Book 1 of The Books of Bayern
Read as part of the Once Upon a time IV challenge
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She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.
One of my favourite fairy tales is the story of The Goose Girl, although before beginning this book I had only the vaguest of memories about the story. I knew it featured a princess who was given gifts from her mother before being sent off to marry a foreign prince, and I could quite clearly recall the maid who betrayed her and took her place as princess, forcing the princess to become a goose girl. And there was no way I wasn’t going to remember the talking horse who was killed for his loyalty and whose head hung over the archway reminding the princess that “If your mother only knew, her heart would surely break in two”. I couldn’t quite recall how it all got sorted in the end, but I knew it ended most unpleasantly for the maid.
In her retelling Hale expands upon the essence of that fairy tale, changing aspects but keeping them the same in many respects, for example Falada, the horse, cannot talk to everyone, but he can communicate with the princess, Ani.
I really really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, but it is also one that would reward a reread. it has a believable hero in Ani, and unlike many traditional fairy tale princesses she takes an active role in her own rescue, while at the same time never venturing into “Mary-Sue” territory. The magical gifts are well used too. Ani’s mother, and her maid, have the gift of people-speaking. Which means that their words can often persuade even their most vehement opponents to fall in line. A gift which the maid uses when she takes Ani’s place as princess.
In many ways this is another coming of age fantasy; Ani must cope with the loss of her role as Crown Princess when she is sent to marry this foreign prince, and has to deal with the fact that perhaps her mother cares more about her duties than her first-born daughter. And then she has to cope with being alone in the world after her maid and guards betray her. But through these adversities she comes to know herself a lot better, and to become comfortable with herself in a way she never was before.
And all the while told in a most enjoyable way. What more could you ask for. I think I’m going to add this one to the “to be bought” list. It may never happen, as that is a rather long list, but I just really enjoyed this book. It is sad and happy and sweet and cruel, all the while being very real and grounded.