It's about: Based on the fairy tale by the brothers Grimm, The Goose Girl is about Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee (just "Ani" is fine), a girl who can communicate with horses and birds, but feels out of place as a royal. She cannot live up to her mother's standards and is uncomfortable with people. While en route to an arranged marriage with the prince of the neighboring kingdom Bayern, Ani's lady-in-waiting Selia and half of her guards betray her in a scheme to steal her crown. Ani barely escapes with her life, disguises herself, and sneaks into the capital of Bayern where she becomes the palace goose herder, and tries to figure out what to do.
I thought: Shannon Hale spares no grief with her characters. Anything that brings Ani joy or even is a reminder of who she is taken away from her: her aunt, her father, her horse, her title, and even more. I admired that Shannon Hale is unafraid of putting her characters through hell, because the characters have enough resilience to gain triumph.
The characterization of Ani is impeccable. Ani herself is flawed and not at all the conventional strong type: shy, insecure and ignorant, but she uses her unusual gifts that were not originally accepted in her homeland to raise herself up and work through her troubles and as a result, becomes strong.
It is in Shannon Hale's prose that this novel shines. It felt like reading a song as I read - not like reading song lyrics, but being in the song and carried along with it as she described the world and the characters through her lyrical writing. The descriptive writing pulled me into this fantastic world, making sure I was there with Ani throughout her entire journey and left me crying and cheering to the very end.
Verdict: Please stick this masterpiece on the shelf.
Reading Recommendations: It's a long one, but it's great for all ages. I first read this when I was 18, but my nieces read it when they were 12. It was just as good re-reading it 3 years later.
Warnings: Some descriptions of people being killed, but not too graphic.
Favorite excerpts: “The pasture was a violent green, smoothed of shadows and imperfections by sheer speed, just one color united. The gray of the wall was constant to her right, the shimmer of the stream to her left, and she let her heart be lifted by the wind that seemed so thick as to blow through her body and make her light as itself. The horse felt glad to run, and the pressure from her legs bade him go faster, and faster. The wind fought her hat brim and filled up her ears, speaking words that she thought she could almost hear, and she rode faster, wanting to get closer to the source, to get inside the wind and see what it saw. They neared the northern hedge, and Ani crouched low to the horse’s neck and gripped his sides with her knees, feeling herself become part of the thundering of hoofbeats, and then the tremendous escape from earth as he leaped. Her body lifted skyward and free.”
“When Ani beat Razo at sticks for the first time, all the watchers cheered, Ani raised her hands and cheered, too, and laughed so freely that her loneliness broke and fell away as though she had never felt it."
“The voice of the wind entered that same place insider her where she had always heard Falada’s, though its tones were unlike. It was an icy finger of thought, a rush of words that expected no response, as indifferent to her as a tree. It was beautiful. There in the cold, blue shadow of winter night, Ani cried for Falada, and for the beauty of the language of the wind, and for the reminder of who she was.”
"'I know that song. Does it have words here? Do you say, "The tales that trees could tell, the stories wind would sing"?'
'"Hear the trees a-listening, feel the fire whispering. See the wind a-telling me all the forest dreams." It’s an old tune. I used to sing it to my boy. It talks about the old tales, I guess. How in faraway places there are people what talk to things no people, but to the wind and trees and such. "The falcon hears the boar, the child speaks to spring." And to animals too, I gather. I’ve always wondered.'"
What I'm reading next: Johnny Tremain