October 8, 2009 Review: Ice
Note: Very minor spoilers. A few words.
Cassie’s heard the story countless times. Her mother, a daughter of the North Wind, who has made a deal with the Polar Bear king, and is now trapped in a castle, east of the sun, west of the moon. When she was young, Cassie reenacted the events, using pillows as the fortress.
As she grows older, Cassie realizes it was just a fairy tale, her mother’s gone, and she must grow up if she wants to become an Artic scientist, like her father. Until one day, when she sees a magnificent polar bear who speaks to her about the truth: her mother’s alive. If she will come with him, and be his pride, her mother can return from the castle to which she’s banished. Cassie must cross far to the reaches of the Artic, over ice and snow.
Sarah Beth Durst’s Ice is a fairy tale that sparkles as much as its namesake. From page one, where we meet headstrong, brave Cassie, fervently believing with all of her heart that her mother is trapped in a castle, readers will love her. Durst excels with writing strong female characters, and Cassie is no exception.
With science fiction and fantasy works, there’s an assumed suspicion of belief. Durst’s writing is so fluid, and some visual, during my reading of Ice, I believed in everything on the page, without question. In this way, readers identify with Cassie, who comes up with scientific reasons to negate all she sees:
She’d never seen such a beautiful mirage. Spires towered above her. They shimmered in the bending light. At the tips of the spires, the ice curled into the semblance of banners, frozen midwave. She waited for it to shrink to its normal proportions: an ordinary ridge or an outcrop of ice that had been stretched by a trick of the light.
But it did not shrink or stretch. It shone like a jewel in the sunlight. Cassie felt her gut tighten. It had an iceberg frozen in the pack ice — it was at white as a moonstone, while the sea ice encircling it was a brilliant turquoise – but she had never heard of an iceberg in such old ice, except near Ellesmere, on the opposite side of Canada. (p.36-37, Ice)
This is Durst’s third fairy tale book (Into the Wild, and its sequel, Out of the Wild being the first and second, respectively) and her prose is sharper than ever. With this retelling of the Norse tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Durst blends Inuit legend, Arctic research, and more. There’s so much infused within Cassie’s world, it just leaves you turning the pages quicker and quicker. The treatment of nature is so exquisite, from rushing streams to glimmering ice. From the muckiest bog to a mountain’s highest peak, nature lives and breathes on the page.
Stirring in its beauty, captivating with its romance and action, Ice is a tale that will have you believe in magic and love. I was swept up as Cassie crossed the ends of the Earth, and so will readers.
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Date: October 2009
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster)
Come back soon, because I’ll have an interview with author Sarah Beth Durst, and a chance to win your copy of Ice!