The Goose Girl (The Books of Bayern #1)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Young Adult
Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her.
Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.
The Goose Girl was the book that reintroduced me to fairytale adaptations. When I had been young I had eaten up anything by Gail Carson Levine, in complete awe that someone could take a fairytale and adapt it making it into their own. At the time there were not many other books like that, so I ran out and slowly forgot my love. Now, however, thanks to The Goose Girl I am back to devouring as many adaptations that I can find.
The Goose Girl is an adaptation very true to the most well known version of "The Goose Girl" fairytale. Yet, the world that it takes place in only starts out as the fairytale, Hale takes ideas only mentioned in maybe a line in the fairytale and extrapolates them into full on pieces of the world building. You can tell that she sat and went "Why did this character do what they did in the tale?" "Why did these characters believe so easily?" "Why does this happen?" and then went on to find a way to explain it all.
The idea of people-speaking, animal-speaking and nature-speaking is such an awesome idea that it sparks my imagination completely and truly does open the book up to being a series (as the rest of the Books of Bayern deal with different types of speaking).
Then of course there is the characterization, which Hale is a master at. Ani, especially, is a joy to read. Here is a character whose growth happens naturally and obviously. At the beginning she is timid, awkward, and self-depreciatory. Yet as the story unfolds she becomes less naïve and learns to trust herself and how to assert herself.
Finally, I was impressed by the fact that cultural differences between kingdoms are actually addressed. So many fantasy books have close by kingdoms have the exact same culture, when really they would have at least slightly different ways of looking at things. I liked learning Bayern's customs with Ani.
The most heartbreaking moments in the book are hands down the Falada moments. We are drawn to love this horse as much as Ani, but when he goes mad I found myself just as upset, and when the head is placed by her pasture (a moment from the original tale which is probably one of the coolest adaptations) I was just as horrified. So at the end (which I love the writing of, with the repetition of phrase) when it mentions that she helps to foal another colt, I am too happy. It is really that moment that I feel like everything is going to be all right.
I also liked how Geric was approached in this book. Hale avoided the trap of instalove for the most part, having them fall in love through several encounters, and at first really just being friends (with Geric possibly puppy loving over her at first). It also makes the ending come across a lot more realistically.
This is one of my all-time favourite books and I'm glad I had an excuse to reread it (My Midsummer's Night Giveaway) and write a review to post for you all. It is a magical, straightforward fairytale fantasy with excellent world building and characters. Even having reread it so many times there is maybe only one or two small things that start to trip me up (and usually with books I've read so much there are a lot more). I recommend this to any lover of fairytales or fantasy in general.