by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury Books - YA
The Goose Girl is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale of the same name. When Crown Princess Ani is young, her unique ability to speak to animals becomes apparent. This special talent frightens the queen and those of her kingdom and, although Ani is kept closely guarded to prevent worsening the trouble that her ability has already caused, the queen eventually decides to send Ani to the neighboring kingdom of Bayern to marry the eldest prince as part of a peace treaty.
But, her own people betray her and Ani is left alone and defenseless. Eventually, she makes her way to Bayern, where she finds that the traitors have taken her place in the palace and are still are seeking her. With no way back to her home country, Ani finds a job as a lowly goose girl. As she spends her time with the geese, she begins to learn their language. Will Ani remain a goose girl all her life, forced to hide the physical features that identify her as a foreigner and which leave her vulnerable to the traitors who still want her dead? Or, will she find a way home or a chance to convince the king of her true identity?
My review: I began reading an e-book version of The Goose Girl on a stormy day and found it so enchanting that by the time the power came back on (the reason I switched from paper to e-book was the darkness in a powerless hallway), I was so engrossed that I couldn't bear to put it down. I love Shannon Hale's writing. She has a lovely way of putting together unexpected word combinations and the story, itself, is complex and adventurous but with moments of quiet scenes that help build the story and move it toward action. An absolutely beautiful retelling of a fairytale.
The bottom line: Gorgeous, lyrical writing with magical touches that feel as if they lie within the realm of possibility, a very likable heroine with tremendous challenges to overcome, fantastic plot and imaginative world-building make The Goose Girl a truly unique and wondrous book. A charming tale of courage and betrayal, tolerance and patience, love and loss. I went into the story without having read a cover blurb, since my book opened directly to the first page and I think that was a good thing. Each plot development was a surprise. I really never knew what was going to happen next and I liked that, so I've tried to keep my own review rather general to avoid spoiling the story for anyone, but I can at least tell you it's another favorite. If I had to rate it, I would give The Goose Girl a perfect score.
Cover thoughts: The cover above is the thumbnail cover of the e-book I purchased but I do have a paper copy with the image at left on its cover. I like both. The cover with a blonde-haired girl is fairly accurate to the description of the heroine, Princess Ani, with slightly darker blonde hair than described (close enough), geese flying in the background and an ivy-covered arch that one can imagine might lead into the castle grounds. The cover at left is cartoon-like but also lovely and fitting. Bright colors, geese and a castle draw you in. The awkward image of the princess is the only thing I dislike about it. She's a little too wacky-looking, but it has the look of "fairy tale" and I think it works.
There is a single review at Amazon warning that the book is "very mature". It's not. There's some slightly scary action and the bodies of criminals are hung on the city walls but no sex, no bad language, nothing that will harm a young reader. It's very clean and even a little romantic without any physical love beyond a kiss.
I'm going to try to hammer out a few more short reviews, if possible, today. I've fallen far enough behind that it's time to do a little catch-up. Remember, it's not necessary to read or comment on everything, even if you're a frequent visitor who likes to do so. Read what interests you, comment if you like, skip the rest. I'm just glad you feel like dropping by.