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Book Review: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Welcome back to The Bookish Context! Today, I will be reviewing The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, a wondrous fairy-tale retelling imbued with adventure and emotional growth. It is the first book in The Books of Bayern series and has been on my radar for the longest time especially because I adored the Book of a Thousand Days audiobook.

Synopsis

She was born with her eyes closed and a word on her tongue, a word she could not taste. Her name was Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. And when she was older, she watched as a colt was born, and she heard the first word on his tongue, his name, Falada. From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original, and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.

Content Warnings

Animal Cruelty and Death

Book Cover of The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Sometimes it seems my identity’s a matter of opinion

Ani, The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale

My Thoughts

Writing Style and World Building

There is a distinctive charm to Shannon Hale’s writing present in all her works. The simplicity of the storytelling as we follow the journey of Ani coming to her own as a princess makes for an engaging read. The story has a slow build-up, her development as an individual allows her to fully harness her powers. This novel has a unique system of powers featuring ancient elemental magic.

There are three kinds, three gifts. Did you know your mother has the first? The gift of people-speaking. Many rulers do. You see? And people listen to them, and believe them, and love them. I remember as children it was difficult to argue with your mother—her words confused me, and our parents always believed her over me. That can be the power of people-speaking.

Characters and Relationships

The romance in my opinion is unremarkable, it is the bond she has with her horse Falada, and the friendship and kindness she finds at Bayern from her saviour Gilsa and fellow worker Enna among others, which is memorable. They all stand by her and band together in her support when she needs to prove her identity. The scenes wherein they joke around during meals and listen riveted to her stories, have a sense of quiet tranquillity.

A Screenshot of The Goose Girl Audiobook

The goose boy Conrad is constantly suspicious and jealous of her abilities and reveals her identity to Ungolad and his treacherous cohorts but eventually, his contrition allows him to play a pivotal role in preventing the escape of Selia, Ani’s duplicitous lady-in-waiting who was impersonating her.

Selia believes that power should be bestowed based on capability rather than birth, although I do agree with the sentiment, there are way too many adjoining factors that make the concept quite convoluted in real-life practice. Her actions including the massacre of the princess’s loyal guards and most importantly her readiness to instigate a war between the kingdoms to hide her deceit, using her gift of manipulation and persuasion through people-speaking make the punishment brought about by her viciousness well-deserved.

Ani’s experiences as a goose girl allow her to come to terms with established realities for commoners that she had hitherto been ignorant to. She also questions the pompous attitude of the aristocracy.

But in a country where you hang your dead up on walls and pride whether or not a man bears a javelin more than his character, how am I to persuade you out of a war?

I could thoroughly empathize with Ani’s frustration and helplessness; the royal court disregarded her earnest entreaties and even left her to fend off her tormentors (fortunately that took a positive, if predictable turn).

Themes

This story eloquently conveys how in the process of personal growth one encounters challenges that can seldom be anticipated. One can find one’s own brand of courage despite moments of pusillanimity, as depicted aptly as Anni confronts the Bayern royalty for their ineptitude.

Maybe I know more about your city than you do, and I certainly know more about Kildare. Believe me, there is no war. If you want evidence, explain why a mother would send her first daughter into her enemy’s camp. I’ll be your evidence.

In conclusion, the full-cast audiobook brought Bayern and its inhabitants to life. 

My Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Recommendation

This book will recommend itself to anyone who enjoys an immersive fairy-tale retelling with a quaint or whimsical narrative. I have high hopes for the rest of the books in The Books of Bayern series.

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About the Author

Shannon Hale is the New York Times best-selling author of over thirty children’s and young adult novels, including graphic novel memoirs Real Friends and Best Friends, and multiple award winners The Goose Girl, Book of a Thousand Days, and Newbery Honor recipient Princess Academy. She also penned three books for adults, beginning with Austenland, which is now a major motion picture starring Keri Russell. With her husband Dean Hale, she co-wrote over a dozen books, such as Eisner-nominated graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and illustrated chapter book series The Princess in Black. They live with their four children near Salt Lake City, Utah.

Have you read the The Goose Girl, what did you think ?

Have you read any other book by Shannon Hale that you liked ?

Feel free to chat with me in the comments below!!

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