Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Series Review: The Books of Bayern

When I decided to reread the Books of Bayern, I wasn't planning to write reviews for them, but I realized, as I always do when reading Shannon Hale books, that I had forgotten just how amazing they are.

The Books of Bayern are true works of art. They make me sigh, they make me laugh, and if I was one who cried when reading, they'd make me cry.

The Goose Girl
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 3rd 2003 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Summary (from Goodreads):
Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.

The series begins with The Goose Girl, a retelling of the Grimm Brothers tale. Hale introduces the reader to Bayern in a story as lovely as its beautiful and whimsical cover.

Ani, the Crown Princess of Kilendree, feels uncomfortable in her position throughout her whole childhood, prefering to spend time with the swans outside the palace than performing her royal duties. Stifled in the palace, she confides only in her lady-in-waiting, Selia. When, against her will, she is sent away to marry the king of neighboring Bayern, Selia leads a revolt, taking Ani's place, and Ani, presumed dead, must run away. She gets a job tending the king of Bayern's geese, and must both learn to fit in there and plan how to take back her rightful place.

There is magic in this story in that people can be born with or learn the languages of animals, people (in order to influence them), and nature, but the magic for me was not animal-, people-, and nature-speaking as much as the journey through this vibrant world and Ani's transformation from the timid and unhappy girl in the beginning, always feeling like she's done something wrong, to the strong, confident woman that even I look up to.

The characters in this story are full and I've grown to love them all. No character is unimportant or out of place. From fiery-spirited Enna to mischievous Razo, or even the unceasingly sweet Finn, I love all of these characters, and am always happy to revisit them when I reread the series.

The romance between Ani and the handsome palace guard, (haha) Geric, develops slowly and naturally. Beginning when she calms down his horse and he mistakes her as a lady and continuing so that the reader is rooting for them every step of the way.

Shannon Hale's writing is lovely, and almost poetic in that each word is in place and creates a picture of this world between a fairy tale and our own.

Minor Spoilers below for The Goose Girl

The other three books in the series, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born, are all as wonderful as the first. In Enna Burning, Bayern's neighboring country, Tira, attacks. Enna, having newly discovered her own talent at fire speaking, must battle both the Tirans and her own self, twisted out of shape by the fire. Enna is a supporting character in The Goose Girl, but wholly worthy of a book to herself.

In River Secrets, Bayern's Own travels to Tira in order to protect the Bayern ambassador as she begins to repair the ties between the two countries. There is a mystery pervading the bright Tiran capital, and Razo, who stars in this volume, is in a unique position to discover who is responsible. Although not a strong soldier, he is "the best sling Finn ever saw" and always notices small details, so he is able to find out the secrets of the city. Razo is, as ever, delightful, and the new characters introduced to the Bayern cast, such as Dashsa and Radiance, are wonderful. Not to mention that it has the absolute sweetest scene ever – but I won't spoil it for you.

Forest Born takes the story back around to complete the cycle. Focused on Rin, Razo's younger sister, it follows the journey of a girl who must find who she truly is, much in the way that Ani had to find herself in The Goose Girl. At the beginning of Forest Born, Rin calls herself "Mama's shadow" and shifts into the temperament of anyone she was around in order to hide from herself. She leaves the forest for the first time to join Ani (Gack! I keep writing Isi!) in the castle, and joins Ani, Enna, and Dasha on a journey where they meet some unexpected enemies. Rin must then accept who she is in order to save the group.

Overall Thoughts: I'd have to say that of any books, these four have affected me the most. I've read them countless times, and they never lose any of their charm. If they seem at all your type, pick up these books. You will not be disappointed.


Debz said...

I love the Books of Bayern! They remain my all-time favorite series, ranking above Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, because of their all-around perfectness.
Thanks for this review, because it reminded me of exactly why I need to reread them!


Pica said...

It is a wonderful series. It just might be my all-time favorite too.

Mirriam said...

I LOVE the Books of Bayern! The Goose Girl was the first book ever to make me cry. I still love it, I own all the books in the series now; but the Goose Girl is still my favorite with Enna Burning as a runner-up.


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