Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: North Child by Edith Pattou

– Short Review –

Imagine Beauty and the Beast, set in Scandinavia, with added trolls and you have the wonderful mythical tale that is “North Child”.  The heroine of the tale is sacrificed to a White Bear by her superstitious mother, in exchange for the family’s prosperity and to heal her sister Sara.  However there is more to the White Bear than meets the eye.   In trying to uncover the truth North Child, Rose, unwittingly lets him fall into the hands of the Troll Queen who wants the man hidden under the white fur to be her husband.  So begins an epic journey to save the man/bear that she has forged a bond with.
If you enjoyed “The House With Chicken Legs” by Sophie Anderson you’ll love this

– Longer Review –

First published in 2006 this is a magical fairytale steeped in Scandinavian folklore.  It’s a story told by several different characters Rose (North Child), her father, her brother Neddy, White Bear and the Troll Queen.
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Rose is one of several children born to her incredibly superstitious mother, Eugenia.  Amongst her beliefs is the notion that the direction you are facing when you give birth determines the character and future of the newborn.  At all costs a North baby is to be avoided.  A North baby will be wild, a traveller and liable to meet an untimely end – however when Rose makes an unexpectedly early entrance into the world all Eugenia’s plans to have an East facing baby are thrown into disarray.  As the title suggests, Rose is a North child but her parents hide the truth from her – she’s a restless soul though, always looking for adventure and disappearing into the family farmlands.  One day she falls into the pond and is rescued by White Bear.
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Some years later, when the family is about to be evicted from the farm and Rose’s older sister Sara is gravely ill, White Bear returns with the promise that he will solve all their problems but Rose must leave with him.  Her father is horrified by the notion but Eugenia tries to convince him to let Rose go.  Ultimately Rose trusts the bear, she can sense an understanding and gentleness in his eyes, and takes off into the night on his back.
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So begins Rose’s new life in a windowless castle set into a rock.  She’s all alone apart from two servants she barely sees and the White Bear.  During the night she is joined in her bed by an unknown visitor – this visitor neither touches or speaks to her, arrives in the dark and is always gone by the morning.  Despite her curiosity she senses that the visitor wants their identity to remain a secret and so the strange night time routine continues.  During the day she passes her time weaving.  She creates clothing including three beautiful dresses and a nightshirt for her mysterious visitor, as she has sensed them shivering with cold.  Months pass but she finally admits to the bear that she is lonely and homesick.  He allows her to visit home on the understanding that she will return one month later.  It is during this visit that her mother provides her with an everlasting candle, which finally provides her with the means to see her nightly bedfellow.  She finds herself looking into White Bear’s eyes, that now belong to a handsome blonde man.  However, in exposing his true identity she has inadvertently left him at the mercy of The Troll Queen who had cursed him and wants him to be her king.
Instantly the castle and everyone/everything in it disappears and Rose is left in the middle of nowhere with only the determination to track down the whereabouts of White Bear.
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So begins an epic journey to the home of the Trolls, a magnificent Ice Kingdom in the far north, via France and Greenland.  Rose has nothing but the three dresses she wove and a tenacity to find White Bear.  Using the dresses as currency and by finding friends along the way she battles terrifying seas and hostile landscapes until she reaches her destination.  However as a “softskin” she stands out and needs to disguise herself as a servant until she can try and make contact with her beloved White Bear.  He’s now in human form and christened Myk by the Troll Queen.  She’s drugged him into a stupor and with their marriage rapidly approaching can Rose find a way to break the Troll Queen’s spell and free White Bear from her control forever more?
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With fantastic characters, unforgettable landscapes and the page turning appeal of a traditional fairytale this book really is a joy to read.  With it’s short chapters and varying perspectives it will keep you gripped from start to finish – Rose is the loyal, fierce but soft-hearted person we would all secretly wish to be and it’s an utter joy to experience this adventure with her.
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North Child is published by Usborne and is available here.
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Edith Pattou

Edith Pattou has been writing since the age of seven. She is the author of two highly acclaimed fantasy novels in the US, “Hero’s Song” in the Songs of Eirren series, an International Reading Association Young Adult’s Choice, and “Fire Arrow”, a Booklist Top Ten Fantasy Novel of the Year. While writing North Child, which is based on the Norwegian fairy tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, Edith became an expert in mapmaking, seamanship, Scandinavian languages, Norse mythology and the Arctic, journeying by ship through the fjords of Norway. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio, USA.

Reviewed by Angela Paull

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