|| had too many books checked out from library, a common failing of mine. There are so many interesting titles to read, that I get more library books than I have time to read. I was going through my stack,
trying to decide which books to return unread (though I promised myself that I would check those books out again, when I had more time, of course) and I was undecided about East. Should I return it, or should I renew it? I opened
the cover to read the first few pages to decide if I would like it ...and promptly read the entire 500 page novel in two days.
East is a retelling of a Norwegian fairy tale called "East of the Sun, West of the Moon". I had not heard of this fable until after I finished reading East, I looked up the phrase to see it meant, and
now I know the Norwegian story. The plot of East does follow the Norwegian fairy tale, but when I read the book, the story was all new to me because I hadn't known the fable.
East is a success because the characters are so well portrayed. The heroine is Rose, the eighth child of a poor Norwegian farmer. Rose is strong minded child with a fearless personality and an unquenchable
thrist to explore. She works on the farm, learns to weave, and never ceases to venture out into the landscape. One day, a gigantic white bear bursts into the family home. The bear promises to make the family wealthy and heal Sara (one of Rose's sisters)
if Rose will come away with him. The family immediately objects, but Rose is fearless and wants to save her family. Rose agrees to go with the bear and live in his magic castle. (How did the white bear decide that it was Rose who must come with him? Rose lives
a thousand miles from his magic castle in the mountain. This point is never explained.)
The reader knows that the white bear is actually a human boy who has been transformed by the spell of a troll princess. The troll princess is delighted by the "soft-skinned" boy, and has decided to make him her own.
But the troll kings says no. Humans are meant to be slaves, the princess cannot take the boy for her own companion. Under the decree of the troll king, the boy is enchanted as a bear, and he can only win his freedom is a certain set of conditions are met,
particularly the condition in which he is not allowed to describe his plight to anyone. Thus, the bear cannot tell Rose why he wants her to come with him.
The story is told in first person format, but each chapter is from a viewpoint of a different person. Obviously, most of the chapters are "written" by Rose, but we also see events from the perspective of Rose's father, the
troll princess, and Neddy, who is Rose's brother and closest friend. The white bear has very short chapters where he struggles to articulate thoughts, mostly the one-page bear chapters just describe an emotion like hope or fear. Thus, the white bear is mostly
a cipher, the reader never even knows his name (the bear himself cannot remember his name).
After the characters have been established, the story becomes more of an adventure. Rose ends up journeying over land and sea, fearlessly searching for the land of the trolls and trying to rescue the nameless man. I found
East to be a wonderful story that I would recommend to anyone. It is categorized as a young adult story, but I think it would be appealing to someone from any age group.
I see that there is a sequel to East , called West. One more book to add to my list of Books-To-Be-Read-Someday!