Monday, April 18, 2011

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl
by Shannon Hale
Copyright 2003
Bloomsbury Books - YA
400 pages

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.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. Anonymous9:28 AM

    I have meant to read this book for years. I like the cover with pretty girl. Hmmm...can I put one more thing on my library hold list? Let's see. :-)

  2. I've never read ANY of Hale's stuff, but if I were going there, it would definitely be this book. I'm glad you liked it Nancyloo!!!

  3. This is one that I wished I had read because I didn't care for the theatrical audiobook version at all! I still gave it a 4/5 though and thought it was a "delightful adventure." I'm so happy to see that you did, too. I haven't gotten to the next one yet, but . . . one day. :)

  4. I have never read the original story from the Brothers Grimm, so this review was totally new to me. I really like fairy-tale retellings though, and the fact that you loved this book certainly sways me more than a little bit. This is a book that I think I would like to check out, and I appreciate that you avoided spoilers in your review. It was wonderful to read, and I look forward to trying this one out for myself. Thanks!

  5. I love this book. It's definitely my favorite of Shannon Hales. That's funny about the "very mature" warning.

  6. Kay,

    So . . . how big is that library hold list? LOL I will tell you I gobbled The Goose Girl down in nothing flat. There, now you know you can bring it home on top of the rest of that pile. ;)


    You have finally succeeded in shocking me! I can't believe you haven't read The Goose Girl. I just can't. Could you get that big fella of yours to help me up off the floor?

  7. Joy,

    I've discovered I have a low tolerance for audio books. Either the reader isn't dramatic enough or is too dramatic or I don't like their voice or all the parts they read sound the same. There's always something to put me off. Theatrical audiobooks are better -- you mean with more than one voice, right? It must not have been too bad for a 4/5!


    If I've read the original, I've forgotten it. I did have a big book of fairy tales as a child, but I'm pretty sure they weren't Grimm's, so I'm leaning toward thinking I've never read it. Regardless, the story is wonderful. I have read one other book by Hale, The Princess Academy, and the slow build-up nearly did me in but I recall feeling like it was worth the wait. The Goose Girl totally sucked me in and held on. It was partly the realization that I'd found something I really didn't want to put down that helped me set aside the other book I was reading at the time (My Jane Austen Summer - which became a DNF 125 pages in).

  8. Jenny,

    I'm pretty sure I've just read two books by Shannon Hale but The Goose Girl is definitely my favorite of the two. I've got Enna Burning on my challenge shelf and just writing this review has made me doubly eager to read it!

  9. That sounds fabulous!

  10. Kathy,

    It is, indeed. :)

  11. Sounds lovely I've been wanting to read it too.

  12. Jeane,

    I'm glad I finally got around to it! I hope you fall in love with it, like I did.

  13. I just loved this book when I read it as well! It was so enchanting and I couldn't put it down :) I'm hoping to read Book of the Thousand Days by this author for the Once Upon a Time V Challenge...let's hope I get the chance :)

  14. Samantha,

    Isn't it wonderful? I think I used the word "enchanting" in there, somewhere, too. I just couldn't bear to set it aside, after I started. I think I might have a copy of Book of the Thousand Days, too. I'll have to scrounge for that one and add it to my (personal) challenge shelf, if I do. I've been in a fantasy mood, lately. The Nathaniel Hawthorne book I read probably would have fit the Once Upon a Time Challenge, too, had I felt like joining.

  15. I loved it. It was my favorite in the series that continues with other characters. I also enjoyed her Book of a Thousand Days. She knows how to twist a traditional fairy tale!

  16. Jenclair,

    I wondered if you'd read The Goose Girl! I just realized it's my third Shannon Hale read; I'd forgotten about Austenland. So far, I've loved everything I've read by her, but The Goose Girl is definitely my favorite of the three. I agree; she knows how to turn a fairy tale into an adventurous new story.

  17. Glad you liked The Goose Girl! Enna Burning is fantastic as well. Shannon Hale doesn't leave her world-building just to the first book. She keeps on developing the world and the characters through Enna Burning and River Secrets. I haven't read the fourth book yet.


Thank you for visiting my blog! I use comment moderation because apparently my blog is a spam magnet. Don't worry. If you're not a robot, your comment will eventually show up and I will respond, with a few exceptions. If a comment smacks of advertising, contains a dubious link or is offensive, it will be deleted. I love to hear from real people! I'm a really chatty gal and I love your comments!