Bloomsbury, New York, New York
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale is possibly my friend Alison's all-time favorite novel... Actually, I'm pretty sure it is. (After all, The Goose Girl was the novel she chose to give-away when Carrie at Reading to Know I had our autumn book swap themed "My all-time favorite read.") It was a little before that time that I had first learned of the book from Alison, but it wasn't the first I'd heard of Shannon Hale. In 2007 I read Austenland and in 2008 I read Princess Academy. Both from completely different genres, but both very unique and delightful reads that I highly recommend. (Sorry! No reviews.) Thus, between Alison's enthusiastic recommendation and my pleasant experience with Hale's writing I decided it was time to pick up and read The Goose Girl.
The Goose Girl is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale by the same name. It is the story of Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree (also known as "Ani"), who had to become a goose girl before she could become a queen; of a girl who had to find her own talents before she could lead her people.
I read that Ms. Hale was inspired to write The Goose Girl after reading one of Robin McKinley's novels. Hale had enjoyed McKinley's retelling of Beauty and Beast (titled Beauty) so much she thought it would be fun to write her own fantasy. I too loved Beauty, so I had high hopes for The Goose Girl. I just wasn't certain if I would like the story because of what I remembered from the original -- in typical Grimm fashion it was dark and gruesome and a little disturbing... (A talking horse head? Death by riding in a barrel drawn by horses and pierced with nails? Ick...) But as I read began to read The Goose Girl I discovered that it was equal to Beauty; a masterpiece as a fairytale retelling. Ms. Hale was faithful to the tale without making it dark or gruesome. Her version of The Goose Girl is what I think a fairytale should be filled with: drama and adventure, magic and mystery, friendship and betrayal, murder and swash-buckling revenge, love, hope, and dreams come true.
I admit, the first few chapters did make for slow reading, but once the story background was set I found myself caught up in the tale. And as for the heroine of the story, the princess/goose girl, Ani, I found her to be a perfect heroine. Neither too weak and listless, nor too bold and modern. Her character sets the pace of the story and keeps the reader turning pages -- wanting to know, caring how things will end.
Overall I really enjoyed The Goose Girl. It is the first in a series of fantasy novels set in the mythical land of Bahern. I borrowed The Goose Girl from my local public library and since they have the entire series, I intend to keep reading, so watch for reviews in the coming months. On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent, I would rate The Goose Girl a 4.5. I really really enjoyed it. This is one series fans of fantasy and fairytale should consider adding to their library.
Note: Because it is a fantasy/fairytale there are some elements that may be considered magical/mysterious, including the ability to talk to animals. Some may find this disturbing, but I felt it was in keeping with the story's genre.
Note 2: The rest of the series includes (in order of how they should be read): The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, and River Secrets. Ms. Hale has not ruled out the possibility of additional books in this series some time in the future. For more information check out Shannon Hale's website.