East: It’s All In The Details

East is written by Edith Pattou. It was published in 2003 by Harcourt. It is a retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Pattou’s website can be found here.


“Rose is the youngest of seven children, meant to replace her dead sister.

Maybe because of that, she’s never really fit in. She’s always felt different, out of place, a restless wanderer in a family of homebodies. So when an enormous white bear mysteriously shows up and asks her 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 find her purpose—and realizes her journey as only just begun.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

This was a really interesting (and detailed!) retelling of a fairy tale. The background that Pattou gave was astounding, and she really expanded a lot on the original story. All the little details and customs she included were great. I liked the fact that she set it in Norway (or what is presumably supposed to be Norway) and gave places familiar names, but kept that slight tint of unfamiliarity so that the fantasy/magic part of it would feel more like a natural extension of the world and not something abrupt or placed there because she wanted to set the book in the current world. Do you get what I’m saying? Familiar, yet not familiar. The natural world, and yet not.

Cover Art

I loved Rose’s character development. I didn’t really like her in the beginning, but as soon as she got to the castle I could almost immediately see her change and it made me like her more, gradually, as she changed gradually.

I loved the fact that she wove. I feel like a lot of YA fantasies that feature heroines focus more on the fact that the heroine can sword fight, shoot bows, etc. like the men around her. This one, however, made her weaving the central “awesome trait” of the heroine, and it was really refreshing to read about. Heroines should be able to defeat the bad guy with their sewing skills as much as with any sword fighting they learned because they’re rebelling against propriety (Jessica Day George does this really well in Dragon Slippers).

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t really like the white bear poem-y sections. I don’t know if Pattou was trying to make them like poems, but they were similar enough that they sounded like poems, and bad poems at that.

The switch between PoVs was interesting, but not really all that necessary. I get why in the beginning, but towards the end there was really no point. It just interrupted the flow of the story.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Realistic, Young Adult


He gazed around the room, from one to the other of us. His eyes stayed longest on Rose. Then he turned to Father.

“If you will give me your youngest daughter…” The eerie huge voice echoed in the room. He spoke slowly, pausing between each word, as if the act of speaking was difficult, almost painful for him. “Then the one who lies near death will be made well again. And you will be no longer poor but wealthy, and will live in comfort and ease.”

The silence in the room was punctuated only by the sounds of the storm outside and an occasional crackle from the hearth fire.

~Pattou 72-73

“You were under a spell?”

“Yes. White bear by day; boy…then man…by night. I could not speak of it. The only way I could be released was for a maiden to live with me, of her own free will, for one year. And during that time she was not to gaze upon my human face.”

I heard a faint jingle of bells, though they registered only dimly, so lost was I in the damning words. “And now?” I asked, dreading the answer.

“I go with her. Forever.”

“Who? Who do you go with?”

He shook his head, hopelessness flooding his whole body.

“Can’t you tell me?”

“It does not matter. I know her only as Queen, and her land is far.”

“Where is it?” I asked, willing him to tell me.

He laughed suddenly, and I could hear the full-throated, grating sound of the white bear’s laughter in it. “East of the sun and west of the moon,” he said.

~Pattou 249

Overall Review:

East is a fairy tale retelling that really expands on the original by adding a lot of background, cultural details, and little things like that while still staying (somewhat) true to the original. Personally, I like Jessica Day George’s retelling better, but Pattou’s has really good worldbuilding and has its own original feel to it.

You can buy this book here: East

Coming Up Next: Ambush by Obert Skye


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