The lass agrees to go, but she is soon surrounded by mysteries. What do the mysterious carvings on the palace walls mean? Is the isbjørn under the spell of an evil troll? Who is the silent person who enters her room every night? There are many magical creatures who are servants in the palace — a faun, a gargoyle, and a selkie — but they won’t, or can’t, answer her questions. Can the lass find out the secret behind the enchanted palace, or will her curiosity get her into even more trouble?
George’s novel is a sweet retelling of the Scandinavian folktale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Her language is spare and streamlined, making this a good fantasy for elementary-aged kids, and a good read-aloud for even younger kids (don’t worry, there’s a pronunciation guide for the Norse words in the back). George (who wrote last year’s Dragon Slippers, a comic fantasy novel) has studied Old Norse, and she loads her story with enough details of traditional Scandinavian culture to satisfy even the most die-hard Jan Brett fan. If you’re a folklore purist, you can rest assured — her story stays remarkably close to the original tale (I was especially happy to see the inclusion of the Four Winds, something that has been frequently left out of other versions of this story.)
Although I was a bit frustrated at times by how long it took the lass to figure out what was going on (oh, you’ll figure out where those palace wall carvings came from a good twenty pages before she does), most kids will find the pacing just right. A fun pick for animal lovers, fairy tales, happy endings, and anyone who is ready for spring after a way-too-long winter.
Jessica Day George’s website