Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: East by Edith Pattou

Tags: YA, fantasy, retelling, Scandinavia

EAST is the tale of Rose, who sacrifices her freedom to save her sister, grows to care for the cursed white bear who is her “captor,” unwittingly betrays him, then goes beyond the ends of the earth to make things right. It’s a classic folktale that never fails to move me, but Edith Pattou’s retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” went above and beyond, astounding me with its magical rendering of a traditional story and simple literary elements.

EAST is not extraordinarily sophisticated in writing style: narration alters between several different voices, and none of them particularly stand out as individual examples of great literariness. However, the magic of EAST lies in how these common elements—straightforward prose, a retelling—fit together. The multiple narrators adds a unique rhythm and scope to the story that makes the whole so much more than the sum of its parts.

Edith Pattou sets EAST in historical Europe, and the story traverses lands, cultures, seas, and languages for an astonishing and engrossing read. This is the second retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I’m astonished at the different directions in which each author took this folktale. I’m no history buff, but I was mesmerized by Edith Pattou’s description of the various people that Rose meets on her journey, by the variety of people and cultures that existed over great distances at the same time.

Words fail me when I try to describe an extraordinary book; indeed, there is no part of this book that was not amazing, and thus there is no part that I can describe well. There is a reason I still see this book in bookstores: it has the rare lasting power that only the most accomplished of fantasy reads possess.

Cover discussion: It's quite unique and memorable. A loving artistic rendering of a lovely book.

Graphia / May 1, 2005 / Paperback (reprint) / 528pp. / $8.95

Personal copy.


  1. My favourite childhood book was the illustrated version of East of the Sun West of the Moon that Pattou based her characters on! I love this novel.

  2. I want to read this one because of the style of using multiple characters. I hear it is one of the best.

  3. I absolutely loved ICE by Sarah Beth Durst, which is based on the same fairy tale. Maybe I'll give EAST a try.

  4. I hadn't heard of this book, but this review and that cover make me very curious about it. I think I'll add this to my to-read list.

  5. I read this book years ago and LOVED it! I think I'll reread it!

  6. I've heard tons of great things about this book, and I've had a copy on my shelf for awhile. I really need to get around to reading it!

  7. This was one of my favorite books as a kid and I agree, truly truly extraordinary book. I even made my mom read it ^^

  8. Sounds like an incredibly unique, almost magical book! Love the cover. Why haven't I read this one yet?

  9. I love this retelling. It was the first East of the Sun, West of the Moon retelling I had ever seen and so I snatched it up immediately. I never regretted that choice. I'm so glad you brought this one back to light.

  10. Ah, this book would definitely go in my 'favorites of all time' bookshelf, if I had one. It's wonderful. So glad you loved it. Also: LOVELY review. You do it justice.


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