Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

I really loved Beauty by Robin McKinley, so when I discovered that The Goose Girl was also a retelling of a fairy tale, I was intrigued. And I’m so glad I picked it up!

The goose girl was not a fairy tale I was familiar with, so it was fun to read it for the first time from the author’s interpretation. Ani, a young princess from Kildenree, is betrothed to a prince in a far away land, Bayern. She is a shy child and learns to speak to swans and other birds. Although her family does not value this ability, her aunt teaches Ani how to develop it. Ani is the Crown Princess, and so is the next in line to take the throne; however, her mother feels her brother has more of the stuff that leaders are made of. Instead of taking the throne in Kildenree, Ani’s mother makes a peace treaty with Bayern, with Ani as the proof in the pudding. Ani, an awkward and insecure teenager, is upset by this, but goes along with the deal. Her lady-in-waiting, Selia, and several guards go with her as well as her trusty steed, Falada, with whom she can communicate in her thoughts. +/-

Soon, things begin to change during their long journey, as Selia and many of the guards start acting strange around Ani. Finally, they strike, and their plan is revealed: they will have Selia take Ani’s place as the princess and she will marry the prince in Bayern. Ani barely escapes certain death and eventually finds her way into the city. There, she becomes one of the tenders of the king’s geese and earns her nickname because of her special way with the birds. She disguises herself, learns the local dialect, and makes friends with the other servants. Ani has many close scraps with her old guards and lives in almost constant fear of discovery—all the while trying to figure out how to restore her true identity before Selia and her friends destroy any hope of setting things right.

The language was absolutely lovely, poetic really. Hale has an amazing way with words. I enjoyed the pictures she painted, and I felt like I could really imagine the city and the people the way she described them. I felt enveloped in this story and completely enchanted (which is fitting, considering), and by the time I was about a third the way through, I couldn’t put it down. This book is going straight to my “must read” list.

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