the page. I mean, they were like jelly-fish ghosts, and the princess was my favorite ever. I need an entire book on her. That is all.
Profile Image for Kelly.
616 reviews146 followers
November 10, 2010
Another one where I just realized I never posted my review @ GR...

Cassie doesn't believe in fairy tales. Sure, Gram used to tell her that bedtime story about how Cassie's mother was stolen away by the North Wind and imprisoned by trolls. But Cassie, who lives with her scientist father at a research station in the Arctic, has every intention of following in Dad's logical, analytical footsteps. She has no time for fantasy. And besides, as she grew older, she realized that "stolen by the North Wind" was just a euphemism for "died."

Or was it?

On her eighteenth birthday, Cassie tracks a polar bear into the icy wastes, intending to tag it for research. When it escapes by walking through a wall of ice, she realizes it's no ordinary bear - and when she describes it to Dad, he panics. Turns out the story was true, and now Cassie is fated to become the polar bear's bride.

She doesn't go passively, instead striking a deal with the bear. She'll go with him if he will rescue her mother from the trolls. He agrees. Soon, the girl who doesn't believe in fairy tales is living one of her own, carried away by Bear to his enchanted castle. Cassie and Bear develop an unlikely friendship that later leads to romance, and I love what a great team they make. Bear is a munaqsri, whose task it is to collect the souls of dying polar bears and ensure that they are reincarnated into newborn bears. Cassie uses her scientific knowledge to improve the odds. The two are colleagues as much as they are romantic partners.

This being a retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," eventually Cassie breaks a taboo and loses Bear to the trolls. She sets out on an impossible journey to rescue him.

Cassie is a fierce heroine who practically jumps off the page. She's smart, brave, and resourceful. She isn't always likable, but she's always dynamic. She strikes bargains, takes death-defying risks, tells lies, tricks people, and never gives up. In YA fantasy, there have been a lot of passive heroines lately. This is NOT one of them.

When Cassie rides across the snow on Bear's back, hundreds of miles zip by in an instant. Reading Ice is a bit like that. It's a really quick read, both because it's not long and because it moves very rapidly. This is a mixed blessing: some plot points feel a bit rushed, but at the same time, the story never sags.

Sarah Beth Durst's vividly descriptive prose is another of Ice's strengths. She brings the frozen Arctic to life, and I especially liked the description of Bear's castle. And, oh, the scene where the castle is lost to Cassie! It's suspenseful and heartbreaking and beautifully written, all in one.

As Ice moves toward its conclusion, the true nature of the trolls (and therefore, the solution to Cassie's dilemma) becomes pretty obvious. I was able to predict the ending from pretty far out. However, it's a satisfying ending that successfully ties all of the novel's threads together.

Overall, a good-but-not-perfect fairy tale retelling that blends magic with science. Info for parents concerned about age-appropriateness: there is implied (but never described) sex, and a brief childbirth scene.
Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 5 books479 followers
November 9, 2012
Reviewed by Sarah Bean the Green Bean Teen Queen for TeensReadToo.com

Cassie has grown up on an Arctic research station in Alaska with her father. She's been told stories of her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and is now imprisoned by trolls.

Cassie is eighteen and doesn't believe in Polar Bear Kings or trolls anymore - it's just a nice way of saying her mother died. But when she seeks out a polar bear that starts talking to her and promises he can return her mother if she would become his bride, Cassie starts to wonder if fairy tales really are true.

I enjoyed Sarah Beth Durst's previous novels INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD, and I was excited to see she'd keep writing about fairy tales. In ICE, she takes the story of EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON and gives it a twist - it's a modern setting, and Cassie's mother was the first one to make a deal with the Polar Bear King.

You don't have to be familiar with the original tale to enjoy ICE. Ms. Durst makes the story her own and it's a beautiful, engrossing tale of how far someone would go for true love.

Cassie is strong and spunky - I think she rivals Belle as my favorite fairy tale heroine. Her determination and stubbornness make her likeable and appealing and she fights for what she wants. If I'm ever stuck with trolls, I want Cassie by my side!!

Ms. Durst's writing is very descriptive and draws you in. I could imagine myself in the ice castle with Cassie and Bear, could feel the North Wind blowing, and hear Father Forest's voice. ICE is a novel that draws you in to its setting and you want to fight along with Cassie.

Full of action and romance, ICE is sure to delight fans of all ages who enjoy curling up with a good fairy tale.
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,935 followers
November 7, 2010
Chalk this book up to a lesson learned. I thought that my reading had been pretty diverse lately, until I realized that I started to get disturbed at the beginning of this story, which is a cross between a fairy tale retelling and a traditional fantasy. Why was I disturbed? Because the heroine started to develop feelings for a talking polar bear.

I realized that I have been reading WAY too much PNR and UF when something that should be a sweet fairy tale starts creeping me out because the bear isn't shifting right off the bat. What's wrong with me? Beauty and Beast was one of my favorite stories when I was younger.

Once I got past my initial reaction, I let go and let the story take over. Soon I was swept into an epic journey of a girl that travels to find her bear king that was taken from her. I started to fall for the bear king myself (even if his name was BEAR....REALLY?). When the heroine finally saw him in his human form I was floored trying to picture what he looked like. I can't tell you or it would be spoilers! Let's just say that he sounded handsome...yet different.

The story as a whole was a four star read, but I had to drop it to a three because the ending got cut a bit short for my liking.
Profile Image for Blodeuedd Finland.
3,372 reviews290 followers
December 20, 2014
I have always loved the tale East of the sun, west of the moon, and that is why I wanted to read this re-telling.

It's a modern version. Cassie learns that those fairy tales she heard from her grandmother are true. Her mother is being held by trolls, and Cassie is promised to the polar bear king.

Cassie was a clever girl. She lived at a arctic research station so she knew the wild (which is needed later on).

The story, well if you know the basics of the other story then you know this one. With a few exceptions. Like what Bear actually does for a living, and the wonderful world Durst created for this.

The romance, well I know she was there for weeks but I would have liked the see the romance blossom myself. Instead of later just being told they were in love.

A lovely tale.
Profile Image for Polly.
126 reviews31 followers
January 20, 2018
Не буду оригинальна, мне было криповат�� читать сказочку, в которой девица залетела не особо того хотев, но потом познала истинное счастье и все такое.
Возможно, что виновата даже не тема, а то как книга написана. Сара Бет Дёрст хорошая вообще-то, но в более легких темах.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for mirnatius.
675 reviews35 followers
November 4, 2020
rep: side Iñupiaq

Don’t have anything to say other than it was really bad.

stockhoml syndrome, violence, non consent regarding birth control, pregnancy.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tammy.
293 reviews1 follower
June 24, 2010
A young girl discovers that love really can make you walk to the ends of the earth for that special someone.

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster)
As an ardent lover of all things mythical and fantastical, I think it pretty much goes without saying that I am a huge fan of fairytales as well as modern adaptations and retellings of these much loved tales.

I have to admit though, that when I picked up Ice, it initially didn't register that this was a modern retelling of the Scandinavian fairytale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon (even though the synopsis in itself was a pretty obvious giveaway).

I think the reason for missing out on this obvious point was the fact that I was so much more interested in the fantastical element and the fact that the love interest was something other than a vampire, fallen angel, pixie and fairy, that the familiarity with the storyline only became a little more obvious later on.

To give you a brief overview what the book is about:
Cassie used to revel in the stories about the snow, the beautiful castle made of ice and about her mother who made a deal with the Polar Bear King. But now, older and budding young scientist that she is, Cassie doesn't have much time to believe in those fantastical stories her grandmother use to tell her.

Of course, the very notion of science all but flies out of the window when she comes face to face with a Polar Bear whose actions make him seem far more human than any Polar Bear she's ever come across.
When she discovers that her mother might still be alive, she quickly makes a deal with him, in the process embarking on a journey to try and save the mother she's always wanted to know.

Along the way, she discovers that love has its own path to travel and that the true meaning of family isn't what she always thought it was and would be.

I desperately wanted to like this book.

Honestly, even halfway through, when I all but wanted to give up on this book; I forced myself to continue reading because I was that desperate to see if I could still find some way to like this book. The fact that this book has also received such great reviews also seriously had me doubting my opinion of this book - but at the end of the day, this book really just didn't do it for me.

Here's what I thought was wrong with this book:

Firstly, even though the narrative is beautifully descriptive and compelling to some extent, I found that the story was too fast-paced. I generally love a good story where the build-up to action almost starts immediately, but the way in which the action was executed seemed a little forced and clumsy.

I also found it hard to suspend my disbelief because Cassie's relationship with the Polar Bear king progresses from distrust and suspicion to friendship and love too quickly and too easily (And by quick, I mean that the author structures her sentences in such a way that she'll simply use one paragraph to skip through a couple of weeks and before you know it, the bear and the human girl are in love).

My next problem is, (and this is a little spoilery) is that the Polar Bear remains a Polar Bear throughout most of the novel. There is a reason for this, but I still think that he could have had a lot more "human" time. There is also another element that I found the book could have done without, but I will refrain from mentioning anything else as it will give the plot away.

The characters themselves weren't that bad - in fact, they were likeable enough, if somewhat underdeveloped and lacking in believability - but I have to admit that the unwanted element to the story made me like Cassie's character a just a little less.

Considering the fact that the writing is quite lyrical, I think this story could have been really good had the above-mentioned issues been addressed.

Read this at your own risk
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gokce G.
431 reviews67 followers
October 27, 2010
This book is based on an old Norwegian fairy tale called 'East of The Sun and West of The Moon'. My acquaintance with this story goes back to a collection of erotic short stories based on fairy tales, Enchanted: Erotic Bedtime Stories For Women. Before that, I've never heard of this tale and I was pleasantly surprised when I realized what story this book was based on.

The original tale tells the story of the daughter of a poor peasant who's given away by her father to the White Bear in exchange of wealth for the rest of the family. Her husband is in bear form throughout the day but come night, he becomes a man and shares her bed on the condition that she never look at him. One day the girl gets curious and thinking there could be no harm, while her husband is still asleep, she lights a candle and finds he is a very attractive man. Her husband, waking up, tells her that his stepmother has put a spell on him to make him a bear and if the girl could have lasted one year without seeing him he'd be releived of the curse. But since she sees him before the time is up, he tells her that he has to go the stepmother's castle which is located 'east of the sun and west of the moon' and marry the stepmother's ugly daughter now.
After he vanishes, the girl sets out to find him and after a long journey and many encounters including the East Wind, South Wind and North Wind who help her through her journey, she reaches the castle where the evil stepmother and her daughter, said to be trolls, reside.

'Ice' is based on this lovely fairy tale but of course it is not that simple. I have to say, I was amazed by Sarah Beth Durst's storytelling. She took a simple story and made it a truly wonderful journey filled with many beautiful, breathtaking, and at times, suffocating scenes. Her language was very realistic, it made it so easy for me to get into the heroine's mind and understand her struggles and doubts.

The heroine, Cassie, was an amazing character. I don't think I've ever come across a YA novel character who's this determined to make something happen. She's the daughter of a scientist, she's lived all her life practically in ice, she knows hot to survive, how to track. These are all thanks to her upbringing, but the rest, the fight she has in her, the determination, are what make her a great heroine. On her journey, from the moment she meets the polar bear till the end, she has to overcome many obstacles both psychologically and physically, and I'm sure if it were any other person this story would've ended before it even started. But then again this is what makes it so unique.

I don't want to say more about the storyline because the way the author changed the tale is so beautiful in my opinion, and original, that whoever reads it should see it unfold themselves.

I ooh'ed and aww'ed during this book and towards the end I had a slap-my-forehead moment. And I definitely loved it.
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