Pretty much everything here originally appeared at my actual blog: By Singing Light. I particularly focus on upper middle-grade and young adult books. I also enjoy adult genre books, especially speculative fiction.
I’m struggling with whether to call this one fantasy or not. It’s clearly in conversation with fairy tales, sometimes literally, and Astri uses “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” to make sense of the world. But when it comes down to it, nothing that’s strictly fantastical happens, which makes me feel like it’s not exactly fantasy.
I’ve put the cart before the horse a bit: West of the Moon is the story of Astri, a young Norwegian girl who at the beginning of the story is essentially sold to a goatman by her aunt and uncle. Preus has a deft hand with a phrase and I loved the way the fairy tales were woven into the story, as Astri both draws on them to give her courage and frequently points out when they’re nothing like real life. I also liked the fact that the Astri’s major relationship is with her sister Greta, and the nuanced ways the antagonists are shown. And the theme of emigration to America and they way that’s also woven into Astri’s personal journey really helped ground the story in its time period.
At the same time, I liked it without absolutely loving it. Astri is occasionally a prickly person, which is nice to see in a middle grade book, and I generally loved her voice and narration. But for me it never tipped over from enjoyment into complete book-love. There was nothing wrong that I can point to, except that at a few points it seemed shallow where it should have been deep, but that’s unsatisfyingly vague even to me. All that to say, you may well love this one. Leila did, and so did Betsy Bird.