Pika breaks an enchantment that has transformed a Prince into a bear, defeating a Troll Princess and rescuing her brother's lover in the process. Pika is the fourth daughter of a poor woodcutter who spends her time helping to tend the animals in her family farm. Her mother didn't have any use for girls and was very disappointed at Pika's birth so she refused to give her an official name. Instead, everyone calls her "Pika", which just means means "girl" in their language. One day, a white reindeer is spotted in Pika's village. The villagers believe that whoever finds the white reindeer will be given gifts beyond compare. Pika decides to try to find the reindeer. When she wanders in the forest, she sees that the white reindeer has been caught in the thicket. After freeing the reindeer, she asks that the reindeer help make her brother whole again. Her brother, Hans Peter, had gone on a long sea voyage and when he returned, he wasn't himself as he was more sad and forlorn than she remembered him being. The reindeer discovers that her brother has been cursed by the trolls and there is nothing he can do about it. Instead, the reindeer whispers her true name in her ear. When Pika returns home she wants to tell her father her name but her father tells her that perhaps she should keep it secret until the right time.
After her encounter with the white reindeer, Pika can suddenly speak to animals. Everyone in the town starts to bring their skittish horses and disobedient mutts to her in order for her to calm them and train them. The years pass and Pika grows up into a sixteen year old girl and receives a wolf-dog as a pet for her 16th birthday. She can communicate with the wolf-dog, which she names Rollo. One day, her brother, Askel, tell her there have been sightings of a white bear roaming nearby. Her mother insists that he hunt the bear and bring glory and wealth to their family. Askel leaves for three days but does not return. A few days later, a white bear appears at Pika's house and asks for Pika to come and live with him in his palace for a year. He promises that in exchange, he will ensure that Askel will find another white bear and become famous and wealthy from hunting it. Pika agrees because she feels it is the right thing to do but she insists on bringing Rollo with her.
At the white bear's ice palace, Pika meets Erasmus, a faun that is to be her servant. At night, a strange man comes into Pika's room and falls asleep on her bed. Disturbed, Pika can't sleep properly all night. When she asks who it could the next day, no one answers her. This continues each night. Even when Pika sleeps on the divan, she will awaken to find that the stranger moving her back on the bed. The stranger never answers her queries, and doesn't protest even when she tries to figure out how he looks like by touching his face.
Pika meets the kitchen staff, who consists of salamanders, minotaurs, brownies, pixies, selkies, gargoyles and other creatures. Pika begins to suspect that the white bear and the servants of the palace are all enchanted. She determines to find out who enchanted them and how to break the enchantment.
One day, she finds a story carved on one of the pillars of the ice palace. She can read the story because her brother, Hans Peter, had taught it to her. The pillar tells the story of a princess that made other princesses run away. One princess taunts the terrifying princess and ends up stricken dead and her betrothed taken to live with the terrifying princess in her palace. After recounting the story aloud, Erasmus is shocked that she can read the language. More importantly, Pika is shocked that this story has appeared here, of all places, and she is sure her brother has visited the ice palace before.
Erasmus tells her that she was reading troll language and that troll magic is what built the palace. He also tells her that the princess who defied the terrifying princess was a faun maiden. Later on, Pika retrieves an old parka that Hans Peter had lent her for her trip to the ice palace and she notices that there is also a message written in troll on the sleeve. The message says that the wearer of the parka must live one year and one day with a maiden as a bride who never sees his face. The message also says that if the wearer is betrayed, he must go to the troll princess and love her always. Pika thinks the troll princess must have cursed her brother and that's why her brother was so sad-looking when he came back from his sea voyage. She vows that she will find a way to break his enchantment.
One day, she receives a letter that her father has been severely injured. She pleads with the white bear to let her return home. The bear lets her go home but only if she promises to return. When she returns home, she is relieved that her father's situation has been stabilized. She is glad to see that her family is now well-off, as promised by the white bear. She tries to ask Hans Peter about his enchantment but he doesn't tell her anything useful. He only tells her that he was in love with a woman named Tova. Upon finding out that a strange man has been sleeping in the same bed as her, her sisters give her a candle and bid her to find out whether the man is a troll. Pika returns to the ice palace and rummages in her wardrobe. She finds out that the reason why her wardrobe is so motley is because it contains clothes from other girls who were asked to live in the palace in the past. Rollo tells her that one of the outfits smells like her brother and a woman as well as a bear and a troll. Pika wonders if her brother's lover, Tova, had been trapped in this ice palace, too.
Meanwhile, Erasmus has been missing for weeks. Pika finds out that Erasmus has been killed by the troll princess for saying too much about their enchantment. Pika is angry and upset. She confronts the white bear about it, but he is unable to explain anything, as he is bound by the curse. Soon, other servants that Pika had been talking to also disappear. One of the servants even gets angry at Pika for snooping around and causing trouble. Pika soon comes to the conclusion that the stranger she has been sleeping in bed with could very well be a troll. One night, she lights the candle to see who her mysterious bed partner is only to discover he is a handsome young man. But the young man wakes up and tells her she has failed to break the curse and the troll princess' magic takes him and the ice palace away.
Pika determines to find the Prince and his servants and free them from the troll princess. She wanders the winter barrens for a while before encountering three old women. She helps the old women harvest apples and make apple jelly. In the process, she learns that each of the old women had their husbands or lovers stolen away from them by the troll princess, who requires a new husband each time the old husband passes away. They give Pika provisions and three gifts: a jar of jam jelly, carding combs and finally, a golden spindle. They tell her to go to the home of the east wind for help and give her three horses to take her there. Upon arriving at the home of the east wind, she meets a wind spirit creature. The east wind agrees to help take her to the west wind. The west wind tells Pika that the wrath of the Troll Queen is frightening. The Troll Queen is the mother of the troll princess – the very princess who likes to transform young men into bears to toy with them before she marries them. Pika insists that the west wind help her. The west wind takes her to the south wind who takes her to the north wind. The north wind finally takes her to the palace in the land East of the sun, West of the moon.
Upon arriving at the palace, Pika pretends she's seeking work in the troll palace. She learns that the troll princess will be marrying in four days. She and Rollo open up the jar of jam because they are hungry and they attract the attention of the troll princess. The troll princess agrees to let Pika come and meet the human Prince in exchange for the apple jam. When she visits the prince, however, she finds that the troll princess has tricked her and put the prince into an enchanted sleep. Pika trades her carding combs for another night but the same thing happens.
Pika runs into Tova, who explains that, in the past, the Troll Queen had also taken Pika's brother to be her daughter's husband. Tova had altered the enchantment on her brother and freed him but ended up being stuck in the troll palace instead of him and that's why she has been missing. Pika gets Tova to help her slip a message with the food tray sent to the Prince telling him not to drink his wine. That night, Pika trades her golden spindle to be with the Prince. This time, he is awake. Pika tells him that in order to break the enchantment, he must ask the troll Princess to follow the customs of marriage and prove her suitability by washing his nightshirt. Pika is convinced that the troll princess will not be able to fulfill this bargain because trolls can't create things with their hands. Finally, the Prince expresses his love for Pika and tells him he is really Prince Asher. In return, Pika tells him her true name - Bellalyse.
The plan goes exactly as they hoped. The Troll Queen is so angry that she commands her soldiers to kill the humans. Some of the trolls refuse, however, being tired of the Troll Queen's tyrannical reign. In the midst of the chaos, Pika, Asher, Tova and the enslaved servants all escape. The story ends with the North Wind agreeing to blow them to safety on an iceberg.
Best part of story, including ending:
I thought this was a rather amusing re-telling of the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. There were certain parts of the story that I didn't think fit well with the overall plot. For example, what was the importance of Pika learning her true name from the white reindeer? Aside from finally telling Prince Asher her true name, I didn't really see how that plot point added much to the overall story.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene in the story was the scene when Pika has to go to sleep with the stranger in the bed. I've always thought this scene to be really absurd in the original fairy tale (who would be able to sleep with a stranger next to you in bed?) but in this re-telling, the author wrote the scene in an amusing way. The Prince snored very unbecomingly and even wrapped himself up in a cocoon of blankets.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Pika has a sense of humor. In the scenes where she had to sleep with the strange man, she was very aware of how silly the whole situation was. Usually, in fairy tale re-tellings of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the heroine is just resigned to their fate. But Pika has a quirky sense of humor and was able to laugh at the absurdity of her situation.