Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Ice by Sarah Beth Durst


Tags: YA, magic, retelling, love, adventure, Arctic

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Summary

Cassie is the daughter of an Arctic researcher and has grown up on an Arctic research station with the knowledge that her mother is dead. However, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie learns the shocking truth: her mother is imprisoned by trolls beyond the end of the world, and she herself is promised to the Polar Bear King in marriage. Cassie agrees to marry the gentle but powerful Bear if he will rescue her mother.

The wedding, which sprang out of necessity, soon blossoms into true companionship and romance. But Cassie makes a terrible mistake that costs her her love. Now, she must draw on all of her Arctic knowledge and courage to make a nearly impossible journey if she wants to save Bear.

Review

Please excuse me if I break from my usual review style for ICE. That is because I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. It had everything I wanted from a book of its kind: a feisty female protagonist, epic adventures, luscious writing, and the kind of romance that stops hearts and makes you remember why romance exists in the world. It was love at first sight for me and this book, and our love will continue to evolve and endure as long as my memory does not fail me.

From the first page, I was ensnared by Sarah Beth’s writing, which I must describe as “clean and fresh”: it’s like wiping away a dirty window and gazing in wonder out at a beautiful, crystalline winter scene. Sarah Beth wastes no words, and yet manages to describe for readers an unbelievably beautiful and mesmerizing world with simple prose. Her writing style will appeal to fans of fairy tale writing, for its gorgeous, ethereal descriptions, as well as those of realistic fiction, so well grounded in our world it is.

Indeed, the way ICE inhabits a perfect space in between fantasy and reality is one of its unique and strong points. I love that this old Nordic legend is grounded in science: a research station with modern characters and real-time technology. We weave easily in and out of the magic and the real, making this an interesting reading experience. Cassie is feisty and snarky enough to make her a great 21st-century protagonist, and yet she is also courageous and incredibly determined, qualities that connect her with other epic fantasy heroines.

Of all the great parts about ICE, I think I like Cassie the best. You don’t find girls like her very often in literature or real life anymore, girls who will do anything for love, girls who tire of domesticity and want to be useful, girls who don’t want romance to consume their identities, girls who are scared of growing up too fast and making decisions that will affect them permanently. I related to Cassie so well and admired her so much, I think I cried. I loved how she faced problems of things like love vs. self-identity with—let’s admit it—mistakes and awkwardness. For a character of a fantasy novel, Cassie is remarkably relatable and can instantly be your best friend and role model for realistic issues.

And of course, I cannot end this review without talking about the romance between Cassie and Bear. Fans of Beauty and the Beast (especially Robin McKinley’s Beauty) will see strong echoes of that kind of gradual love in ICE. Bear easily won over my heart with just a few lines of dialogue; if you want a nice-guy love interest, well, here he is. Gradual development of attraction and love are hard to come by nowadays, which is one of the reasons why I’m so happy the romance in ICE was done so well. Theirs is a love that grows subtly out of undramatic scenes, and is proven to be eternal by a literal “epic journey.” It is, once again, the result of the perfect blend between fantasy and realism.

ICE is certainly not without some weaknesses, of course. Supporting characters, especially Cassie’s parents, are rather underdeveloped, and super-picky readers may have trouble following the occasionally choppy plot. However, readers looking for an old-fashioned fairy tale would do well to check Sarah Beth Durst’s ICE out. Maybe I read it at the right time for me to fall head-over-heels in love with it—but I think that you’ll be able to appreciate the gorgeous world-building and story, no matter what kind of genre you enjoy best.

Similar Authors
Robin McKinley (Beauty)
Malinda Lo (Ash)
Donna Jo Napoli
Shannon Hale
Tamora Pierce

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I love the polar bear and the sense of blueness and, well, ice that pervades the cover, closely matching the landscape I imagine this story to be set in. However, the model is a little awkward looking and not as strong as I picture Cassie to be, despite having red hair and green eyes. The paleness of her skin is rather creepy to me.

Simon & Schuster / Oct. 6, 2009 / Hardcover / $16.99

Thanks goes to Sarah Beth for offering me your book for review, and to S&S for sending me copies!! <3

34 comments:

  1. What a fantastic review! Lol, I have never read this one myself but I guess some parts didn't bother you as much as it does for some bloggers from the other reviews I've read. Maybe I'll check it out this time. :)

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  2. Well your review has just vaulted this book closer to the top of my wishlist. I have been curious about it since I first saw it making its way around the internet, but never really saw any reviews until now. Excellent review!

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  3. Can't wait to read this one now! Wonderful, enthusiastic, thorough review. Yay!

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  4. What a great review. You've given me all the reasons why I'd love to read this book.

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  5. Really great review!

    I've got to get my hands on this book :)

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  6. I'm possibly going to the library this week (I finally finished my TBR pile...now onto creating a new one! lol.) and because of this review I'm probably going to pick up Ice now :)

    The bear on the cover looks so sweet! Its eyes have depth o.o... Oh and question! have you written a review yet for the cinderella society?

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  7. Wonderful review! I'm possibly going to the library this week (I finally made it through my TBR pile! Now I have to start all over again, lol) and if I see Ice, I'll grab it off the shelf because of your review :)

    The bear on the cover looks so sweet! Its eyes have depth... o.o

    Have you written a review for The Cinderella Society yet?

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  8. This is a really beautiful review, which says a lot to me about how beautfiul the book must be to have inspired it. I haven't read a ton of fairytale-inspired fiction but this one calls to me for some reason.

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  9. Great review. I'll definitely have to pick up this book based on your raving review. :)

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  10. I finished this book at work today.

    First of all, I should say that Edith Pattou's 'East' is one of my favorite books EVER. It hooked me on the fairy tale that inspired the novel, and has sent me looking for retellings ever since. Jessica Day George's novel was fine. Sarah Beth Durst's was worlds different, and completely amazing.

    Your review hit on the things that made it so compelling for me: the grounding in science interweaving beautifully with magic and myth.

    Excellent characters. Rich, descriptive prose (I've never read cold described so vividly). Fantastic twist on the trolls.

    As you noted, there are weak points. But I'm with you: this is smashingly good storytelling, and a book that has earned a place on my permanent (ie: to be reread, over and over) bookshelf.

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  11. This is next in my TBR pile, and I can't wait. I love Sarah Beth's writing and this plot sounds so cool!

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  18. 困っています。December 3, 2009 at 10:28 PM

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  31. 女に生れて来たからには!!December 17, 2009 at 10:47 PM

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  32. I loved Cassie's determination to actually have a purpose rather than lie around like a wet dishrag - and I loved that she had doubts about giving up college and her life as a researcher for a love that she wasn't quite sure of. It was that kind of wavering that really sold me on Cassie as well. It was fantastic that she did love him enough to sacrifice so much, but she also understood that there were some things she COULDN'T sacrifice. Lovely and indeed very relatable.

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on Cassie - I've linked to your review here.

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Hello! I'm so excited to read what you have to say. Due to high amounts of spam, I'm forced to disabled anonymous comments for the time being. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes, and I hope you can understand and still appreciate the content here!

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