First, I love, love, love retellings of fairytales, or at least the idea. I admit, some are better than others, but when they're done right, there are few books I like more. At this point, I think I've read three or four different versions of East of the Sun, West of the Moon (which is what the original fairytale is called) and even seen a movie version, but this one is far and away the one I like best.
I first picked this book up on a whim. I had never heard of Jessica Day George (it was after this book that I read her Dragon Slipper series and loved them) , but the story looked interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try. I absolutely adored it. Then I read everything else by her I could get my hands on, but this one is still my favorite.
There are so many things I love about this story. First, it has loads of similarities to Beauty and the Beast, but instead of just falling in love with the bear, she has to save him. In so many fairytales the girl is rewarded because of her beauty or goodness, but a prince or a fairy godmother does all the heavy lifting. In this one, she has to travel the world to get him back, and I love that. Plus, much like Cupid and Psyche's story, it is the girl's own mistake and insecurities that gets her into the problem in the first place.
With that great premise, you would think that this story couldn't go wrong, but, at least for me, it has. Several times. But not this version. First, this version is probably the most true to the original story. That could be a down side, but I don't think it is at all. I loved immersing myself in the ice and seeing how Jessica Day George would flesh out the story into a novel. As the ninth "unwanted" daughter, Jessica explained why her family would give her up, and in a silent castle, you can easily see how the relationship developed between the Lass and her polar bear.
That's another thing I enjoyed about this book. The poor girl doesn't have a name! And in a land where names have power, that's important. It sounds kind of crazy, but it isn't until the end that we learn what her name is (and by the way, that name wasn't ever given to her by her mother). Speaking of the mother, she belongs right up there with Snow White and Cinderella's stepmothers--I seriously wanted to smack her a few times.
Anyway, for anyone who likes a fairytale retold or a fun, straightforward adventure, you need to pick up this book. I loved it 5 stars worth when I first read it, and years later I haven't changed my mind.