East is a retelling of a classic fairy tale called East of the Sun, West of the Moon. It's a little bit like Beauty and the Beast--a man has been transformed into a White Bear and a human girl eventually falls in love with him. But it's so much more than Beauty. There's an evil Troll Queen who isn't really evil, she's just misguided. She really does love this man and the rest of her misdeeds are shared by her entire race, so it's not like she stands out in her evilness. The trolls steal humans to be slaves and drug them with a powerful drink to be submissive. They treat them like animals. But they all do it, not just the Queen. She fell in love with a softskin (human) boy, and took him without her father's consent and her father freaked out and transformed him into the bear. She could only have him if certain conditions were met. She went of her way to make sure these conditions would be met, meddling in the affairs of the softskins, and nearly succeeded. But Rose, the beauty in this story, turned out to be a lot more resourceful than the Queen bargained for.
Of course there's a happy ending, it's based on a fairy tale, but I don't want to give too much away. The story is captivating. I had to finish it one night--reading way past my bedtime because I just couldn't put it down. There's adventure, love, trickery, fantasy. It's just great. Rose is not a typical "damsel in distress." She's tough and strong and capable of taking care of herself.
The story is told through multiple viewpoints--Rose's, her father, her brother, the White Bear, and the Troll Queen. This is effective--although the Troll Queen is the bad guy--you can see that she really does love the White Bear/Man, she just doesn't know how to show it without drugging and brainwashing him. None of the characters are perfect, they all have flaws and do something that they shouldn't that has far-reaching consequences for everyone else. But that's okay, because they seem more human that way. The author did a good job.
Just Finished Reading: East--Pattou
On My Nightstand: Whale Talk--Lynch; Truth About Forever--Dessen