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Edith Pattou
Harcourt, 480 pages

Stephen T. Johnson
Edith Pattou
Edith Pattou is the author of Hero's Song, the first book of the Songs of Eirren series. She lives with her husband and daughter in Ohio, where she is at work on the third volume of the series.

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SF Site Review: Fire Arrow

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A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Rose's mother didn't want her youngest child to be north born. To enter the world facing north means that you will be a wanderer, and besides, years ago a fortune teller informed her mother that her north-born child would be buried under snow and ice -- a dire prediction that she will try her best to foil.

But north-born Rose is filled with mischief and wildness as well as honor. The honor comes into play when things go bad for her family. The cousin who owns the farm where they live has sold it. They have to move and Rose's sister is terribly sick. A polar bear comes to her and says that all will be well, if she comes with him She travels across the sea in a seal skin sack to his castle. There, at night, a figure, freezing cold, crawls into bed next to her. She tries to find out who it is, but the candles won't stay lit. Feeling bad for this faceless person, she makes them a heavy night shirt, for she is very gifted at weaving. One day, she goes to visit her family, and her mother gives her a special candle, one that, unbeknownst to her, will stay lit. When she sees her visitor, she loses her heart even as the beautiful man, betrayed by her, runs away. The man was also the polar bear, and so she is without her only friend as well. What's a girl to do?

Follow him, of course, up through the iciest north, to where the Troll Queen lives, waiting for the young man she kidnapped to fail in the test placed upon him, and to come and accept his fate as her husband.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a fabulous Norwegian fairy tale that, if we divide fairy tales into families, would be a sister to Beauty and the Beast. There is a curse, and only by accepting the man inside can the girl free her beloved. Edith Pattou takes this simple tale and expands it, making a lyrical, beautiful story that, despite its "teen fantasy" mark, will appeal to anyone. She sticks to the old tale, keeping true in all senses of the word, in language, in wonder. Her changes only improve or expand the story. For instance, Rose is a stronger, more selfless character than I remember her being in the tale. Pattou's descriptions are pure fairy tale. The troll queen is incredibly beautiful, but her skin is harder that ours, and has a texture of wind blown ice and snow, and she lives in a palace of ice.

The actions of the people fit in with the fairy tale mould, as well. The helpful people that she meets are as good-hearted and kind as those you would hope to meet, yet they feel more real than they would in a fairy tale, rounder. Instead of the sort of blanket resentment you'd throw at her mother in the shorter version, you get such an understanding about her that you feel very bad for her, and understand why she gave the candle to her daughter.

East is a lovely, beautifully rendered epic that will appeal to teen fantasy readers, fans of Beauty and the Beast, and hopeless romantics.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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