Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl
by Shannon Hale

Trade Paperback: 383 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
First Released: 2003

Source: Bought from Amazon

Back Cover Blurb:
Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady in waiting leads a mutiny during Ani’s journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to help her. She becomes a goose girl and must use her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny.

This is a "fairy tale re-telling" based on a Grimm's fairy tale. The world-building in this book is good as is the pacing. The characters act and change realistically throughout the book. The romance in the story develops slowly. There are a few kisses, but no sex. I don't recall any curse words being used. Overall, I'd recommend this as "a good, clean fun" novel.

Excerpt: Chapter One
She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.

The pacing queen directed ministers and physicians to the crib. They listened to her breathing and her hummingbird heart, felt her fierce grip and her tiny fingers soft as salamander skin. Al was sound. But her eyes did not open.

For three days the grave-faced attendants came and went. They prodded her, lifted her lids, slipped thick yellow syrups down her throat

“You are a princess,” the queen whispered to her ear. “Open your eyes.”

The baby cooed in her sleep.

When the third day had worn away to the lake blue of evening, a hand parted the nursery curtains. All was still for the night. The queen dozed on the bed. The baby in her crib dreamed of milk, her round, perfect lips nursing in sleep. A woman in a fern green robe pulled aside the curtains and tiptoed across the carpets. She slid her callused hands under the infant’s back and head, held her up, and grinned.

“Did you call me out of my house to come and tell you stories?” she said. “I will, my fat one, if you will listen.”

The queen awoke to the sounds of the rocking chair creaking and a voice singing about magpies and pigeons. She stood up, ready to call the guards, then saw that it was her own sister who sang to the baby, and that the baby was looking back at her aunt with wide eyes.

It was the aunt who shortened the crown princess’s name to Ani.

On clear days she took Ani to the north edge of the palace grounds where no wall had been built. That far out, the garden was allowed to stray out of its ordered beds and rows and merge with the occasional copse of ash and pine. The aunt felt easier there, and she held her niece’s small hand and named all she saw.

“You see the bird on the tallest branch there, the one with a yellow breast?” she’s migrating farther north now that the weather is warmer. The bluewing there is looking for twigs and says he has a found a picky mate.”

Ani began to speak sentences at one year. The aunt knew too well how Kildenreans disliked anything outside the common, and she tried to keep Ani’s progress hidden. But the household staff noted it, and rumours began that perhaps the queer green-clad nurse-mary possessed unnatural methods of awakening a child’s words.

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