Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Review #1: East

As a writer, I read almost as much as I write.  Reading widely allows you to learn from other writers, as well as keep up with current trends and popular styles.

Since I write fantasy, I read A LOT of it, particularly books with animals.  As part of a new feature of my blog, I've decided to review some of these books I've read.  I'll primarily be focusing on fantasies with animal aspects, but don't be surprised if you see some reviews of other genre books I just couldn't put down.  With that in mind, here is my very first review of Edith Pattou's lovely book, East.
Rose has always felt out of place in her family, a wanderer in a bunch of homebodies. So when an enormous white bear mysteriously shows up and asks her to come away with him — in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family — she readily agrees. The bear takes Rose to a distant castle, where each night she is confronted with a mystery. In solving that mystery, she loses her heart, discovers her purpose, and realizes her travels have only just begun. 

In case you didn't know, this book has won bountiful awards.  I can tell you, it deserved every one of them!  East is a retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon."  However, since I was not familiar with that tale prior to reading East, I essentially equate it to Beauty and the Beast kicked up a notch.  In this instance, the beast must win over the maiden with minimal use of words and the ever-present threat that he might eat her.  The relationship between Rose and the White Bear is extremely poignant.  Their trials are heart-wrenching and leave you turning the pages, rushing to (hopefully) find that happy ending.  One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was Pattou's use of voice and point of view.  The story is told from the perspective of Rose, her brother, her father, the Troll Queen and the White Bear.  With some talent of writing-magic unbeknownst to me, Pattou weaves her story through each of these narrators while keeping each voice distinctly unique.  As such, the chapters are fairly short and similar to potato chips: you can't read just one.

Of course, the element of magic is important in the fantasy genre, and Pattou executes it admirably.  The magic in East is not blatantly overt, but rather subtle and intertwined with the world.  In fact, many of the characters spend a great deal of time coming up with logical explanations for the magic that occurs.  But remarkable things do happen (whether the characters believe it or not), and they add such a wonderful flavor to the tale.  Pattou's delightful use of language only adds to the magical elements, and I can assure you that you will be enchanted by "moon dresses" and "story knives" by the end of the book.

So is East a book for you?  Do you like stories with animal enchantments, romance, magic, adventure and poetic writing?  Did you enjoy reading Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver or watching Disney's "Beauty and the Beast?"  Then yes!  This book is for you!  So scoot on over to your local bookstore and pick it up ASAP.  You won't be disappointed.

You can find out more about Edith Pattou on her website:  If you read this book, please let me know!  I'd love to hear what you think.

Note: The summary blurb and cover photo are both from Pattou's website.   


  1. I think one of my favorite parts of reading this blog is the ability to look at a book through the eyes of a writer. I am an avid reader and often get so caught up in the story and the characters that I forget about all those "fun" things we learned in school about literary concepts. Don't get me wrong...I LOVE getting caught up in books, but I never realized how much I missed the analytical aspects of reading. Slowing down and looking at things such as the use of voice and the points of views really brings reading to the next level. I think one of the consequences of graduate school is that I have trained myself to read as much and absorb as much as possible without really slowing down to look at HOW things were written. I never, EVER, would consider myself a writing enthusiast so it is always a pleasant endeavor to read the thoughts of a writer. Thanks Kathryn!

  2. Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely check it out. It sounds like I might have to clear my schedule though. If it's as addicting as potato chips, I won't get anything else done until East is finished!

  3. Re: Lauren Coggins--Reading books in this analytical way is a gift and a curse: it's a great way to strengthen your writing, but it can drive you crazy, too! I'll find myself reading a sentence six or seven times getting a feel for the great rhythm or language--or six or seven times thinking to myself, "This sentence is atrocious!"

    Re: Andrea--Agreed! Make sure you don't have any writing deadlines, because reading this book will gobble up all that time (in a good way!)