When I learned that I had been selected to receive a copy of North Child by Edith Pattou I was so very excited.
I missed North Child the first time it was published in 2003 (as East in the USA) and whilst I’m sad that this is so, I was so pleased and cheered to be introduced to this world at exactly the right time for my imagination which is crackling aflame rediscovering my love of mythology and folklore.
The man was poor and had many children..
Rose was not supposed to be a North Child. She was supposed to replace her lost sister who was born facing East, for a North Child is destined to wander far from home. But a lie does not change ones stars.
One day a polar bear comes to the door of Rose’s family and asks that she come live with him and all their wishes will come true. This situation, a waiting Troll Princess and a betrayal begin a epic journey of hope and determination and courage to find out what one is made of and how far one will go.
My goodness. This is MY kind of book. There is Mythology galore with East of the Sun and West Of The Moon, Tales Of Norse Gods and Niflheim and wonderful tales of shapeshifting.
It is indeed heavily inspired by the Norwegian fairytale ‘East of the Sun and West Of The Moon’ of which we have an illustrated copy from the crucial plot elements, yet Edith has suffused the myth with a freshness by supplanting the Magical trials of our heroine with real ones, albeit maybe with a dash of magical help and perhaps nods to the original along the way but indeed there is a loving respect given to the source material.
There is also a glorious revelry and indulgence in the inclusion of Norse mythology throughout from the Edda tales retold by Ned to travelling across a metaphorical Bifrost to the Land Of The Ice Trolls. I can’t find quite the words to express how thrilling it was for me to have this wonder entwined for me across the pages.
There may be inevitable comparisons to Beauty and the Beast which is also within the same story family but unlike those tales Rose is not the vehicle for his development, instead our Bear is already kind, educated and thoughtful and it is fact Rose who through her confinement finds she grows and learns in his castle. Yet equally it acknowledges that the circumstances for Rose was unfair to have happened at all. But, there is not the moralistic ‘reining’ in of a wild child, in fact Bear encourages her with all the things she enjoys and more, even when he shows her things that once inspired him, Bear shares his world WITH her and embraces her following her interests rather than demanding she fit his. Which is perhaps why Rose is both broken by the collapse of the enchantment and galvanises her grit to make amends.
The story certainly ignites and is resplendent when Rose’s mistake causes her to undertake a quest to make it right no matter the Herculean trial. This switches the dynamics from captured ‘princess’ to warrior woman and is a sight to be beheld, as she struggles, she perseveres and she endures. This is intensely amazing to see in a children’s book that shows you can grow out of these fairytale dynamics and tropes within a gentle yet fierce setting and without resorting to sex.
The magic throughout is fantastic with the woven story arcs that plant seeds to return later in the book, maps, a chance obsession with fixing clothes, the embrace of Norse Mythology, and the wonder of books and music.
The Magic overall and especially the shamanistic journey across Greenland are just sublime in the way they really sweep you to another time and space between magic and history that peek inbetween.
Much as Rose weaves intricate designs with her loom, so Pattou weaves hope and love and empowering inspiration into her tale.
I savoured the quiet building of tension and longing throughout, you could hear the echoing steps in the empty castle and your heart in your mouth at the moments where Rose wants to peek across the bed and a pain in your soul at the mournful way Bear is almost already grieving for Rose before their time together has even truly begun, because he is grasping for , gasping at a very Last hope.
I stayed up far too late to finish this because after a gentle start establishing the world, Rose’s family superstitions and dynamics I found that I had become drawn down the rabbit hole and simply couldn’t put it down til the last page in one go late at night.
North Child is phenomenally good and has a remarkable empyrean quality about it, like the universe is whispering a wonderful story to us and that, truly, is sublime writing.
North Child by Edith Pattou is published by Usborne in October 31st 2019.
Thank you SO much Usborne 💜