February 4, 2019

Book Review: The Goose Girl

If you’re familiar with the fairytale of the same name, you’ll likely know the main plot of The Goose Girl. Ani is the crown princess of Kildenree, but she’s also been unusual in that she’s more comfortable speaking to animals than speaking with people. When her mother decides that having Ani married off to the prince of a foreign land is necessary, Ani journeys there with her retinue – only to find herself betrayed by a mutiny lead by her lady-in-waiting. On her own in a foreign land, armed with only her ability to talk to animals, her mind and her good heart, Ani finds work as a goose girl. But fate has more in store for Ani than she knows, and everything will change when her true destiny comes calling.

The Goose Girl is a backlist title that has been on my radar for years, especially because I know other readers (Amy, in particular) who absolutely love this book and the rest of the series. It took up until the end of 2018 for me to finally pick up the novel – and I’m so mad at myself for waiting so long because it was utterly wonderful! (It’s also a young adult novel, which surprised me because I was expecting it to be middle grade for some reason. Just dropping that here, in case you also had the same impression!)

I basically sat down to read this… and didn’t get up again until I had finished it. It was impossible for me to tear myself away from Ani’s story (even though I’m familiar with the original tale and how it plays out), which is a testament to how much I enjoyed and engaged with this story! There are a couple of things I thought The Goose Girl did extremely well, including:

  • Pulling elements of the original fairytale – I quite enjoyed seeing the nods to the source material in Shannon Hale’s novel. I almost wish I’d reread the original before diving into this one, just so I’d have caught more of them! But even with only the very basic memory of what was in it, I could still point familiar things out with ease.
  • Weaving those elements into a story all its own – Even though it does follow a similar course to the original story (as I remember it), Shannon Hale’s story still feels brand new. I found the plot, simple and straightforward as it was (at least compared to a whole host of YA fantasy that I’ve read in recent years), very engaging. It kept me turning the pages, as I kept wondering how Hale would have things play out for her characters.
  • Hale’s writing – Though I have implied it already with the two items above, I feel strongly that the narrative style Hale employs is perfect for this story. She tells it in a way that is accessible and well-paced, with just the right amount of whimsy to still evoke that feeling of a classic fairytale in the reader.
  • The characters (but particularly Ani) – But, of course, if you have been following my reviews at all online, you will know that the characters are usually the make or break element of a novel for me. Happily, I quite enjoyed meeting the characters in The Goose Girl! All of them – from terrible folks to wonderful humans – felt like the perfect cast for this fairytale-inspired story. I was especially fond of Ani, particularly because her struggles felt so realistic, her heart was so true and kind and she was just clever and wonderful and someone I could totally see myself being friends with. But there are a few other characters (Geric! Enna!) that I immediately warmed to as well.

Reading The Goose Girl was such a lovely experience, particularly since I had the luxury of reading it all in one sitting. It is just the story of fairytale retelling I enjoy - just enough of the original to remind me of it, but also enough unique elements to it to make it possible for this to stand on its own as a story. I’m so happy that I finally read this one, that it lived up to the hype I had personally encountered for it and I’m certainly looking forward to reading the rest of this series of companion novels.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale | Series: The Books of Bayern #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's | Publication Date: August 8, 2003 | Source: Owned the paperback


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