Both of these books were gifts from a dear friend. I hope she knows how much I appreciate the books that she sends my way.
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Goose Girl is a retelling of the Grimm tale with the same name. I’m not familiar with that tale, but I’m guessing Hale did a good job with it. It’s a beautiful story, well told. Its one weakness is that the princess’s victory is ultimately won through the use of a supernatural power. I think I might have liked it better if she won just because she was the stronger character. But that’s not how the story goes, as they say, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. All in all, this is the best fantasy novel I’ve read in a long time.
The Mysterious Benedict Society
The Mysterious Benedict Society came so close to being a favorite! I love the setup: children take a test, the purpose of which they do not yet understand. Four of them pass the test, each for a different reason. Reynie is a brilliant solver of puzzles, Sticky has a photographic memory, Kate uses tools and her circus training to achieve her goals, and Constance is stubborn as a mule. Together they would make a formidable team, says Mr. Benedict, the man behind the test, so how about joining together to save the world?
I think the book does a great job of showing how there are many different types of talents, and it encourages independent thinking. But in order to teach those lessons, you have to keep the story believable. That means keeping the details as real as possible, so that we might not pause to say, “But would that really happen?” There were several points where I doubted the details, and then at the end, the author pushed my credulity beyond its limits. I simply could not believe it.
And so my final judgment on this book is that it had enormous potential, and though it did not quite live up to its potential, some of the characters and situations made it worth reading anyway.