Wednesday, May 25, 2011
REVIEW: Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe.
Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back — if Cassie will agree to be his bride.
That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her — until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice.
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst really surprised me with how much I was able to fall into the story and how much I ended up feeling for the characters. I've not read the original fairy tale, East of Sun West of the Moon at all, so I had no idea really what to expect. All I knew of the premise was that a girl falls in love with a polar bear and I just wasn't sure how much I could believe in such a thing. But it seemed to really work, especially as their relationship changed gradually because of actual time spent together, talking.
Cassie has lived her entire life on a research centre with her father and a bunch of scientists. It's all she's known and she can only see becoming a scientist and tracking polar bears as her future. And then on her 18th birthday, her whole world crumbles around her as she learns that the fairy tale that her grandmother has told her since she was little is real - that her mother made a deal years ago with the Polar Bear King and is now imprisoned faraway. Cassie has the power to free this mother she's never known, but only by giving herself in marriage to a polar bear.
I really loved Cassie's character. She's strong and brave and is willing to give up her freedom in order to save another. And despite going off to live in luxury in the polar bear's castle (his name is Bear, which I found to be adorable!), she isn't content to just sit around, looking pretty. Instead, she comes up with a way for her to work, help the polar bears and spend more time with Bear, who she has come to gradually love.
But all does not remain perfect forever. After a lapse in trust, Bear is taken prisoner and Cassie is determined to go to the ends of the earth (and beyond) in order to free him. She must travel to east of the sun, and west of the moon to bargain with those that have taken Bear. It's a difficult and dangerous journey with many obstacles in the way, but her love for Bear and in order to protect the souls of the Artic polar bears keeps her from giving up.
Like I said, I love the strength of Cassie, her strong will and her need to be of use and to be helpful. I love that though she loves Bear, she isn't able to fully be content until she has a purpose in her life, though there was a bit towards the end that made me feel a little uncomfortable. I much preferred the first half of the book with all the world-building, where Cassie is still figuring stuff out and getting to know Bear whereas the second half is more focused on Cassie's daring adventure. I thought Cassie's relationship with Bear to be utterly sweet and I was entirely surprised how much I found the scientific elements of tracking bears and the research done in her father's centre to be so interesting.
I was thoroughly entertained with this book, and I think I'll now have to read the original fairy tale!