Book Review: North Child /East

east cover

East / North Child

Written by Edith Patou

512 pages

Published by HMH / Usborne

Publication date: 25th Februar7 2006 (original ) 23rd October 2018 (re-release)

Summary ( from Goodreads):

This is a beguiling epic of magic, love, loss and betrayal based on the traditional fairytale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”. The lyrical writing and bold sweep of the story as Rose travels north will cast a spell over every reader. “A rich tapestry that will resonate with readers…The stuff of epic tale-telling, replete with high drama and compelling characterisations.” – Booklist.

Rose was born into the world facing north, and as a north child, superstition says that she will be a wanderer, traveling far from home. This prophecy is fulfilled when she is taken on the back of a white bear to a mysterious empty castle, where a silent stranger appears to her night after night. When her curiosity overcomes her, she loses her heart, and must journey to a land east of the sun and west of the moon to reclaim it.

Ebba Rose was the name of our last-born child. Except it was a lie. Her name should have been Nyamh Rose. But everyone called her Rose rather than Ebba, so the lie didn’t matter. At least that’s what I told myself.

The Rose part of her name came from the symbol that lies at the cetre of the wind rose – which is fitting because she was lodged at the very centre of my heart.

I loved each of her seven brothers and sisters, but I will admit there was always something that set Rose apart from the others.

First impressions: I wanted to read this as soon as I saw it because I love the original fairytale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon and have several different versions of it on my shelves.

The story drew me in straightaway, with nods towards the original folktale but tantalising details added to flesh out the characters and their relationships. I found the different perspectives (each chapter told in a different voice) hard to get used o at first, then really enjoyed how each character illuminated a different aspect of the story.

Rose’s journey North is detailed and believable, her quest to undo the wrong she inadvertently causes challenging and the final ending is satisfying, although a bit rushed. I enjoyed reading about Rose’s early encounters with the bear and how information was woven in through her brother Neddy learning about the bears and Rose meeting Inuit people on her travels. While the magic of the trolls is kept, it is mixed up in stories from Norse mythology. Rose’s journey is also completed through means known to mankind, rather than on the back of the winds!

This is a good addition to any collection of fairytales or fairytale retellings and is sure to be a hit with anyone who enjoyed the original story.

“I will go with you, ” Rose said to the bear, and I watched, unbelieving as the animal’s great paws flashed and Rose was suddenly astride the bear’s back as it her were some enormous horse.

The white bear turned and disappeared though the doorway.

Neddy let out a cry and ran after them, grabbing his coast as he went.

I started after them as well, but Eugenia blocked my way.

“She must go. It is her direction. Her choice.”

I looked back at Eugenia. Then looked from her to the empty doorway. I had lost everything I held dear. And there would be no reclaiming it.

What I liked: Rose is a strong character who takes control of her own destiny, from her earliest days. I also liked how the chapters gave us different perspectives on the storyline, from Neddy, Rose, The White Bear and The Troll Queen s well as Rose’s father. In particular, this helped to make the character and motivation of the Troll Queen easier to understand. I liked all the authentic details of Rose’s journey and the people she meets along the way.

Even better if: I felt that the ending came a little too abruptly and conventiently.

How you could use it in your classroom: Despite being marketed as  YA book there is no content that would make this unsuitable for younger readers. There are some great descriptions of the frozen country Rose crosses on her journey. It could also be used as a springboard for your pupils to re-imagine their own fairytale.

Look out for review of the second book in this sequence, West, out on Monday!

While you’re here, why not check out my reviews of Spinning Silver, How to Catch a Witch, Tangleweed and Brine, Shadow Weaver or Flower Moon?

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Thanks for reading!

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