Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George (2008)
A century-long winter, a poor woodcutter and his family, an overlooked daughter without a name, I can feel a fairy tale coming on, and it's a retelling of one of my favourites – East of the Sun, West of the Moon…
A woodcutter fears that his wife's refusal to name her unwanted daughter will bring misfortune upon the girl, and she will be the target of trolls. But seventeen years later it is not a troll that comes for her but a great, white bear. His demand is for the woodcutter’s daughter to live with him in an enchanted palace for one year, and she agrees, on the promise that her impoverished family will be made rich in return for her sacrifice.
The nameless girl wants for nothing – except the truth of what is happening around her. Mysteries abound in the palace. Forbidden rooms, strange creatures, stories written in the dreadful language of the trolls, but most mysterious of all is the behaviour of the only other human in the palace: a young man who sleeps beside her every night, saying nothing, and disappearing in the morning. But is he human in a palace where nothing is what it seems?
Now what's a bright and brave girl to do – ask no questions and do as she is bid for a year, or do her utmost to find a way out of the curse and mystery she has been caught up in? Obviously the latter... but, of course, curiosity is almost always a bad thing in a fairy tale, and trying to break curses usually leads to trouble, and trouble is exactly what happens next. Forget luxury magical palaces, now she must brave the elements to find the dreaded troll queen’s palace east of the sun, west of the moon – an impossible task unless magical help can be found, and she can be courageous enough to seek it.
This was such an enjoyable story to relax into, and a faithful retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which also had little twists and new characters added to the original. I loved the historical Nordic setting, and, oh, did I mention a mythical white reindeer, magical gifts, talking animals and a pet wolf? Contented sigh.
This is a clean read, suitable for around age 10+