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Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer tells the story of a girl named Echo Alkaev--known in her village as the girl marked by the devil, due to an unfortunate incident involving an otherworldly white wolf and resulting in scars across half of her face. Though she spends her life shunned by her community, she finds solace in her family's bookstore and in the company of her brother and father, at least until her father decides to remarry a nasty materialistic woman named Donia. Donia's extravagant tastes lead the family into near bankruptcy forcing Echo's father to travel in a dangerous winter storm to sell his precious manuscripts.

Over the years, the white wolf--the same who accidentally swiped her when she tried to free him from a bear trap-- appeared in the peripheries, but one evening she sees him when she ran from her stepmother into the snowy woods with her frozen, lost father. Echo begs the wolf to help save her father, and to her surprise, the wolf answers. He demands that she live with him--tending to his magical house--for the next year, in return for her father's safe return home. Naturally, she agrees. Little does she know that she is binding herself to Wolf and to the magical world in which he is trapped. Echo encounters wonders and horrors in the house, and finds herself trying to unravel the bindings sure to end the life of her newfound friend.

From a quick synopsis alone, Echo North sounds like yet another rendition of Beauty and the Beast, and it is in part. It is also a retelling of Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, the Roman myth of Cupid and Psyche, Howl's Moving Castle, the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus, and most notably a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, a classic Norwegian fairytale. It is a perfect read for YA and adult readers who enjoy fairytale retellings like Wicked by Gregory Maguire or Cinder by Marissa Meyer, straight-up fairytale-like fantasy such as The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, or mythological works like Circe by Madeline Miller.

Outside of the ending that I HAD to finish as soon as possible, I particularly loved the time that Echo spends in the library of the house under the mountain. Upon first glance, the room just looks like a collection of mirrors, but soon Echo figures out that each mirror is in fact a book. ---insert scene where first finds library-- Not only does this imagery give the impression of an upside-down magical Alice in Wonderland world, but it retains that sense of satisfaction that I know all of us bookworms felt when Belle walked into the Beast's library in the Disney movie.

Echo North has elements of mystery, science fiction, fantasy, fairytale, folk tale, and myth all in one big mash-up. It's seamlessly structured, and right when I thought I knew what would happen next, a new fairytale weaved its way into the narrative, turning the entire plot inside out.

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