This review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books
Now that the days are dark and dreary, I feel like reading fairy tales, the ultimate comfort food. The Goose Girl shows up on a couple "best fairy tale retelling" lists, so I went and grabbed it. The quote on the cover from Stephanie Meyer should have warned me away but alas, here we are. I've never heard of the story of the goose girl, so before starting it I went to Wikipedia and read the synopsis. I forget how brutal fairy tales are when they're not put through Disney's filter.
Thankfully this novel wasn't put through the filter quite so stringently, and leaves out the brutal parts while still keeping us interested with all the nasty things happening to Ani, the lost princess. It is written for a young audience, but there's still a bit of sword fighting and blood to satisfy me. What I enjoyed the most was her gift of talking to animals, mostly birds, and how that progresses along with the novel (although the deus ex machina at the end had me rolling my eyes a fair bit). Not only her gift blooms, but the princess also grows as you would expect any riches-to-rags story to go, showing her the kingdom from a different side and making her all the better for it. Strength through adversity and all that good stuff. I noticed that the next novel in the series is called Enna Burning, and we are introduced to Enna, but she wasn't developed nearly as much as I would have liked. This story is very Ani-centric, but I let that slide as she only learns how to make friends towards the end.
The part that bugged me the most - and yes, feel free to label me a little squealing schoolgirl - was that the love story was jaw cracking yawn inducing. The love interest is barely in the story, and when they finally meet on equal terms (about 5 pages from the end, but of course, what more is there to tell after the princess gets the prince), it is the most leaden and unheartwarming dialogue. When I eat my chicken soup I want it to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, damnit! I didn't even crack a smile at her happiness.
I feel like I went into this expecting the wrong thing. If I had it labeled as "young adult novel with strong but stupid female lead," even if I didn't like it more, maybe I would have understood it more. As it stands, her stupidity (which is constantly called bravery instead) really got to me. I don't recommend this as a fairy tale retelling, but as a simple fantasy princess I suppose it's ok. Overall, pretty forgettable.