This book was a surprise. It was so good! Like, Robin McKinley good, I thought. Which I found surprising because the first book I read by Hale, Austenland, was entertaining and based on a unique idea, but certainly not as well-crafted nor well-written as this. Hale is in her element here.
Based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, this book is about Ani, a princess. For the first few years of her life, Ani spends her days with her aunt, who teaches her how to talk to the swans near the palace. When Ani’s aunt leaves, and her mother, the Queen, finds out she can talk to birds, the Queen prevents Ani from having any contact with birds. When Ani turns 16, she learns that her mother has arranged her marriage to a prince of the neighbouring kingdom, Bayern. As she travels with an armed guard and her lady in waiting to Bayern, she realizes that all is not as it seems. Some of her guards attempt to kill her and she narrowly escapes with her life. Now in Bayern, she changes her name to Isi and works as a goose herder to save enough money to get back to her mother the Queen, and tell her what happened.
Lo and behold, after a quick look on Hale’s website, I learned that McKinley‘s Beauty was the inspiration for Hale to write The Goose Girl! Go figure. Anyway this book was amazing. It had the otherworldly tone that I love so much in a fantasy book, just like McKinelys and like Gaiman’s Stardust. The world-building was really good, and I loved the characters. The evil ones were truly evil (but in a YA way). There were some plot twists that I didn’t see coming (but probably should have!), which is always a nice surprise. I can’t wait to read more of Hale’s YA books!
After poking around on Hale’s blog, I learned that they are currently filming an Austenland movie! Yes!! So excited about this. I think it’s a story that will translate well to film, and could be quite funny. Here’s hoping!