The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Goose Girl

Author: Shannon Hale

Published: August, 2003 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Number of Pages: 300

Rating: 5/5

Quote:

’Why aren’t you playing?’ said Ani, gesturing to the many games of cards and sticks around the room.

“’Oh, the fire,’ said Enna. Its orange fingers waved specters on the blacks of Enna’s eyes. ‘I get to looking and can’t look away. Don’t you ever feel like fire is a friendly thing? That it’s signaling to you with its flames, offering something?’

“Ani watched not the fire but the play of its light on Enna’s face and felt comfort that there were others who listened for language in what was supposed to be mute and who sought out meaning in what was only beautiful.”

Review:

If you’re looking for a book that has a refreshingly unique take on a classic idea, The Goose Girl is destined for you. I love this book. You’ll notice it’s not on my “Best Books Ever” list, but it’s close. The thing is, I don’t just love it – I like it so much, which, ultimately, makes a huge difference. It’s the sort of book you want to get along with, be friends with. And it’s a book I imagine recommending to my future children. It’s not childish in the least, despite the fairy tale similitude. It’s hauntingly beautiful and shines brightly within YA literature. I’m entirely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I plan to read every book Shannon Hale has published and will publish (my to-read shelf on Goodreads is bulging…).

The book begins the day Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, is born and branches out gracefully from there. When her mother sends her off on a long journey to Bayern to marry a stranger/prince, we head along. And when Ani’s lady-in-waiting rebels, along with a majority of the guard, we watch. And when Ani continues to travel to Bayern, chickens out of telling the truth when talking to the king, and becomes his Goose Girl, we join the world of adolescent, forest-born workers alongside her. I will not lie (and the author actually addresses this in the interview in the back of the copy I read), the book does begin slowly. It took me awhile to immerse myself in the story, but the moment you realize you love this books is so scrumptiously sweet that the few pages of slowness are worth it.

Ani/Isi/Princess/Goose Girl is one surprising young woman. Her original timidity and awkwardness give you the impression that’s she’s a bit spineless. She evolves throughout the story, blossoming into one heck of a lady. You cheer for her, you fear for her, and you love her.

In fact, I felt that Hale did a fantastic job with all of her characters. They were well fleshed-out (haha – “fleshy”) and there were so many different facets to all of the characters’ personalities. They were capable of adapting to situations, but stayed in character throughout. Even when you were shocked by what they may’ve said or done, you acknowledged that you could see how their opinions, beliefs, and personalities had molded their actions.

This is quoted from one of my tweets at http://twitter.com/MadeleineRex:

“Hale does a wonderful job with an idea that could easily have been butchered.”   -I stand by that assertion now as well. I can easily imagine someone doing a fantastically terrible job with this book and am so pleased that the idea popped into the head of the person it did.

I am not much for fantasy (although I’ve surprised myself by how many “fantastical” books I’ve enjoyed). I’m not very interested in goblins and warlocks and faeries, typically, and this is a fantasy novel that doesn’t mention a single one of those things. I believe it’s listed under fantasy for its fairy tale-like atmosphere, which is something that might immediately turn off some. I warn that group: This book will surprise you. It doesn’t begin with “Once upon a time” and it doesn’t end with “and they lived happily ever after”. A prince does not awaken a princess from a troubled, fated sleep. It feels like a fantasy world that could be real, as contradictory as that sounds. I feel as though Ani’s power of animal-speaking is something someone could practice and learn to do well. I’m particularly fond of something Hale says to an interview question. I’ll post it:

’We know that animals communicate with each other, so from there I wondered, would it be possible that a person could learn an animal’s language?…

“’…I made a concerted effort that, though everything has a language, its essence doesn’t change: an owl is not a wise sage, it’s just a bird trying to find a meal; a goose doesn’t have much to say; a horse is not interested in political intrigue…’”

I appreciate the grounded-ness among the fantasy, don’t you?

I mentioned I felt that Ani’s world was real to me and I believe that much of that feeling is the result of the unaddressed time setting and made-up location. The fact that, in all honesty, this story did not happen at any exact point in the past or the future, anywhere, makes the book timeless. Just as Sleeping Beauty will be Sleeping Beauty today, tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows to come, The Goose Girl will remain a book that’s mystically seductive and an altogether pleasing bite of fantasy forever.

I recommend this book to everyone looking for something that simply will not settle within one category and utterly refuses to be loved by only one type of person.

2 Commentsto “The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale; Review”

  1. That's a great review, Madeleine. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've read so many good things about the book and have it in my TBR as well. I need to get to this soon. 🙂

  2. I also adore The Goose Girl and Shannon Hale in general! Have you read Princess Academy? It's another great one by Hale!

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