Welcome to Friday, everyone! As the days get darker and colder, I thought it might be appropriate to review a tale of the deep, windswept North – Jessica Day George’s “Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.”
This is a retelling of a popular Nordic tale, which I originally heard titled as “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” In Jessica Day George’s version, the main character is the Lass. Least-loved by a mother who refuses to even bother naming her, the Lass finds comfort in the kindness of her older brother, Hans Peter. But something is wrong with him – he left for a journey long ago, and came back a different man, a broken, haunted man.
The Lass’ attempts to heal her brother bring her face-to-face with the white deer, a magical creature who tells her there is nothing she can do: her brother has been cursed by trolls. Still, the deer leaves her with some hope – a beautiful name of her own which she keeps secret, and the ability to talk to animals.
Years later, when an isbjorn (giant polar bear) shows up at her house and asks her to go with him, the Lass not only understands him, but agrees to go on the condition that her family be provided for. She is to live in a palace with the isbjorn for one year and one day, which wouldn’t be so hard except there are so many mysteries about the palace, and the servants in it, and the isbjorn himself. As the Lass struggles to unravel these secrets, she realizes they all tie back in with her brother.
And then one day she makes a fateful mistake, and ruins everything. There’s only one way to fix it, and that is to travel east of the sun and west of the moon, to a place where the four winds themselves fear to go.
I listened to the audio version of this book, read by Jessica Roland. I love the original tale, so I enjoyed this retelling, which stays fairly true to the source material. The Lass is a likable character, and the descriptions of the far North, as well as the fairy tale-like tone of the story all make for a very pleasant read (or listen). That being said, I felt like the ending was a little too easy, and I also thought the characters could have had more depth. Still, all in all a quick and fun read, perfect for a chilly weekend!
How about you? What’s your favorite story retelling?