Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
by Jessica Day George
Cover Artist: Photo: Alexander Walter/Stone/Getty Images
Review by Colleen Cahill
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781599901091
Date: 08 January 2008 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
It is great when an author tries a different theme than her earlier work and especially when she delves into territory little explored within a genre. Jessica Day George's first novel, Dragon Slippers, was a fun medieval fantasy. In Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, she tries her hand at retelling the fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" and as the acknowledgments reveal, presents it with much of its Nordic roots.
This delightful book is a success, not only for keeping many of the traditional elements of the story, but for expanding the plot and characters, giving us a much richer work.
A dark time is upon the Northern lands, as winter never seems to end and life is very hard. A large family can make this harder, but Jarl Oskarson loves his nine children. His wife is less happy and refuses to name the last baby daughter. Being anonymous is dangerous, for a formal name is one protection against the trolls who prey on such souls. For want of any other title, the youngest child grows up being called "pika" or girl.
Pika might have remained nameless except for her encounter with the magically white reindeer, who provided her with a name since he could not grant her fondest wish, to make her oldest brother, Hans Peter, happy again. Once a sailor who traveled broadly, Hans Peter returned home with a melancholia that left him a shadow of his formerly cheerful self.
Her new name gives Pika the ability to talk to animals, which comes in handy when she is given a puppy who is at least half wolf. Years later, when Pika turns 17, she gets a chance to help her brother and improve the fortunes of the entire family when a great white bear asks her to come live with him for one year.
Along with her now grown wolf-dog, Rollo, Pika journeys north to a wondrous palace, where strange creatures are the servants and odd runes decorate the building's columns. When Pika discovers these are the same runes Han Peter had taught her, it can only mean that he had been here before.
Things just get stranger: Every night a man comes into Pika's bedroom and sleeps on her bed, never touching or speaking to her. Since her candle and matches disappear each night, she does not even know what he looks like. There is definitely a mystery to be solved, although when it becomes clear that the trolls are involved, only Pika's growing affection for the large bear keeps her from fleeing for home.
George has taken this interesting fairy tale and skillfully made it into a compelling novel. Even though I am familiar with the story this work is based on, there were so many new elements that it was a fresh work for me.
Much like Robin McKinley's Beauty, this retelling has brought greater life to the original, making the characters more real and the world they live in more magical. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is a must read for any who love the old tales and enjoy exploring them from a deeper level; this is a book I will be enjoying again and again.