I read East by Edith Pattou years ago, and I had no idea there would ever be a sequel. So when it popped up on 2018 publication lists, I knew I needed to reread East so I could read West.
When a white bear appears and asks Rose to come with him in exchange for her family’s health and prosperity, Rose accepts his offer. Whisked away to a castle hidden in a mountain, Rose spends her days wandering the halls and weaving on a beautiful loom. But every night a stranger visits her bed and soon the curiosity of who—or what—it is threatens to consume her. When Rose makes a decision to uncover the truth, it changes everything and sets her off on an even more treacherous adventure.
I don’t remember a lot about the original fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, but I’m familiar with the story and its similarities to Beauty and the Beast and the Cupid and Psyche myth. East, however, captures something the other stories don’t: Rose’s journey.
I have to admire Edith Pattou for her construction of Rose’s journey because it’s not focused on the romance but on correcting a wrong, on doing the right thing, simply because one must. I think a lot of YA books these days are too heavily focused on romantic entanglements that they lose sight of the value of friendships, family, and even doing something for someone else without any strings attached.
I also like the symbolism throughout the novel and how it relates back to the compass points and the white bear. It’s great to see how everything ties together and even that the people Rose meets on her journey connect back to the compass motif.
While the book is long, it wasn’t hard to read and I read through the chapters quickly. The narrative style is definitely different than books published today. (I’ve noticed recently books published in the early 2000s sometimes have this odd writing style that isn’t bad, but definitely isn’t like what we have today.) I like that we have different perspectives to tell the story and that the White Bear’s sections are poems. Sometimes the writing came across more as telling than showing, but I found I didn’t mind that so much because the plot and characters kept me intrigued.
I really like this fairy tale retelling, and it makes me want to read the original tale even more than before.
**Since West is a sequel to East, the rest of this book review will have slight spoilers for East. Continue reading at your own discretion.**
Three years after Rose rescued Charles from the Troll Queen and their lives seem to be settling into their happily ever after, a sudden storm shipwrecks Charles and he is presumed dead. But Rose believes something more is at work and she sets out on another journey to learn the truth, find her husband, and protect the ones she loves.
At first, I wasn’t sure about a sequel to East. The ending of the novel makes it clear that Rose and Charles find their happily ever after and all is as it should be. I feared that Edith Pattou wrote a second book simply because that’s the thing to do, even though it isn’t necessarily. But I was wrong. West, despite not following a single fairy tale plot, is so much more powerful, more important than East. And once more, it’s because of Rose’s journey.
Rose has quickly become one of my favorite female protagonists ever. She’s strong and resilient, stubborn and determined. She doesn’t give up easily. She does whatever it takes to save the ones she loves. I am awestruck by her character, and I wish I could be as brave and courageous as her. This book only reinforces her strength as a character, and I loved reading every page of it.
As for the other characters, I liked them too. Neddy is always a stable character, and Estelle was a nice addition to the story. While I wish we had more Charles being Charles, I did like what happened with his character, especially toward the end. I also like that this book included the perspective of Rose’s mother, since the first book had her father’s point of view. But the most important new character in this book was Sib. Her story is incredible and powerful and I would love to read a full story just about her journey.
Like East, West has a similar narrative style where it’s more telling than showing. But that did not hinder my reading experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and all the crazy, incredible events Rose goes through to save her loved ones. I was a bit unsure if a protagonist who was married would fit in a YA story, but it did. Rose is the kind of protagonist YA books need more, so thank you, Edith, for writing this story.
If you enjoyed East and don’t mind the narrative style, you will also enjoy West and possibly, like me, enjoy it even more. Hey, I only cried a couple times while reading it!