I read this book as part of a readalong with Casey over at ABasketCaseyReads on YouTube – we both really love the fairy tale retelling genre, so this was the perfect pick, and by happy coincidence, also a perfect book! Plot
Ani, a princess, is sent to a neighbouring country to wed the prince of Bayern, but she gets double-crossed by someone close to her, and ends up lost in the woods. From here, she becomes a completely different person, ‘the goose girl’, leading the life of a commoner, while still trying to regain her title and rightful position as betrothed to the prince. What was so great about Ani’s tale was how well it fits into the fairy tale genre. There were a lot of fairy tale tropes: a dead father, a manipulative mother, an arranged marriage…it’s all there! I love those things, I think it’s what makes a fairy tale so iconic.
The book was split into three different parts: The Princess, The Goose Girl, and The Yellow Girl, all which were amazing and really helped the story to move forward. Each chapter was completely necessary and pivotal to the pace of the novel and I’ve never really felt that way about another book!
Ani was THE BEST protagonist. Casey and I both agreed that she was emotionally and physically strong. She could talk for herself (there’s this epic speech she gives in the final chapter!) but also need the help of others. She understood that words were just as powerful as actions. I loved every single interaction she had with the Bayern people and the people of the Kilandree court, she wasn’t a spoiled princess, and she wasn’t afraid of hard work, which was so refreshing to read!
Enna, one of the background characters and Ani’s best friend, was equally amazing to Ani. I loved that Ani had someone she could share her story with, and someone she could trust, because throughout the novel, a lot of people turn on her. No one is quite what they seem, which constantly had me on my toes as I was reading, because I didn’t know who to put my faith into. Enna was definitely a safe bet.
There were a lot of male characters in this book, and every time one was introduced, I’d wonder if he would be the love interest. Geric, as it turned out, was the one, and I loved him. I think that’s a statement I can use to talk about all the characters in general.
Now, just think about all the classic fairy tale plots for romance, and one of them is going to fit Ani and Geric’s relationship. They were both hiding something, which hindered their ability to love each other, but the cliche at the end was so perfect, I didn’t mind that it was so obvious. Geric makes a beautiful declaration of love for Ani at the end of the book, which is possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever read ever.
It wouldn’t be a fairy tale without some magic. Ani had the power to speak to animals (which screams Disney Princess, right?) Speech and words were a prominent theme in the book. The lore of the world said that there were three different kinds of speech: people, animal and element. Ani is extremely powerful, and it’s only when she isn’t completing her princess duties that she’s able to explore her power and realise she’s more capable than she imagined. Geese and horses may understand her, but so does the wind and that was truly special to read.
Another theme of this novel is identity, hence the different part titles. Which identity does Ani see herself conforming with? It was fun to discuss with Casey which role we thought Ani played best and which she would inevitably choose.
Overall, I’m giving this 5 stars without a doubt. It was different to other fairy tale retellings I’ve read because I wasn’t familiar with the original, which made it fascinating to read. I had no idea what was going to happen next. (I thought she would turn into a goose, then realised that’s the Swan Princess.) Also, it had a medieval setting, much like ‘Ella Enchanted‘, which was unusual because retellings I’ve read before normally take the book into a contemporary or futuristic context. It really worked well with the story! If you like the genre, and can put up with a few cliches, ‘The Goose Girl’ comes highly recommended by me!