This novel comes before Once Upon a Summer's Day, a novel I read earlier in the month. It is rare that I read the same author in the same month, I like to get some variety, but sometimes there are those books that you just can't wait to get into. This is one of those authors. From the back of the book:
Once upon a winter's night, a poor crofter trades his daughter Camille to wed Prince Alain of the Summerwood in exchange for a lifetime of riches. Though true love blossoms between Camille and the prince, he is haunted by sadness and will not allow her to see his unmasked face. Believing she can lift whatever curse has been bestowed on him, Camille acts on her own - with devastating results, as all she loves is swept away.
Not, to regain what she has lost, she must embark on a desperate quest through the hinterlands of Faery, seeking a mysterious place lying somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon...
Once Upon a Winter's Night is a retelling of the classic folk tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Unlike Once Upon a Summer's Day, the person on a quest this time is a girl, Camille. She is of in search of the Prince of the Summerwood instead of him searchng for her. This takes care of the two brother, as the other prince did the rescuing in Once Upon a Summer's Day. That means that the later two novels will concentrate on the princesses and their adventures.
I am shocked how many people are not familiar with this fairy tale/folk tale. My advice to you is that you should read where it all began before attempting this novel. A little background information will reveal to you the basics of the novel, but the children's tale came first, so it is only right.
In the novel, as in the classic fairy tale, the prince is cursed to take on the shape of a bear by the day and a prince by night. Only Camille is not allowed to know that, or the prince's curse will be farther reaching. Camille listens to her mother, though, who is a money-hungry oppurtunitist, and the girl attempts to learn the secret of her princes fate. Once she does, though, disaster strikes and she is forced into a quest with only a bird to accompany her and unlikely aid along her path.
It is hard to write this review, because by explaining the basics of the novel, I give away the fairy tale to those that have not read it. Many people would think that Camille is being shown as a nosey female, not knowing what is good for her, but her courage is tested and she is shown willing. She makes unlikely friends along the way, and there is laughter and danger to follow. In the end, her curiousity may have been better for the prince than remaining in the dark, because she shows readers that heroes do not always have to be men and shows Camille that she is capable of doing anything. Something that had been dashed while living in her small lifestyle with her parents and several siblings.
Sort of corny in a sense, a novel that shows that love can overcome all obstacles, but then it is a fairy tale novel, isn't it.
When the prince of Summerland (in Faery, of course) falls in love with poor farmer's daughter Camille, she is borne from her family's rough home to his grand castle on the back of a great white bear. In short order, she falls in love with the prince, though she is not permitted to see his face because of a family curse. One night, however, overcome with curiosity, she shines a candle on his beautiful face, which brings the curse on the household. All disappear but Camille, left alone to confront her fears and evil trolls who seek to claim Summerland's throne. She seeks the help of Lady Soriel, who gives her vague, oracular advice; an injured bird as companion; and a walking stick for the journey she must make. Camille has only a year and a day to search all of Faery for her lost love and free him from his terrible fate.
This book is one of many which flesh out the old Norwegian fairy tale East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon and I must say that the book grabbed me from the very beginning as Dennis L. McKiernan's writing is engaging. As the plot is fairly accurately described above I am simply going to concentrate on what I did and did not like.
To be honest there was little I did not like. Camille, although your average innocent fairy tale heroine is somewhat modernized. For example, she actually questions why it's OK for a man to be sexually active but a woman must remain a virgin until she marries. She does have her moments where you wonder what she was thinking but the way the story is narrated and unfolds makes you forgive her. Besides, if you've read many fairy tales you will by now recognize this as typical fairy tale heroine behavior [otherwise nothing bad would ever happen!]
The downside of the book is that it gets repetitive in some places. I realize this is meant to give Camille trials and tribulations and a very hard time before she gets to the end of her journey but sometimes it was overdone. One example that comes to mind is when she encounters the Fates. The reader basically is treated to the same exact thing three times and you have to wonder why the first Fate couldn't just give Camille everything she needed.
Overall I will say I rather enjoyed this book as I am an avid fairy tale lover. I didn't love it as much as the majority of people seem to love it but I trully did enjoy it. I especially liked the interactions between Camille, the Prince and the bear and have to say those were some of the best moments in the entire book and made it all worth reading.
I recommend it for anyone over 15 as this does have some sexual innuendos and interaction between Camille and the Prince althought this is well executed and not just thrown in for the sake of spicing up the novel.
A solid 4 out of 5!