"The Goose Girl" was always one of my favorite stories in my Grimm's fairy tale collection when I was growing up. I'm not sure why - it may have been because I'd never heard of it anywhere else or seen it as a movie (like "Cinderella" and "Snow White.) It was also so very odd, with the horse's head hung over the bridge, which I found both fascinating and horrible. What can I say? It appears my taste for dark fantasy was forming even back then.
The first time I read this, I was excited to see how Hale would explain all the things that I'd always wondered about when I read the fairy tale. How did the princess allow her lady's maid to take her place so easily? And what about that poor horse? Even though I knew how the story would end, Shannon Hale's retelling was a riveting read all the same, with a depth of character not found in traditional fairy tales and plenty of twists and turns and deft world-building.
The story is about Ani, a princess who lives in the shadow of her vibrant, successful mother. Ani is different from the day she is born, with odd abilities that are unsettling to those around her (except her father). Instead of inheriting the throne, as she expects, she suddenly finds herself sent on a long journey to marry a prince of another kingdom in order to maintain peace. Ani's serious issues with self-confidence land her in a spot when she finds herself betrayed, on the run, in fear for her life, and subsequently trying to live what others would call a normal life after having been waited on hand and foot since she was a baby. While she at times tried my patience with her timidity and self-doubt, Ani does rise to the challenge, discovering things about herself - and the responsibility of being a princess - that she never would have without facing such difficult trials.
There are now several books in the Bayern series, and finding my memory of this one to have faded a bit, I thought I'd listen to the audio version before continuing on with the series. I was delighted to find it is a Full Cast Audio production. These are fabulous interpretations of children's books, with each character's dialog spoken by a different actor, and a single narrator reading the rest of the book. They do a wonderful job! I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this exciting novel, and I'm looking forward to reading the second in the series.
The Goose Girl (#1 in the Bayern series) by Shannon Hale (Full Cast Audio, 2005)
Books in The Goose Girl series:
1. The Goose Girl
2. Enna Burning
3. River Secrets
Fyrefly's Book Blog: "Overall, I thought it was a nice story, although a little longer than it warranted and without any twist or hook to really grab my attention."
Love and Hate: "Shannon Hale's writing is beautiful. Her descriptions are beautiful. The story is beautiful. The goose girl and her yellow hair are beautiful. I love everything about the book."
Rhinoa's Ramblings: "There were lots of twists and turns and the story telling was beautifully woven."
Things Mean a Lot: "I don’t think I have been this completely enchanted by a book since I read Stardust for the first time."