Synopsis: Rose has always been different. Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose's birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home...but she can't suppress Rose's true nature forever.
So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it - in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family - she readily agrees.
Rose travels on the bear's broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart - and finds her purpose - and realizes her journey has just only begun.
Date Published: September 1, 2003
Published By: HMH Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 507
East is a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, a kind of Scandinavian version of Beauty and the Beast. I love how this book blends historical fiction and fantasy, grounding the magical elements in reality.
East is so wonderfully descriptive that you really get a sense of 'cold' when you're reading it. Pattou doesn't just describe the cold, she gives the reader the sense of being cold. It was these vivid details that transports the reader to a land of ice and snow. So you might want to bundle up while reading it.
What I found less vivid were the characters. I didn't really get a sense of Rose's personality. Yes, she has personality traits like being adventurous and independent and having a love for weaving and sewing but I just felt I was being told who Rose was instead of shown who she was. I just couldn't connect with her.
I was not invested in the romance between Rose and the White Bear at all. I didn't really get a sense of any sort of developing relationship between them, so when the White Bear is taken away by the Troll Queen, it feels like Rose only goes after him out of a sense of duty, not because she cares about him. And even when she did realize that she had feelings for him, it was just like 'okay, if you say so.'
Apart from these problems, East is a really good adventure story with lots of historical details and vivid description. Is it the best fairytale retelling I've ever come across? No. But it's certainly not the worst one, either.