by Shannon Hale
Conditional Recommendation: A betrayed princess must change her name and become a goose girl to survive until she can reveal her true identity and reclaim her crown.
Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling
Isn’t that cover gorgeous? The Goose Girl is one of my favorites and I return to it again and again. The experience of this book is enchanting. It also has all the things I personally want in a book: fantasy, adventure, suspense, friendship, introspection, love, courage, growth, and what is true, right, and good prevailing in the end.
On her way to marry a Bayern prince she has never met, Princess Anidori-Kiladra, Crown Princess of Kildenree, is betrayed by her guard and her lady-in-waiting. Forced to flee, she becomes a goose girl to survive and to bide her time until she can travel back to Kildenree. Meanwhile, her lady-in-waiting has set herself up as the princess and means to eliminate anything that could reveal her deceit. Ani must grow from a passive princess to a courageous young woman who is prepared to do what is necessary to reclaim what is rightfully hers.
This story is a fairy tale retelling of the classic Grimm Brother’s Goose Girl. Hale does a fantastic job of weaving magic into the story in such a subtle way that it complements rather than dominates. The effect is such that the experience feels like a fairy tale but also like a medieval adventure.
The plot carries the story along wonderfully, with just enough twists and turns to bring you to the high-stakes climax toward the end. As I keep saying, the experience of this book is a big part of what makes it so good and seeing it through the eyes of a likeable, introspective girl makes it all the better.
The love story is sweet, well-paced, and awkward—like many relationships can be initially! No instant crush, no obsession over the other’s looks, but an accidental friendship that deepens into love and hope for a future. It’s well done!
Ani—who goes by “Isi” for much of the book—is thrown into circumstances that force her to grow up in ways she was never able to in a pampered palace with an intimidating mother. She must learn to think ahead, figure out what she needs, ask for help, serve others, and survive on her own. This book is a fairy tale, an adventure, but at its heart it’s a coming-of-age story. Ani must learn so much in order to become the princess she was always meant to be. She must make friends and come to know and understand Bayern like no one else in the palace to be a princess that is right for the people of her new country. Throughout the book you witness her fear and then her courage as she rises to each occasion as it comes. I would like to be like that through life: be afraid and then act by faith and with courage by taking the step that’s right in front of me. Ani is an excellent role model.
The magic has a fairy-tale feel to it and is rooted in old tales, tales that Ani’s aunt tells her when she’s a little girl. “Some people are born with the first word of a language resting on their tongue, though it may take some time before they can taste it. There are three kinds, three gifts.” (pg. 5)
The aunt goes on to explain what the three gifts are: people-speaking, animal-speaking, and nature-speaking. I won’t say more, since I want you to find out for yourself what Ani discovers.
There’s some violence and death, and it can be descriptive at times but I wouldn’t call it gory or overdone. In this aspect, Hale says it like it is and we aren’t left with nasty or horrifying images dancing in our heads, but we do have the reality of it. Characters react appropriately to violence and evil and there is a prevailing sense of justice laced through the story.
The entire plot leads up to Ani taking a great step of courage and speaking the truth against believable falsehoods.
All in all, this is an enchanting read. The full cast audio production is very enjoyable and this would be a good book to read aloud at home. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Happy reading!
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