IQ: “In the dizziness of early morning and little sleep, Ani wondered what she would find outside, if the night and the water had washed it all away, the pasture, the walls, the guards, the palace, and left her with her name again standing in mud and darkness.” (p 155)
Recently, I have been craving, or I guess needing, really immersive fantasy when it comes to reading material. A close friend of mine passed away recently, and while I spend a good deal of time thinking about her and the time we had together, sometimes I need to think about something else, and that’s when I turn–as always–to books.
By a stroke of luck, another couple of friends (really friends of my boyfriend, but a cooler pair of twins I could not know, and I’d like to think of them as my friends too) lent me some of their library about a month ago, and among the selection was Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days. That one I picked first and devoured, so when I was at the library recently looking for good fantasy, I grabbed another Shannon Hale–this time, The Goose Girl–in the hopes that it would be as satisfying and amazing as Book of a Thousand Days.
I’m glad to say it definitely is.
The Goose Girl, like Book of a Thousand Days, is based on a Grimm fairy tale; Ani, a shy and awkward princess of the kingdom of Kildenree, is sent to the neighboring kingdom Bayern to marry a prince she has never met. Due to a coup during the journey, she must flee and hide under a false name as a goose-herder in Bayern, alone and afraid for her life. It’s a story of personal and physical journey, as are many young adult books, peppered with humor and romance to counter the trials.
The Goose Girl scratched a slightly different itch for me than Book of a Thousand Days; it’s longer, with slightly more trauma in the main character’s narrative, and Ani the princess is a very different protagonist from Dashti the mucker maid. Book of a Thousand Days was also somewhat more alluring to me at first glance because of its psudeo-Mongolian setting, while The Goose Girl springboards off of the fairly common western-Europe fantasy setting.
What the two books have in common, though, are main characters who go through interesting and believable changes and growths, a lively and detailed world, and wonderfully evocative prose that accomplishes a lot in terms of both storytelling and lyricism without being overly flowery. They have that fairy-tale feeling to them, warm and familiar (despite being fairly obscure tales), but Hale weaves strong characterization and worldbuilding into the framework to create something new.
This has become more of a Shannon-Hale-post instead of the Goose-Girl post I was intending, so let me just say this. Ani, not a particularly likable character in the beginning, struggles through a great deal of hardships (though not as many as the titular character of Plain Kate, another book I read recently–a beautiful book, but harrowing and rather painful to read, especially at this juncture in my life) and learns how to be strong for her own sake and develop her own identity, which is a very satisfying place to see her reach. The humor is fun and appropriate, and her awkward romance with Geric is charming to watch unfold.
Though I’ll have to return The Goose Girl to the library (and Book of a Thousand Days to my friends), I would gladly welcome any of Shannon Hale’s work on my already-overflowing shelves. I greatly look forward to reading Enna Burning, another book based in Bayern, following one of the side characters from The Goose Girl. Hale shows a lot of skill in harnessing fairy tales and making them her own.
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our giveaway of A Girl Named Disaster! We’re already halfway to a winner!