by Sarah Beth Durst
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Review by Gayle Surrette
Margaret K. McElderry Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781416986430
Date: 06 October 2009 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Cassandra has grown up at an Arctic research station with her father. She plans to follow in his footsteps and become a scientist. She's worked hard, learning from the other researchers and graduate students who've come to the station over the years. Studying polar bears, they tagged them to monitor their movements on and off the ice. Cassie remembers fondly her grandmother's stories about Cassie's mother being the daughter of the North Wind who'd made a deal with the Polar Bear King only to be torn from her child and husband by her angry father who blew her beyond the ends of the world to be captured by trolls. Of course, Cassie knew the story was just a fairy tale made to make her feel better about not having a mother -- that is until the bear she's been tracking began to act not at all like a bear and then disappears before her eyes.
In her first two novels (Into the Wild and Out of the Wild), Durst explored the world of the fairy tale, pointing out the insidious nature of people having to relive the same story over and over with no chance of every learning anything new, changing their fate, or even getting a break. Now in Ice, Cassie doesn't believe in fairy tales, but she is at heart a scientist and must deal with what she can objectively test with her own senses -- once she accepts her situation she begins to try to use the rules of this fairy tale world to achieve her own goals. She's determined to take control of her story and her life.
Humans make their lives around stories, or so I've believed for a long time. We have told tales around campfires, passed on information to the next generation, and comforted ourselves when times are difficult. We write in our diaries, blogs, and Facebook pages, to keep the story of our own lives or at least or version of our lives. The brothers Grimm gathered the stories of the country folk and wrote them down so that, throughout the years, succeeding generations could study and learn from them -- cautionary tales or simply wish fulfillment -- they've resonated with us and are still told and read to children today.
Durst, in her story, looks at those tales we know so well and takes them to their logical conclusions. She sees beyond the tale to the magical what if, and from some points of view that what if can be downright scary. If Cassie's mother was blown to beyond the ends of the world by the North Wind and captured by trolls -- what has her life been like, abandoned to the trolls for eighteen years? Was a deal made with the Polar Bear King? How could a mother do that to her daughter? Can a modern young woman deal with the paternalistic world of the fairy tale?
Questions abound as you read Ice, but the story is, at heart, a darn good story. Cassie is a typical nearly eighteen year old -- growing up at an Arctic research station and not having the usual life of a young girl, but she's easy to relate to. On the other hand she's thrown into a completely bizarre situations and has to find her feet and stand up for herself. Once your interest is captured, you won't be able to turn away from Cassie's plight, even when you're fairly sure she's going to be okay.
Durst is an amazing writer and her control of the story allows you to step into the story and believe for all 308 pages.