Title: The Goose Girl
Author: Shannon Hale
Review Summary: I really liked how true this book was to the style of a fairy tale and how well it fleshed out the original story.
I picked up this version of The Goose Girl planning on using it as an original to read before another re-telling. Further research suggests you’d need a children’s book (or the wikipedia page) to get the most original story, since the original is far too short for a book. The basic gist of both this book and the original fairy tale is as follows. A princess is sent to marry a prince in a foreign land and on the journey, her maid uses some form of magic to take on the princess’s identity. Once they reach the foreign capital, the princess becomes a goose girl and must decide if and how she wants to regain her place as a princess.
Lately I’ve been finding middle grade stories lacking complexity, but in this book I appreciated the feel that the book was directed at a young audience. It felt perfectly true to the original feel of the fairy tale and didn’t prevent the author from making the story a little more intricate than the myth. In the original, the goose girl ends up a princess again almost by luck. In this story, not only is becoming a princess again difficult but so is the decision whether or not to do so.
The difficulty of the princess/goose girl’s decision hinges on her personality. She is a quiet, reserved girl with the ability to speak to animals. The ability and confidence to charm people is far more valued by her mother, so she grows up feeling a lot of doubt about her ability to rule. Initially, her inability to take initiative is overdone to the point where it’s incredibly annoying. For instance, when she suspects her maid is staging a coup, she waits on someone to warn her instead of acting on her own certainty.
The nice thing about this bad beginning is the amazing character growth that occurs throughout the book. The princess spends a long time as a goose girl and experiences a believable process of slowly growing in confidence and desire to rule well. In addition to the amazing character growth, I thought the author did a great job making up an interesting magic system that was compatible with the original myth. Although less different from the original than many of today’s popular retellings, I would highly recommend this book for the great character development and the impressive combination of original elements with those of the author’s own creation.