Rose agrees to live with a magical bear in his ice castle in the north and helps him to return to his human form by breaking the curse a Troll Queen has put on him. Rose is a sprightly young girl, who has to live with a polar bear in exchange that he will help her older sister heal from an illness. Rose is the youngest in her family. Rose's mother gave birth to her while she was facing the northerly direction. Her mother had received a prophecy that if she gave birth while facing north, that "north facing" baby would grow up and die a cold, horrible death, suffocating under ice and snow. Since Rose's birth, her mother has always feared that Rose is destined to die in this way.
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When one of Rose's older sisters falls deathly ill and there is nothing the family can do as it is the middle of winter. One night, they are interrupted by a great white bear who can speak. The bear announces that he can save that sister's life in exchange that they give him their youngest daughter – Rose. Of course the family refuses but in the end Rose bravely agrees. The bear takes her to his home – a snow palace where silent servants take care of Rose's every whim. Rose learns more about the bear, who finds it exhausting to speak the human tongue. The bear remains mysterious to Rose but he is gentle and allows Rose to do whatever she wants. Every night, however, the bear lies in bed with Rose in the dark. In the morning, he disappears before Rose wakes up and can see his true form.
Over the next few weeks, Rose becomes more comfortable in the Bear's presence. But she grows homesick and eventually stops eating and becomes depressed. Seeing her misery, the Bear allows her to go home to visit her parents. At home, Rose sees that her older sister has become well again. But doubts start to creep into her mind, planted by her mother, who claims that the healing was all coincidental and nothing to do with any magic the bear could have cast. Upon finding out that there is some mysterious man sleeping with Rose at night, her mother gives her a candle and flint and tells her to use them and discover who Bear really is.
When Rose returns to Bear, he is overjoyed. One night, however, Rose lights the candle and sees that Bear transforms into a handsome young man at night. When he discovers what Rose has done, however, Bear is horrified as he had been put under a curse by a Troll Queen and part of the condition of breaking the curse was that no one should look upon his true form. Rose is devastated at what she has done. Before he is taken away, he tells her that the Troll Queen lives in the lands east of the sun, west of the moon. Rose is determined to make things right by rescuing Bear.
Rose walks through the snowy wasteland until she can't walk anymore and collapses in a small town. A woman heals her and upon finding out her mission to travel north, gives her a map and instructions to a nearby port. Rose convinces a surly Captain to let her board his ship which is destined for a northerly port called Njord (in Norway). During the voyage they encounter a horrible storm which sweeps away most of the crew. Rose and the Captain are the only ones left aboard and they navigate the ship to Njord. Near Njord, Rose meets an Inuit woman named Malmo, who helps nurse her and the Captain back to health. Malmo tells her that far far to the north is a land that is only accessible via an ice bridge. She asks Malmo to take her part of the way to this mysterious land. They travel across water via kayak and then over land on skis. Once Malmo finds the ice bridge, she leaves Rose to continue the journey alone.
Rose finishes the grueling journey towards the ice palace she sees in the distance. When she gets too near the palace she is taken by the Trolls as a slave. Rose joins the other slaves who are subdued by a drug called Slank. Rose learns that the Troll Queen plans on marrying Bear, who is now called Myk. Rose befriends another servant to try to get closer to where Myk is locked away. On the day of the wedding, Rose infiltrates the banquet and steals a dance with Myk who is in his human form. She manages to remind Myk of who he is, as all the many months of being forced to drink Slank has made him docile and forgetful. Myk begins to regain his senses. On the day of the wedding, Myk requests that the Troll Queen honor the customs of his people by washing his shirt for him. The Queen obliges but finds she cannot remove the stain on the shirt. Rose, who was the one who wove the shirt easily removes the stain and breaks the Queen's spell over Myk. Enraged, the Queen melts the entire ice palace and Rose and Myk are trapped under the snow - fulfilling Rose's birth prophecy.
Rose and Myk managed to dig their way out of the snow and free the other human slaves. They lead everyone back to civilization. Myk discovers that his true human name is Charles Pierre Philippe and that he is actually the Dauphin of Fransk (France). The story ends with Rose and Charles getting married and going home to meet with their respective families.
Best part of story, including ending:
I didn't like this story because I thought it was not a very creative re-telling of the fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon". I thought it wasn't very believable that Rose would be willing to sleep with some unknown man (Bear in his human form) for so many months and not ever wonder what is happening until her mother prompts her to start wondering. I thought the story moved very slowly. I also felt that there wasn't enough "spark" or build-up in the love relationship between Rose and Bear to explain why Rose was willing to travel to the ends of the earth to free him from the Troll Queen.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Rose rescues the Captain of the Njord-bound ship when a storm rages about them and sweeps away all their crew. This was a pivotal scene that changed the dynamics between the Captain and Rose. The Captain was very mean and had a chauvinistic attitude towards Rose and women in general. After realizing that he has no one but Rose to man the ship, he becomes less crusty towards Rose.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Rose was so determined to find a way to go to the impossible land east of the sun and west of the moon. She traveled miles on her own and had to meet many strangers both good and bad but she never considered giving up on her quest.