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Goose Chase

by Patrice Kindl
228 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Jeanne

A witty fairytale with a good plot, but a lot of intrigue and violence.

Plot

The Medieval fairytale of a goose girl who, since a kindness to an old hag, is the most beautiful girl in all the lands and whose hair drops gold when brushed and whose tears are diamonds. But word of her good fortune gets around. With the help of her twelve geese she escapes a forced marriage and goes on a rather disagreeable, goose-chase adventure to foil the plans of the evil King of Gilboa, find her old home, and discover her ancestry in the process.

Morality

Pretty good. It was an act of kindness that got Alexandria (the goose girl) into her plight, and thus she refuses ever to feed an old woman again, but she still has a kind heart. When once she has given an oath she keeps it (though she is less adamant about not giving her word without oath and then breaking it), and when caught in tough places she is unwilling to let anyone suffer for her. She has a quick temper, though, which often results in her insulting the twelve geese or her magical hair or whoever happens to be the offender. After these outbursts she is usually put back in her place, however.

The King of Gilboa, who seeks Alexandria's hand in marriage, is an evil man who kills for sport and is more at home doing something devious than something kind. Contrasted with him is the Prince of Dorloo, a kindhearted - if somewhat dense - young man who wants only to rule wisely and well.

Spiritual Content

Alexandria's hair, and her tears, are under an enchantment, and two other enchantments happen in the course of the tale. One hasty wish is granted by the old woman who enchanted Alexandria. God is mentioned once, and a soldier believes that the goose girl is an angel.

Violence

The story begins, comically narrated by Alexandria, with the King shooting her pet canary. Soon afterward he attempts to sneak up on the Prince of Dorloo with a knife drawn. After her escape, the goose girl falls into the hands of three ogresses whose home is cluttered with the skulls of those that they have killed, and mention is made twice of their having to turn to the graveyard to get meat for their diet, as they have already rid the nearby village of its inhabitants. Alexandria sees corpses swinging from nooses; a character is very nearly hanged; one goose is shot twice, the first time by accident and the second time on purpose; and one person attempts to poison another. There's a fair amount of intrigue surrounding the King of Gilboa toward the latter half of the book.

Drug and Alcohol Content

The King gives one too many toasts and Alexandria supposes that the wine has begun to take effect, though he isn't completely intoxicated at the time. Wine is consumed in other places as well as a common beverage for the time.

Sexual Content

Alexandria's wedding dress has a low neckline, and a woman pulls down the collar of her dress to reveal a scar. The King makes a comment about the goose girl being young and tender. Later on, a dimwitted soldier says that he and his comrades often sneak down to the village to drink and meet their sweethearts.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"By my vertu" is used three times by Alexandria, and the King spews some curses which are not written down. Twice in other places we read that Alexandria curses her hair, and there is one hypothetical mention of relieving oneself behind a gooseberry bush. Thankfully, unlike a lot of Medieval novels, "Goose Chase" is lacking in the oaths that were popular in the time period (such as "God's teeth").

Conclusion

"Goose Chase" is one of those books hard to pin point to a certain age - the writing style is simple enough for pre-teens, but the amount of violence, especially that surrounding the ogresses, makes it possibly unsuitable for young children. However, it is a very witty and humorous book in the line of a fantasy Jane Austen story and the plot that might otherwise seem dark is lightened by Alexandria's plight, her quick tongue, and the bird-brained persistence of her twelve geese. Kindl develops her characters well and Alexandria is an honorable protagonist who learns from her mistakes. All in all, it's a worthy tale for those who won't be put off by the violence.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 13+

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