Book review - The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
review by Taylor L.
The book centers around the Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree, a small kingdom with more powerful neighbors. As a child she bonds with her aunt, who becomes her nursemaid and constant companion. She tells Ani, as the Princess is soon nicknamed, stories about three gifts certain people have: people-speaking (the power to manipulate people and persuade them in your favor), animal-speaking (the ability to communicate primarily with animals, using their sounds) and nature-speaking (the ability to communicate with certain elements, which the aunt says is very rare). The aunt goes on to say that Ani's mother, the Queen, has the gift of people-speaking, as do many monarchs; she also says that she herself has the gift of animal-speaking. Though when Ani asks what gift she might have, her aunt says that it is still to early to tell.
Available on Amazon.com here: The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern)
Written by Shannon Hale, it is an enchanting tale. Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, was born with her eyes shut. Ani's eyes did not open for three days. She was a fast learner once her eyes were open. Her loving aunt taught her to speak of nature and of un-queenly things. The queen believed that her first born, Ani, was anomalous, starting when she could have fluent conversation with adults at age two and supposedly, with the help of the queen's foolish sister, speak with birds. Her father, the King of Kildenree, thought his daughter was grand. After all, why should the best of Kildenree be with any family but theirs? As Ani grew older, she was taught the ways of a queen, but the queenly things were boring to her. She can not quite reach the perfection her mother who demands it and normalcy wanted.
The setting of this story is in a fantasy land that is not much different than our ancient past. The city in which the royal family lives lay amid a grassy valley with a slightly golden wall enveloping the city. Past the valley is an extensive forest which takes months for the merchants to travel through. The merchants come from the country of Bayern, Kildenree's only neighbor. Part of Kildenree's border with Bayern is the unsurpassable Bavara Mountains. Bayern is a flat and partly barren. With its deep love of war going back numerous generations, it is shocking that they have not warred with Kildenree yet. Why?
I felt that Ms. Shannon Hale, the author, did excellent as a yarn-spinner. The story was "enchanting" as The New York Times Book Review claims. I went happily into this enchantment. The whole cast of characters were nicely developed throughout the duration of the story. They were everything from curious, mystifying, amiable, and lethal. How Ms. Hale wrote was exquisite as well - though third person is not always my favorite. Here, it added a "story teller by the evening fire" effect. It was both warm and inviting. Sadly, The Goose Girl is labeled as children's literature because of the lack of edgy content that young adult novels typically contain despite The Goose Girl story describing the first sixteen years of Ani's life. The story should not be judged by where a book store places it on the shelf because it is a delightful change from the gore and violence that is seeping into our media.