Crown Princess Anidori of Kildenree knows that she isn’t the ideal princess. This painful point is driven home every time her mother looks at her, every time she stumbles over her own words, every time her best friend, Selia, manages to look more regal than she does. It’s all Ani can do just to try to be the perfect princess everyone expects her to be, let alone get over her insecurity enough to actually make her mother proud.
Still, she didn’t expect her mother to callously marry her off to a Bayern prince and name her younger brother heir to the throne. Ani, feeling shocked and betrayed, clings to who she thinks is her only friend: Selia, who in turn betrays her and takes her name to claim the Bayern prince and throne for herself.
Ani manages to get away with her life, and takes the job of a goose girl in the Bayern palace. As she works with the geese, she learns that she has a special kinship with wind, which proves useful in both watching the sheep and in keeping herself safe from Selia’s henchmen. She desperately wants to reclaim her life, but even with new friends and her connection with the wind, how can she win against Selia’s treachery?
The Goose Girl is a fantastic coming-of-age story about a heroine who, despite her royal origins, is as lifelike as any character I’ve read about. You can’t help but cheer for Ani as she learns to take care of herself, makes friends, and eventually finds the courage to stand up to Selia. The countries of Kildenree and Bayern are so richly imagined that you can almost hear the wind and feel it against your face.
Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors, and even though I wasn’t interested in The Goose Girl at first, her lyrical writing and the work she put into creating Ani and Bayern drew me in. The way she paced The Goose Girl may be a bit slow to younger readers and readers who are used to snappy action without a pause for breath, but I find it refreshing and every bit as exciting as most novels out there. (Maybe not heart-pounding, but certainly exciting.) Just be sure to make your way past the first few pages, which were what put me off originally, and you’ll be drawn in.
If you liked The Goose Girl, there are currently three sequels: Enna Burning, which follows the adventures of Ani’s friend and closest confidant, Enna; River Secrets, which follows their friend Razo as he works as a spy in a neighboring, hostile country; and Forest Born, which are the adventures of Razo’s little sister Rinna, who fights to combat the same weakness that both aided and betrayed Selia. Shannon Hale has also written several novels for adults; two other novels for kids and teens: Princess Academy and Book of a Thousand Days; and has co-written two graphic novels for kids: Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack.