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 only just begun.
“That’s the trouble with loving a wild thing: You’re always left watching the door.”
Have you guys read East of the Sun, West of the Moon? I absolutely adore that fairy tale, and I have honestly never read a retelling of it before this book! I was so excited when I stumbled upon it at my library, and jumped right into it immediately! Unfortunately…it was not as good as I hoped it might be.
East is about a girl, Rose, with an insatiable wanderlust who must go with a strange, talking white bear to an unknown fate to save her family. I really did love the cool fairy tale feel–a wondrous castle with a talking white bear, children born facing each point of the compass to determine their fates, magical gold and silver dresses that can fit perfectly into a wallet and grow to become extraordinary–and so much more!
I also really loved Rose and her desire to travel. She wasn’t afraid to embrace her fate and embark on the unexpected and unknown. She was so fearless, and kind to her family, and I really liked reading about her and her adventures.
Despite all the whimsical things…I felt that the world building was severely lacking. Honestly, I have no idea if it’s set in the real world or a fantasy world? I mean, it should be fantasy because, hello, talking white bears and trolls? But also I got to the end of the book and there was this glossary that was like Fransk=France and this is England and this is Denmark etc etc and I was like…what? So is this like an alternate universe based on the real world? Or is this actually the real places but in some language I’m unfamiliar with? Or is it completely made up but then you threw in France and England just to mess with me?
Also, the characters do a lot of adventuring and traveling, and they travel through so many places and it was all kind of just a blur. If you asked me to tell you where Rose went, I wouldn’t really be sure. I don’t even really know where she grows up and that’s a substantial part of the book? It’s all kind of just thrown at you and I, for one, had really no idea what was going so I just kind of ignored the world and rolled with it, which is certainly not my preferred method of reading a fantasy adventure.
The book was also told through a lot of different POVs, which kind of annoyed me. I don’t typically like multiple POVs, and here there were, like five? Rose, her brother, her father, Troll Queen, and White Bear. It was really inconsistent, like, 200 pages from Rose and then randomly one page from Troll Queen and three pages from her brother, and those pages seemed like they were just there to give the reader info dumps because the author couldn’t figure out any other way to work the info in.
Finally, I didn’t really like the author’s writing style. It felt pretty removed, like I was listening to someone narrate what happened instead of really experiencing it and being able to visualize it in my head. It really felt like a lot of telling instead of showing. For example, we’re just told that these two people are in love and having a wedding with absolutely no indication of when or why this happened. This style also made me get kind of bored at times and more skim read parts.
Overall, this was not a bad read I would say, but I definitely wouldn’t call it good either. If you’re interested in a new unique fairy tale retelling instead of hundreds of the same Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, you might give it a try, and it reads pretty quickly too (which is surprising since it’s so long? Maybe because the world wasn’t really that fleshed out and I wasn’t that invested in the book so I just blew through it instead of being totally engrossed), but otherwise it’s just a kind of meh three star one that doesn’t really demand to be read.