Wow, February went a lot faster than January, didn’t it? I’m surprised I actually managed to get this book read on time! I’ve had it on my list for a long time, and bumped it up after I wrote my own retelling of the Goose Girl, Golden.
I found Hale’s setting descriptions vivid and vibrant (especially the food, you knows know me). The geography feels suitably grand, with months of travel between Kildenree and Bayern, and believable differences between the cultures. It’s comfortably familiar (easily Britain or Germany), while also delightfully exotic (like a piece of well-researched historical fiction or fantasy).
I really liked her characters. Even the ‘baddies’ felt believable. Ani had a very convincing arc from sheltered and insecure princess to brassy and self-assured goose girl, to brave an confident princess again. She learned her magic, she learned people skills, she learned perspective. I felt like she had satisfying growth, and I liked her more than a lot of female protagonists.
The aunt was my favourite character. She was only around for a little while, but she was super cool. The other kids looking after the castle livestock, Gilsa, and even the queen were all really well rounded.
The only real criticisms I have are that sometimes Hale gets from Point A to Point C without much B to speak of. Sometimes I’m not sure how we get from one situation to the next, a lot of things come out of nowhere.
One example being the romance with Geric. Hale is a talented and skilled writer throughout the book, but I found the flirting with Geric to be agonisingly awkward, shoe-horned, and unrealistic. He didn’t realise she was a peasant. He allowed her to take over the training of his horse. He assumed she, a peasant, could read. He flirted openly and hard and awkwardly as a ten-year-old, and then broke it off with the weirdest break-up. It just didn’t feel organic or believable at all.
It’s annoying because the rest of the story was watertight. I found myself wracked with dread, even though I had to keep reminding myself that I know how this story ends, I wrote this story, myself, for goodness’ sake. She had me on the edge of my seat over a story I know backwards and forwards, like it was the first time I’d heard it.
Ani learns slowly by fumbling and trial-and-error, she changes plans, she adjusts to the circumstances. Sometimes, she has serendipitious luck, but not in a way that feels like railroading.
Just as in the original, the main themes are betrayal, the dichotomy of rich and poor, the idea of deceptive appearances, and poetic justice. The plot more-or-less follows closely along the one laid out by the Brothers Grimm, but more. So, it’s not so much a retelling as an embellished telling, adding layers of detail on top of a sturdy frame. So, you don’t have to worry about this book and Golden being too samey.
So, that’s it for me, this month. How did your reading go? Did you read Goose Girl or Cinder? What did you think?
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