East

Pour yourself a steaming cup of hot chocolate.  Light a fire.  Grab a blanket and curl up for an enchanting read with Edith Pattou’s East, a brisk and winsome epic of magic, love, loss, betrayal and redemption set in the Far North.

The youngest of seven children meant to “replace” her dead sister, Rose is born to a poor farmer and a superstitious mother who tries to curb and quash her daughter’s headstrong independence and wanderlust.  Compass directions factor prominently in this delicious fairy tale, as does Rose’s skill with a loom, her compassion and loyalty, and her boundless courage.

When a huge white bear appears at the family’s door promising restored health for a deathly ill sister and wealth for her poverty-stricken family – if she agrees to join him for an unknown fate – Rose agrees.  The bear takes her to a distant, lonely castle inside a mountain where she is visited by a mysterious stranger each night.  When Rose accidentally discovers the stranger’s true identity, she unknowingly sets in motion events that will seal his doom – unless she embraces her destiny and embarks on a dangerous journey to save him before it’s too late.

Set mostly in Norway, East is peopled with fantastic creatures and characters including a talking white bear, an evil troll queen, “softskin people,” “Huldre folks” with “voices like rocks and craggy skin,” ice palaces, blizzards, an Inuit shaman, and an intrepid young heroine.  Along the way we meet Thor, a besotted lout of a knorr captain who turns out to be a crackerjack navigator with a heart of gold.  After sailing as far north as possible aboard the storm-battered knorr with a reluctant Thor (the crew has been swept overboard in a storm), Rose continues her journey to the troll kingdom and her white bear on foot.  Ashore in a frozen, barren land, Rose meets Malmo, an Inuit shaman who guides the girl on her quest to the ice bridge and the mysterious land of Niflheim.  They encounter many dangers and close calls as Malmo teaches Rose “how to survive in the frozen wild” with Far North ingenuity and the aid of a “story knife.”

When Malmo must return to her people, Rose travels alone into a frozen country of “white, gray, and pale blue, with the occasional burst of red from the spilled blood of a seal.”  She crosses the treacherous ice bridge and journeys into the unknown.  Finally locating the ice palace of the troll queen, Rose plots her rescue of the white bear-turned prince and the “slack-jawed softskins” abducted from “the greenlands” to serve as troll slaves.  Rose will need all her wits and every shred of courage she can muster if she is to succeed – and rescue her true love from a cruel enchantment.  Will she be equal to the task?

A splendidly magical tale told with panache and polish, East is a bold, sweeping re-telling of “Beauty and the Beast” – with several twists.  The style is nimble, the language lyrical.  Peppered with Norwegian terms and settings (a Glossary is included), East expertly carries readers into another place and time, another culture and country.  The story moves like a greased toboggan on a slick downhill run, and is as rich and rewarding as a steaming cup of chocolate and a crackling fire on a cold day.

Recommended for readers age twelve years and older.  East can be found in the Young Adult section of most libraries.

East

By Edith Pattou

Harcourt, Inc. 2003

498 pages

ISBN: 0-15-204563-5

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