The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

goosegirlThis quaint story was a refreshing find among the edgier novels flanking it on the shelf. Based off of the Grimm fairy tale of the same name, The Goose Girl is the story of young Ani, Crown Princess of Kildenree. An unusual trait for a book’s main character, Ani is not a good communicator and has trouble articulating herself. Her eccentric aunt teaches her a language at which Ani is much more adept– the language of the birds and swans.

Unfortunately, her mother, the Queen, does not approve of Ani’s animal-speaking, and confines her to the palace. Eventually, Ani’s lack of socialization causes her to lose her crown. She’s thus sent to the distant land of Bayern, to marry a strange prince and secure an alliance between the nations. Atop her noble white horse, Falada, and in the company of her guards and her lady-in-waiting, Selia, Ani sets off for a new life, only to meet mutiny and betrayal in the deep forest.

Robbed of her belongings, her beloved horse, and all proof of her identity save for her yellow hair, Ani flees her guards’ murderous treachery, while the conniving Selia assumes Ani’s identity to steal the crown. Without any evidence to convince Bayern’s king of Selia’s fraud, Ani must make a way of life for herself in the foreign land of Bayern, and does so by tending the king’s geese. While Ani’s ability to converse with birds and her horse is prevalent throughout the story, so also is her budding ability to speak the language of the wind.

A traditional fantasy with the motif of swapped/stolen identities between prince(ss) and pauper, this was a charming book. Hale presents refreshingly innocent characters, and proves that a YA story does not need edginess and grit to enchant readers.

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