Ah, the Books of Bayern. The Goose Girl is Shannon Hale’s retelling of a classic, albeit slightly lesser-known Grimm’s Fairy Tale about a young princess who travels to a far kingdom to marry a prince, but along the way is sabotaged by her clever, charismatic handmaiden, who then rides into the new kingdom claiming to be the princess, leaving the true princess to try and find her own way, beginning with working for the king as a humble goose girl.
I won’t tell you more than that, (though of course you can look the fairy tale up!) but I have to say that I love this book. Shannon Hale takes a page-long fairy tale and turns it into a lovely, epic novel. The book is a bit slow, but it’s so rich it reads like melting chocolate. This is the book that made me want to write some sort of fairy tale of my own, because the language in it is just so beautiful and expansive, and that’s what I wanted a book of my own to sound like—not that my style is at all like Hale’s, hers leans towards poetry in some spots.
What really makes this novel fantastic are the side characters. There are characters here that are developed more later on in the Bayern series (that’s the kingdom name, just so you know) that I just love beyond words, but I’ll get to that as I talk of the other books. The main character here, Ani, the princess Isi in disguise, is a masterful storyteller who gains followers because of the beautiful stories she tells, and that’s a storyline that any writer can fall in love with.
Ani is taken from a world where she is kept from everything, and everything is done for her, to a world where she is nothing but the lowest of the king’s servants, but the way she conducts herself and the way people are pulled to follow and help her, are proofs of her royal nature. In the end, the imposter princess has no real chance. There’s a great twist as to how she’s dealt with, too, that’s straight from the brothers Grimm, so if you don’t like to be surprised, don’t read the fairy tale before you read the book. Even if you know the original story by heart, though, there’s something here to delight and enchant you.
The book covers have recently been redesigned, probably because it’s difficult to tell from this original, pastoral-painting-esque cover that this is the first novel in a series, or that it’s a Young Adult fantasy. The new cover, to the right, definitely says that clear as day. I’ll admit I’m a bit partial to the old covers, but the new ones are quite nice, too. Either way, I’ll have to get used to them, because the fourth novel Forest Born, available September 15th, is definitely in the new style. At this point I don’t really mind, though. I’m just happy to see another book in this beautiful world!
I give The Goose Girl a contented A.
Stay tuned as I talk about the sequels, Enna Burning and River Secrets in the upcoming weeks!