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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: sarah beth durst

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.

Title: Ice
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Date: October 2009
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 308
Format: Hardback

Come back soon, because I’ll have an interview with author Sarah Beth Durst, and a chance to win your copy of Ice!


One of my favorite genres of fiction is the “retold fairy tale.” Sarah Beth Durst’s debut novel, Into the Wild is retold fairy tale, coming-of-age novel, and dark fantasy all in one. Once upon a time there was a girl named Julie Marchen… Haven’t heard that one before? Julie’s the daughter of Zel, better known as Rapunzel. You know her, right? Golden hair, lives in a tower? Yes, that Rapunzel.

Julie, daughter of Rapunzel, lives with her mother and adopted brother Puss in Boots. She, like most teenagers thinks her family is strange and craves normalcy. She’s right to some extent. Afterall, not every girl has “The Wild” currently habitating underneath her bed bewitching shoes and whatever sundries it manages to ensnare. But there’s one thing missing in Julie’s quest for a normal life. Her father. She’s never known him, and her mother’s never volunteered any information.

All Julie’s aware of is The Wild once held all the fairy tales in existence, and somehow characters escaped it one day, and now try to live low-key. Julie’s grandmother, once a witch, now runs a local hotel The Wishing Well, and guards the Well from all those who seek it.

However, one day, The Wild escapes and re-captures all the fairy tales within it. Inside, they’re forced to re-enact their stories repeatedly. Rapunzel is once again locked in the tower, Goldilocks is sleeping in the Three Bears’ bed, and Julie’s grandmother is an evil witch hungry for children. What’s worse is as The Wild grows, it draws the townspeople, including Julie’s friend and classmates, into its dark wood, situating them within tales.

Julie decides to venture into The Wild and rescue her mother. Along the way, she discovers the story behind the “great escape,” a Rapunzel she never knew, and the courage to save the prisoners of The Wild, even if it means relinquishing the idea of a “perfect life.”

Durst’s Julie, who draws upon her knowledge of fairy tales to navigate the treacherous wood, is an easily relatable character. She has the typical teen worries, like having the right clothes and if she appears “in” to her classmates.

The author blends a variety of genres, and fairy tales in a intricate and engaging read. She employs some of the staples of fairy tales, as well as the lesser known, such as Grimm’s “Six Swans,” and follows the traditional themes of the stories, and not the colorful and whimsical versions with which we’re all familiar. The novel, though entrenched in fantasy, offers up some very real messages and themes, and is so enjoyable, you’ll hope the “ever after” never comes.

Review copy provided by the author