Friday, January 21, 2011

Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl

I didn't figure out until the very end of this book, when I read the "About the Author" paragraph, that this is the same author whose book Owl in Love I read and loved recently. Owl in Love was a quirky, surreal, satisfying fantasy. Goose Chase was a tedious mess. I can hardly believe the same author wrote both books.

Alexandria Aurora Fortunato has been a humble goose girl for her first fourteen years. She has a dozen geese and loves them like sisters. They're all she has left after her mother's death a few years before. Unfortunately, after Alexandria helps an old crone, she's cursed with great beauty, hair that showers gold dust instead of dandruff, and tears that turn into diamonds. Her comfortable life is turned upside down when both a prince and a neighboring king demand her hand in marriage--and lock her up in a tower until she makes her decision as to who she'll marry. Alexandria escapes with the help of her geese, but her troubles are only beginning.

Alexandria the goose girl is a horrible person. She screams at and abuses everyone, never thanks her geese although they basically do everything for her, and ignores good advice even when doing so is obviously a bad idea. She's also dumb as a stump, but since everyone else in the book is even dumber, that doesn't really matter. I put up with Alexandria's bad attitude because I was certain she'd learn kindness as part of her journey. She never does.

Although Alexandria is fourteen and the prince fifteen, the book seems intended for much younger children; but it's much too long for very young readers, no matter how precocious they are. There's a lot of inventive action, but even more long passages of Alexandria feeling sorry for herself and complaining. As an adult with a pretty good grounding in fairy tales, I didn't find the big plot reveals at the end surprising. I also found the romance between Alexandria and the prince both disappointingly predictable and completely unconvincing.

The book starts out fairly funny, but the humor is repetitive and soon becomes tiresome. I enjoyed Alexandria's stay with the ogresses--about the only thing about the book I did enjoy, actually, and it was marred by Alexandria's stupidity and ill nature. (Without spoilering anything, she could have gotten out of the situation easily if she'd thought for one second and stopped insulting everything within tongue-lashing range.) By the time the book was finished, I would have been happy if King Claudio the Cruel had beheaded Alexandria, the prince, all the geese, and every single other character.

Basically, author Patrice Kindl isn't all that great a writer. I didn't notice when I read Owl in Love because in that book, she's able to hide her shortcomings (clumsy characterization and stilted prose) in a story that actually uses them to an advantage--Owl is not human and doesn't think like a human, and she's cut off from normal society. Here, Alexandria is supposed to be a sympathetic character in an ordinary (fairy tale) world, and she just comes across as unlikable.

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