Due to all of this week's record-breaking snow, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about a recent gem I just finished reading entitled "Ice." It was my first time reading a book by Sarah Beth Durst and upon completion, I snagged her other two novels, Into the Wild and Out of the Wild, from the library. I look forward to reading them because I really enjoyed the world of Ice that Durst wove together for us. I initially picked up Ice because it revolved around a fairytale (East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which is sort of a Norwegian Beauty and the Beast), which is one of my all-time favorite genres to read. It had been on my reading list for a while, but it wasn't until I started hearing positive feedback from fellow readers that I decided to actively read it. I don't know why I waited so long!
First off, I just want to say that Cassie is a kick-ass heroine. We need more girls like her in (especially YA) literature. I love the whole "Girl Power" movement that authors like Tamora Pierce (co-founder of Sheroes) have spent time nurturing. I think the only other recent author with amazing heroines that I've read lately is Kristin Cashore (If you haven't read her novels, particularly Graceling, yet, then what are you waiting for? Run, don't walk!).
Cassie is intelligent and knows exactly what she wants in life. She has a huge heart and cares deeply for the polar bears she researches. Right before her birthday, she finds out that a terrible burden has been placed upon her shoulders. Her grandmother used to tell her a fairytale about a polar bear king and the bargain he had struck with a mortal woman, supposedly her mother, who is now trapped in the troll kingdom as penance for breaking her word. Cassie never believed the story to be true until she actually encounters the polar bear, which is where Ice truly begins. Watching Cassie and Bear's relationship bloom feels infinitely fragile and wonderous. Cassie goes from loathing and fearing Bear and her situation to developing genuine feelings for him. She even blossoms as a person and realizes just how much she can help her beloved polar bears while working with Bear and soon becomes happy with her lot in life. When tragedy befalls the couple (through a situation that reminds me strongly of the mythological tale of Cupid and Psyche), Cassie sets out on a journey to reach the ends of the earth to save her beloved. Not only is the journey long and dangerous, Cassie is also heavily pregnant by the time the story is approaching its climax. I don't want to reveal much more, but there is one part towards the end that simply took my breath away and connected a lot of the dots in the novel for me in a way I hadn't realized was possible. That moment is when I stumbled head over heels in love with Ice.
The story itself has a unique formatting. I like that every chapter starts off with Longitude, Latitude, and Altitude coordinates. Not only is this important in the context of the story, it also reveals a lot about Cassie as a person and her prior way of life before meeting Bear. I really appreciate how much thought Sarah Beth Durst put into her novel. I really felt like I was in the Arctic due to how life-life and precise all of her detailing was. For example, I wasn't sure of what, exactly, a whiteout was when I encountered the term in Ice, so I looked it up. The other day while watching news coverage of Wednesday's blizzard, the newscasters kept tossing the term "whiteout conditions" around and I knew what to expect due to my research on the term.
I really adored reading Ice and look forward to reading more books by Durst. So far, this has probably been one of my favorite books, teen or otherwise, in the past couple of seasons.
[And if you like Ice, be sure to check out other YA retellings of East of the Sun, West of the Moon: East by Edith Pattou and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George or two other beautiful renditions of this classic tale.]