Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith
About the book:
Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?
What did I think?
Let me get started by saying this was not a good retelling of The Goose Girl, nor was it even a good book. I had so many issues with it, and the decisions the author made in regards to retelling that story. This review has some spoilers because wow there are some things I had Thoughts on. So 1 star.
First, the briefest of explanations for why this isn’t a good retelling of The Goose Girl.
- There are no geese. NO GEESE. In a retelling of The GOOSE Girl. WHY. Our main character, you know, the princess turned goose girl herself, doesn’t even get a job?
- Falada is a mare. For no good reason. This just me being nit picky, but if you’re going to change things, have a reason? Or maybe the reason is that she felt the need to kill off yet another female character because, this is spoilery, but very few female characters survive the book.
- Conrad, the goose boy, is her seven-year-old brother now? Yeah, I don’t get it either.
- also there’s this annoying subplot that isn’t at all goose girl related that becomes a huge part of it and just annoyed me
- really though. THERE ARE NO GEESE.
- who writes a goose girl retelling and doesn’t put any geese in it???
And the incredibly long, wow this wasn’t even a good book section:
- First it employs the truly exhausting trope of the guard-friend being in love with the princess who doesn’t love him back. YAWN. The amatoheteronormativity of this.
- We’re thrown into the book like one might be thrown off the deep end of a pool with a weight attached to the ankle. It’s very confusing, and then there is information we’re just told about what happened before the book, but I think the book would be better if we actually got to see it. Like Aurelia’s dad and aunt(?) are dead and Aurelia, for some reason, thinks she’s responsible. Do we see this though? no. We’re told it. And Aurelia is to wed the prince of a neighboring city/kingdom (like I said the world building is shoddy I don’t understand if there’s much of a country around the city) but we’re just told this instead of witnessing her finding it out or whatever. I don’t even know it’s bad.
- Aurelia is super ableist in regards to said prince she’s supposed to marry. The prince was sick, and that’s the main reason she doesn’t want to marry him… not the more reasonable and not ableist reason that she just doesn’t know him?
- Maybe this is just me, but I associate fairytales with friendship. Like yeah there’s the romance, but I feel like that’s not truly that significant part of the plot. In this book though, there was zero friendship. And it was very romance heavy.
- Maybe you’re wondering, but Gretal, are you sure there’s no friendship? Well, here’s the thing. In the beginning, she had a friend who was a guard, but he was in love with her and kissed her so – no friendship there. And then she allegedly has a female friend, Kate, but I don’t know why they’re friends? The author does nothing to build up their friendship. We’re just told they’re friends, and that’s supposed to do it? And then, SPOILERS HERE, Kate dies and Aurelia is really upset and like yes. Someone dying is usually a sad affair, but Kate isn’t given as much weight in the story and Aurelia’s life as we are told she has, so why are we expected to care?
- To get more into Kate which OOF I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY. A little backstory. Kate is a noble, and she was engaged to this noble, Dedrick. Dedrick’s lackey is named Nathaniel and he would walk Kate to and from Dedrick’s house to meet him. Nathaniel and Kate fall in love and get married and when we meet Kate she is pregnant with his child and living a life as a great seamstress. One day Dedrick stops by and is like whoa you’re really pregnant and having a great life. I’m happy for you. You make a great wife. I know why we wouldn’t work out, and I wouldn’t have made a good husband for you blah blah blah. He also showed up to commission some garment from her. So Nathaniel comes home and is rude to him and after he leaves Kate is like dude what the fuck? and Nathaniel says he forbids Dedrick coming in his house and Kate is like uh isn’t it our house? and Nathaniel is just like I forbid it. Don’t disobey me on this. My word is final. and offers no further explanation and it’s just discussion closed. AND OH YEAH DID I MENTION SHE’S ONLY LIKE A COUPLE WEEKS AWAY FROM GIVING BIRTH??
- So yeah. that happens. really shitty. oh and I forgot to mention. Aurelia is just watching this and says nothing. isn’t like Nathaniel stop what the fuck. And later she’s talking to Kate and is like “it will all work out”. WHICH. NO THANKS THAT’S GROSS. IF HE HAS A GOOD REASON FOR KATE TO STAY AWAY FROM DEDRICK, HE SHOULD SAY IT. NOT JUST FORBID IT. COME ON.
- Oh, also. The Bloodleaf flower of the title is super rare and can do incredible things, and Aurelia used it to save the life of someone she didn’t even know, but apparently she didn’t have the guts to tell the husband of her very pregnant “friend” that he was a controlling prick who didn’t deserve Kate.
- Kate continues to meet Dedrick because 1. he’s a customer and 2. he says that her mom misses her (she hasn’t seen her parents since she ran off with Nathaniel the commoner) and wants to see her again. So one day, she goes to his house because she’s going to meet her mom there. except her mom isn’t there and she’s like I want to leave. Dedrick then is like Nathaniel isn’t good for you he sucks and yes, Dedrick is trying to manipulate her, but he’s also not wrong?? We don’t get to see that much of Nathaniel and Kate, so the scene where Nathaniel acts like a jealous asshole and yells at his 8 months pregnant wife is very memorable and shapes their relationship in the eyes of the reader, or at least me. Also, the weight is put on Kate to be the better person? Nathaniel never apologizes, and Kate it seems, is the first one to speak after that. and it’s just total bullshit.
- So anyway Kate rejects him and Dedrick tries to kill her because oh yeah there’s also an annoying murder prophecy plot going on about bringing down the wall around the city and they need to kill three white horses, a maid, a mother, and a crone, and then three royals of the city/country/whotfknowswhatisthisworldbuilding. And Aurelia is there because this is all told in her pov in first person. so she kinda saves the day, stops Dedrick from stabbing her, but on their way home Kate goes into labor. Aurelia is aware there’s something wrong because Dedrick recited some words that also kinda make people die maybe? and so she runs to get this old healer woman. Kate gives birth to a baby girl, but they’re both not doing well and the healer woman has some tincture made of the Bloodleaf petal because she has cancer and it’s just enough to save Kate or the baby and the woman is fine dying because a mother shouldn’t survive her child because the old woman lost her son. so Kate dies and the baby lives. and Kate wanted to name her one thing, but then Nathaniel comes and changes the name?? it was weird I don’t even know I was a little disturbed.
- Getting into the Dedrick thing. So yes. He sucks. Nathaniel at a trial reveals that Dedrick had him rough up a bunch of people and also Dedrick probably killed his dad. So yes. Dude is trash. and he killed Kate. But Nathaniel also still sucks. 1. he should’ve told Kate why she shouldn’t hang around Dedrick instead of just acting like a jealous fucking asshole. and 2. he never apologized for yelling at her. and because Kate is dead and Dedrick is responsible, Nathaniel’s actions are never actually commented on, despite the fact that Kate wouldn’t have spent time with Dedrick (and thus died) if NATHANIEL HAD JUST FUCKING EXPLAINED WHY HE DIDN’T WANT HER TO SPEND TIME WITH HIM INSTEAD OF ACTING LIKE A JEALOUS ASSHOLE. Just because one person is obviously bad, doesn’t mean that another person who is more subtly shitty is good 🙂
- The Goose Girl really has enough of a plot without adding in this annoying prophecy plot thing. I just don’t think the world building was well done enough for it to be good.
- The maid who is pretending to be Aurelia after the ambush in the forest is named Lisette, and she has next to no characterization. We’re told that her and Aurelia were best friends when they were younger, but I don’t know why they stopped being friends, and she’s just kind of there. You’d think she’d be a larger part of the story, but no she’s just being manipulated by her dad and then SPOILER ALERT he kills her.
- So with Falada, Kate, and Lisette, that’s three of the named female characters down, but don’t worry, there’s more! The old healer woman from earlier? She is going to attend Dedrick in the dungeon because the king made it a rule that every prisoner has the right to see a healer if they can afford it so basically all the rich people just can get these healers to tend to them and then be like they can’t stand trial! and so they get off. and all the poor people who actually need healers can’t afford them.
- which also is a commentary on wealth and classes I suppose, but I guess I’m just confused because Aurelia doesn’t work? she just lives in a hut and is fine and somehow has food from these people who are allegedly her friends but we don’t actually really see? I don’t really know. Maybe I missed something, but she doesn’t work. BECAUSE THERE’S NO GEESE FOR HER TO TEND. It just doesn’t seem thought out to me.
- Back to the old healer lady, who one might call a crone, she’s attending Dedrick but yeah. you guessed it. he murders her for the prophecy so that’s four female characters dead out of nine major female characters, including one baby.
- And then Aurelia is killed (I don’t remember how) but she’s not actually because back in the beginning there was some blood magic done binding the lives of her mom, her guard friend, and the random dude she saved with the Bloodleaf (he’s a diplomat from the city/country thing most of this book takes place in and the love interest pretends to be his son) to hers so they’d die before she did. And instead of the other two people, it’s the mom who dies because of course. So that’s five.
- There’s some ghosty lady from some history 500 years ago who’s kinda haunting/protecting Aurelia and it seems like she dies for good at some point. I wasn’t going to mention her, but she is one of the significant female characters, and she is dead.
- So yeah. Six. Now, you might be wondering, but surely there are many female characters still alive? But I can only count three. There’s Aurelia, the main character. There’s Kate’s baby. and there’s this woman who is like a trusted advisor to Aurelia’s family and also didn’t want to die for her in that blood magic spell and so was replaced by the guard friend (she might be my favorite character because seems like she has some sense). Three. Characters. It seems absurd, but I can’t think of any other significant female characters who are still alive.
- Alright now back to the random diplomat dude. It’s just one throwaway line, but I’m pretty sure he and the previous king who is dead were a thing. Which is fine I guess except the king is dead??? and no, I’m pretty sure there aren’t any other queer characters. so yeah. also his sister married the next king aka diplomat dude’s lover’s brother.
- Also, that sister threw herself out of a tower to save her son, the prince, because he was really sick and apparently Bloodleaf flowers only bloom when someone bleeds on them? I think. And so she killed herself so he would live.
- Yes, that is the fourth woman dying so a child might live (if you weren’t keeping track, Kate for her baby, old healer lady for Kate’s baby[maybe she was killed by Dedrick, but she intended to because she gave up the Bloodleaf that was keeping her alive], and Aurelia’s mom for Aurelia. It’s a strong theme. which is all fine, I guess, but why don’t we ever see dads dying for their children?
- I also just did not like the writing at all. the dialogue was clunky, and it was not a fun time.
All in all, I do not recommend this book, and if you’re looking for a retelling of The Goose Girl where the main character actually tends to some geese, I recommend The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. It also has lots of great friendship.