Fairy tales and their retellings have been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. I read my way through my library’s collection. So I am well-familiar with this lesser known fairy tale of The Goose Girl.
In this variation set in a sort of fictional Mongol-esque universe our Goose Girl is Ava, the child of a prince and his favored concubine/wife (it isn’t clear) who sent to be a serving girl to her older and higher ranked sister, Lagle. Along the way, something happened (again it wasn’t clear) and Lagle ended up with amnesia and Ava was forced to take her place. Oh and there was a horse named Falada… much like in the fairy tale but the name is really all the two had in common.
Fly by Demelza Carlton came highly recommended. She’s staked her claim on retelling fairy tales so I went in with fairly high expectations. I was let down. As you could probably tell from reading my summary, the book was confusing and the events in it were lost. For the entirety of the 100 pages that I forced myself to read I was bored. Lost and bored. Bored and lost.
The problem was that the prose felt far too literary for what was promised to be a light fairy tale retelling.
Worse, there were all sorts of problematic tropes in this. Like a whole steaming pile of Orientalism. The book was labelled as a Medieval Fairy Tale, but it was far more 1950s fantasy than medieval. While there are strings leading back to the old folk tale… This felt more like a fantasy mish-mash with some unintended Orientalism. All so the “bad” characters were very clearly Asian… From their names to their descriptions. While the “good” characters featured European names like Ava and Bianca. Based on the rest of the book, I’m fairly certain this was not intended… But it bugged me a lot. I would have rathered all of the characters have Asian inspired names… other than Falada which is a clear call back to the myth. It was like the author cherry-picked aspects of various cultures, shook them up in a can and then put the “good” stuff on the white-coded characters, and the bad stuff on the brown-coded characters. It was not good…
Even worse, there was a lot of violence. Now Fairy Tales are not known for their PG content. But most of the violence against women existed for no other reason than shock value. I accept that my heroine is going to go through hell to get her happy ending, but when the hell extends to pretty much all of the named female characters my eyebrows go up.
So because I didn’t finish it and because of the problematic tropes which made me want to scream in frustration. I can only give this…
You can get the book here. (It is part of a larger series of inter-related stories.)
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