THESE are the types of Shannon Hale books that I like! (I had a bad experience with her recent one, bah.) Fairy tale retellings that allow us to connect with the young protagonists, with a mix of magic and adventure that feels very natural. However, I feel that the first book is still the best, and the ones that follow are not as engrossing.
Hale’s The Goose Girl follows the classic Grimm version of the goose girl story fairly closely, except for the magic (which is actually the part that I liked most!). Ani, our goose girl, learns to speak with animals at a very young age, and it’s interesting to see that her magic is part of a bigger system of magic that becomes more clear throughout this story, along with the sequels. Overall, solid retelling, and I liked how it both followed and deviated from the classic version.
Another aspect of this series that I enjoyed was that supporting characters get a chance to play a lead role in later books. In Enna Burning, Enna – who appears in The Goose Girl – gets some magic of her own. I didn’t like this book as much as the first one, maybe because it is no longer a retelling; the magic from the first book is now the centerpiece for the rest of the series, and I find the magic in the book not as appealing as that of the previous one. There’s only so much you can do with fire (versus speaking to animals!), and the story veers off to a more romance- and politics-based plotline that I couldn’t really get into.
River Secrets is essentially the same as Enna Burning, except with a more entertaining protagonist. Razo is like the third wheel in all the stories so far, so it’s nice to see through his eyes in this story and understand that although he thinks of himself as average or unskilled, that’s not how others see him. There are a couple more twists and turns in this story compared to the other ones, so there is hope for the finale yet!
I love how all the old characters keep coming back again and again, and it’s nice to see that they’re doing well throughout the series! Out of all the characters, Rin is the one that I can relate to the most. She’s a quieter and more sensitive protagonist than the others, who seemed more determined to get things done. Rin, on the other hand, has vague feelings of “wrongness” and very unclear motives. Her story is actually a really fascinating ending to the series, as it brings together several aspects of the previous books that I really liked – the magic, the relationships, and self-discovery.
The Books of Bayern series starts off as a classic fairy tale retelling, and cleverly spins off into a tale of its own. I really enjoyed the magic, as well as following protagonists who take the time to examine their own thoughts and identity. Although I didn’t like the second book as much as the others, I still think this is a solid fantasy series and a fun read. 🌼
Have you read the Books of Bayern?
Do you keep reading a series if you run into a book you didn’t like?