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Cassie Dasent has a storybook life. As a girl, her grandmother
told her that she was part of a real fairy tale, recalling the
legend of Cassie’s lost mother, Gail. Cassie remembers the
words of the story by heart:

“ONCE UPON A TIME, the North Wind said to the Polar Bear
King, ‘Steal me a daughter, and when she grows, she will be
your bride.’ And so, the Polar Bear King kidnapped a
human child and brought her to the North Wind…She grew into a
beautiful, but lonely, young woman. One day, while the Winds were
gone (as they often were), she met a human man. She befriended him,
and it wasn’t long before they fell in love. When the Polar
Bear King came to claim his bride, she refused him. Her heart, she
said, belonged to another. ‘I would not have an unwilling
wife,’ he told her. ‘But your father has made a promise
to me.’ Knowing the power of a magic promise, the North
Wind’s daughter sought to counter it with her own bargain:
‘Then I will make a promise to you…Bring me to my love
and hide us from my father, and when I have a daughter, she will be
your bride.’”

The story ends with Gail and her love being discovered by the
North Wind, who flew into a rage and blew his daughter to the ends
of the Earth. Cassie’s mother was blown all the way to the
kingdom of the trolls, where she still remains, captured.
It’s a story Cassie believed in as a child, but somewhere
along the way, she understood that Gail, her mother, must have

Now a research scientist working at a camp on the arctic ice,
Cassie is part of a team that includes her father. She grew up in
the camp, and so destiny ensured that she would be near the polar
bears as she reached her 18th year. It is on her birthday that
Cassie sets out alone across the ice, encountering the largest bear
on record. He eludes her when she tries to shoot him with a
tranquilizer dart, simply walking through the ice. Not
believing her own eyes, Cassie returns to camp empty-handed, but
upon mentioning the story to her father, he becomes alarmed. Her
grandmother too is panicked and attempts to convince Cassie to
leave, but she refuses to believe.

When Cassie sets out again across the ice, she discovers that
her grandmother was right. In front of her is the giant she
encountered before, but this time he speaks. The Polar Bear King
reminds her of a binding promise made by her mother, telling her
that he has come for her now but would not have an unwilling wife.
Cassie sees an opportunity in the offer and makes a magically
binding promise to marry him in exchange for the freedom of her
mother. Then climbing on his back, the bear whisks her away to his
castle in the realm of the munaqsri.

The Polar Bear King introduces himself simply as Bear and
assures Cassie that he would never hurt her. His home is a creation
of his own magic, a beautiful enchanted castle of ice. After
sharing a delightful meal, he leads her to his bedroom and, after
freeing her mother, comes to her that night. In darkness, Bear
transforms into a naked human man and slips quietly into bed beside
her. Panicked and unnerved, Cassie sends him away. Her days in
Bear’s castle bring Cassie closer to the man-beast, and she
is surprised to find that he is a munaqsri, a caretaker of Earth's
souls. Though he is strange, Bear proves himself a gentleman and
Cassie has a magnificent time. His kind and patient nature appeals
to her heart, yet as the days pass, she yearns to see her parents
again. She can’t quite bring herself to leave Bear and her
new home, but she feels changed; indeed she is, because her destiny
has taken hold. There will come a day when Cassie will return to
humanity, but she won’t stay long --- fate will see her
journey east of the sun and west of the moon, to the very ends of
the Earth.

In creativity and charm, there are few books that equal ICE. The
storyline and quality of writing give it a timeless appeal. Readers
will adore the charismatic, modern characters and the way the old
fairy tale fits in with the new. But most exciting of all is
Cassie’s long journey across the ice. Her travels take her
across the arctic Taiga and the boreal forests, all the way to the
North Pole. Upon witnessing the beauty of the aurora boreal and the
treacherous ice, Cassie survives both a freezing ocean and
temperatures under 40 below. Along every step of the way, she
encounters creatures of the north. True to its name, it's a tale
that really does begin and end on the ice.


Reviewed by Melanie Smith on October 18, 2011

by Sarah Beth Durst

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2009
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • ISBN-10: 141698643X
  • ISBN-13: 9781416986430