I wondered afterwards if I would have liked the book more if I hadn't had such high expectations: but regardless of my expectations, I think I'd have been disappointed.
The plot promised on the back of the book, which sounded so interesting to me, isn't quite accurate.
When Cassie was little, her grandmother told her stories about the Arctic... about frost and snow, and a beautiful castle made of ice, and about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King. But Cassie is older now and has no time for fairytales and talking animals, or lies about her dead mother.
But when Cassie comes face to face with a mysterious polar bear, one that defies all scientific fact or knowledge, she begins to realise that the fairytales could actually be true. Discovering that her mother might still be alive, Cassie makes her own deal with the Polar Bear King, embarking on a dangerous journey to save her. But the deal comes with consequences she never bargained for, and before her journey's end, Cassie will discover the true meaning of family, and of loss and love.
Fact: Cassie doesn't embark on a journey, dangerous or otherwise, to save her mother. She makes a deal with the Polar Bear King to save her mother, but does nothing other than that. She embarks on a journey, sure, but it has nothing to do with her mother.
I felt no affection for the hero of this piece: he seemed stupid, irresponsible and presumptive, and the romance part of the story was actually very boring. I felt a little more affection for Cassie, but I didn't understand how she could be so content and passive, in the first part of the book. Also boring.
Durst can write. I follow and enjoy her blog, and I definitely enjoy her retold fairytales on her blog. But I really think here that part of the problem was her plot; as per below, it was too problematic to work properly as a romance.
I think the most irritating thing for me, though, was that the solution to the characters' core problem was so obvious. Not to the reader — to the characters. I don't know how the only character to figure it out was Cassie.
I feel sad writing this about the book. I really wanted to enjoy it; I liked the fairytale it was based on. Durst seems like a really nice person, and I've heard of many positive reviews of the book. And I certainly didn't hate it; it wasn't terrible. Maybe I'm too old for the teen audience it's aimed at, because to me it was just... OK.
While still trying not to spoil too much of the book, if you know the polar bear king fairytale before you read this book (which I did), then this won't be much of a spoiler anyway. But I think Durst's main problem here was with her plot, which meant Cassie had to be in love with the Polar Bear King before she could go off to rescue him. This meant that her falling in love with him had to be done quite quickly, page-wise; which meant that I, the reader, never fell in love with him. I think it's important, in a romance, for your reader fall in love with your hero (not for themselves, but on the heroine's behalf); otherwise the reader won't feel any empathy for their situation, won't root for the heroine to fight through and win.
Well, I found the hero irritating and didn't understand the heroine's love for him; and I didn't feel any empathy for their quandary at all.