Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

2008. Bloomsbury. Hardcover. 328 pages.

From: the public library

In a nutshell:

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is a retelling of the Nordic tale,”East of the Sun, West of the Moon”. The youngest daughter of nine children is unnamed by her mother, who did not want another daughter. The unnamed girl one day receives a gift of understanding animals. When an enchanted polar bear arrives at her family’s home and asks her to live with him in his palace for a year, she goes with him, and encounters mystery, which will lead to a final confrontation of evil in the place that is east of the sun and west of the moon.


I have read another book based on this fairy tale, Edith Pattou’s East, which I hardly remember, an outcome I foresaw when I reviewed it. So I can’t really compare the two, similar though they are.

I read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow quickly, wanting to see how it would all turn out, even though I recalled the fairy tale’s original plotline. In this version, I really liked the reveal about the backstory of the girl’s brother, Hans Peter. Hans Peter was the hope of the family, handsome and kind, until he came back broken after unspecified events during his brief seafaring career. Hans Peter is the one who calls the main character “lass”, a term he picked up from his travels, and she is called “lass” for much of the book. (I actually came to prefer it over the name she is given and then reveals later in the book.)

The lass is a likable heroine, for she makes some (understandable) blunders, while being very kind at heart. I liked her connection to her family, even the less admirable of her family. Several times, including at one crucial crisis, she attributes her success to being brought up well by her family.

Probably one of my favorite little moments is when the lass rides the north wind to the palace of the troll queen.

The north wind roared as it charged toward the speck that lay between them. The speck grew, reaching out taller and wider as they approached. It was a palace, made entirely of gold, sitting on an island of silver snow at the very top of the world.

For some reason, I was hearing the Ivory Tower theme from The NeverEnding Story when I read this.

It’s not a book that I feel like gushing over, but I liked it all the same.

Excerpts from others’ reviews:

Angieville – “[Jessica Day George’s] deft touch with Norse traditions, language, and everyday life adds a welcome layer of warm reality to this icy tale.”

Never Jam Today – “The novel had the feel of McKinley’s Beauty—slow-paced, in a good way, taking time to enjoy the journey, without charging ahead toward a climax. George’s prose was lovely, just as a fairy tale’s should be—running smooth, like a stair banister, from years of use.”

Reader Rabbit – “Jessica Day George does an excellent job of following the tale to the letter but she also gave just enough depth to the characters that it was easy to sympathise and root for the them.”


Filed under Fantasy, Supernatural & Surreal

4 responses to “Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

  1. East of the Sun… is my favourite fairy tale, but so far I haven’t found a retelling of it that really satisfies me. This sounds enjoyable, but not like something that will wow me.

  2. Coincidentally, i just picked up a copy of East at the library a couple of days ago; I’m planning on reading a handful of retellings this year and am curious about it (as well as this one, though I haven’t heard anyone gushing over this one yet).

  3. nymeth – no, it’s not really a ‘wow’ book. Let me know if you do find that good retelling. So far I’ve just read the two YA books about it.

    Buried in Print – Though I barely recall it, I hope you enjoy East!

  4. i think it was a slow beginning but i really enjoyed the book.

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