Thursday, 19 February 2009

Series spotlight - Bayern series by Shannon Hale

There are so many good books that have been out in the market for ages. Series Spotlight will be featured every week and is to introduce readers to series they may not have heard of before. Usually, these series will be ongoing, like today’s spotlight – Shannon Hale’s Bayern series.

These are based on a group of friends in a fictitious land – Bayern. Each book is told from a different character’s perspective, but includes all of the main characters. The first book, a retelling of the fairytale The Goose Girl, sets up this group of friends. The subsequent books, while not being retellings of specific fairytales, still retain the fairytale-like quality. This series is so beautifully written, humorous yet deep, fantastic yet realistic. I’ve heard the series described as lyrical and I have to agree. When reading any of this series, I have the feeling that every single word has been agonised over. There’s not a single word more or less than there needs to be to tell the perfect story.

The Goose Girl
Crown Princess Anidori Isilee has struggled all her life in the shadow of her mother, the perfect Queen. More inclined to go riding with her father, or learning the language of the birds with her aunt than holding court, she fears that she is a failure as a Princess. Only her father, her horse and her maid Selia are her true friends. But when her father dies, she discovers that she is not to inherit the crown after all, but be sent to a strange country and marry a Prince she has never met. When she is betrayed and left alone in a foreign country, Ani must learn to be herself, as a humble goose girl, before she can set things right again.
A beautiful story. As a fairytale, a certain amount of the plot was formulaic, but the writing was clever and enchanting, making the whole tale feel fresh, which essentially it was. Shannon Hale has taken a few small paragraphs of a fairytale and created a comprehensive world, characters and story. This is an old favourite, so satisfying and memorable, highly recommended. From the premise and title, I’d assume that this book finds more of a home among girls, but I’d like to add that when my brother read it, he enjoyed it.

Enna Burning
What would it be like to learn the language of fire, an element so destructive to everything in its path? Enna is about to find out. Bayern is going to war and Enna is right there in the action. Desperate to use her secret new talent, she disappears on illicit missions to enemy towns. However, soon these missions will put her in great danger, leading her to question her loyalties, motives, love and herself.
The plot for Enna Burning is much more complex than that of The Goose Girl. It is also somewhat grittier. Although still beautifully written, and retaining its fairytale qualities, Enna Burning addresses issues of death, grief, kidnap, and war. Most of the characters from The Goose Girl are back in this second chapter in the lives of the animal workers from Bayern. When most stand-alone books result in sequels, the results are disappointing and badly planned. Fairytales don’t have sequels do they? Apparently they do! And they can be just as good as the original.

River Secrets
Razo is short and skinny, not that great at fighting. That’s why when Talone chooses him to go on the peace mission to Tira, he assumes that it’s more to do with his being friends with Finn and Enna than his actual potential usefulness to the peace process. Relations between Bayern and Tira are still very tense following the war featured in Enna Burning. Razo’s unshakable cheerfulness and outgoing friendliness might just be exactly what the peace process needs.
Razo is one of the greatest characters from this series. Practical joker, cheerful, loyal and incredibly amusing, he’s a wonderful main character. I also liked that this main character doesn’t develop any nature-speaking talents – he doesn’t need them. With an interesting plot focusing on court intrigue and a new vibrant culture for a setting, River Secrets is a great addition to the series. I’d also like to include a well-done to Ms Hale for writing so well from a boy’s perspective.

What’s next?
Forest Born, starring Razo’s sister Rin, out in October 09 (I think)

These series are being re-covered both in the UK and the US. What do you guys think? I love the original covers myself, but I think they’ve done a wonderful job with the new covers, especially the photographic Goose Girl.

You can visit the author's website here and you can buy the books here (UK) or here (US)


  1. I absolutely love this series. I still like the original US covers best, though. Haven't read River Secrets yet, but I think I shall? Since The Goose Girl and Enna Burning were both incredible.

  2. I adore Shannon Hale's writing. And I haven't seen these UK covers before--very interesting.

    The photographic Goose Girl is my favorite photo cover too. :)

  3. Steph Su - personally I enjoyed River Secrets more than Enna Burning but that's mainly cos I love Razo so much.

  4. I'm rather attached to the original US paperbacks for The Goose Girl and Enna Burning, and was disappointed to find out that River Secrets wasn't getting one, but I love the new UK paperbacks.

  5. These all sound really good! I'll definitely read them. Oh, and I prefer the new UK covers!

  6. I like the covers with the graphic treatments!

  7. goose girl is my daughters favorite book . she listens to it when ever she is in her room and every night before she falls to sleep. her last two favorites were camillo's deperaeux and creeche's castle carona. im writing because i dont care for the covers of shannon hales books. the goose girl is alright but enna burning and river secrets entice me none. the girls look like their in their twenties. i believe that books as great as these deserve something
    much more. im going to buy them for my daughter any way because shannon hale is great.

  8. love them! havent read river secrets or forest born yet!

  9. Love these books. There is also now a forest born book, and I have read it. Hopefully Shannon Hale goes on with this series because I can't possibly stand not reading more different books. Please make another one!

  10. i just finished goose girl im about to start enna burning im kinda of upset that the next story isnt following isi(ana) because i want to see how her story plays out but i was so into this book i cant help but read the next im sure it will be good though just because its writtin by shannon hale

  11. I absolutely love these books please write another one. I've just finished Enna Burning and I know that after I read river secrets I'll be wanting to reading another one.