Cassie doesn’t believe in fairy tales. Sure, Gram used to tell her that bedtime story about how Cassie’s mother was stolen away by the North Wind and imprisoned by trolls. But Cassie, who lives with her scientist father at a research station in the Arctic, has every intention of following in Dad’s logical, analytical footsteps. She has no time for fantasy. And besides, as she grew older, she realized that “stolen by the North Wind” was just a euphemism for “died.”
Or was it?
On her eighteenth birthday, Cassie tracks a polar bear into the icy wastes, intending to tag it for research. When it escapes by walking through a wall of ice, she realizes it’s no ordinary bear — and when she describes it to Dad, he panics. Turns out the story was true, and now Cassie is fated to become the polar bear’s bride.
She doesn’t go passively, instead striking a deal with the bear. She’ll go with him if he will rescue her mother from the trolls. He agrees. Soon, the girl who doesn’t believe in fairy tales is living one of her own, carried away by Bear to his enchanted castle. Cassie and Bear develop an unlikely friendship that later leads to romance, and I love what a great team they make. Bear is a munaqsri, whose task it is to collect the souls of dying polar bears and ensure that they are reincarnated into newborn bears. Cassie uses her scientific knowledge to improve the odds. The two are colleagues as much as they are romantic partners.
This being a retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” eventually Cassie breaks a taboo and loses Bear to the trolls. She sets out on an impossible journey to rescue him.
Cassie is a fierce heroine who practically jumps off the page. She’s smart, brave, and resourceful. She isn’t always likable, but she’s always dynamic. She strikes bargains, takes death-defying risks, tells lies, tricks people, and never gives up. In YA fantasy, there have been a lot of passive heroines lately. This is NOT one of them.