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Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Goose Girl (Bayern Book 1) by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl (Bayern Book 1) by Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Adventure Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (383 pgs)
Rating: 5 Suns
Reviewed by Asphodel

Anidora-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kilindree, spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s incredible stories, and learning the language of the birds. Little knowing how valuable her aunt’s strange knowledge would prove to be when she grew older.

From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become a queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must understand her own incredible talents before she can overcome those who wish her harm.

The original fairy tale that Goose Girl is based upon, The Goose Girl, is followed faithfully throughout this novel. Hale does an excellent job of expanding upon that tale and adding her own elements without making the additions seem superfluous. Ani (or Isi as she spends much of the book called) isn't a character to take lightly, but she doesn't come off as annoying or 'all-powerful'. Her growth is what makes this book so enjoyable.

Ani isn't like other princesses in that she doesn't act spoiled or enjoy being the center of attention. She has self-confidence issues, as well as an uncertainty about her purpose in the world. After her hand-maiden's (Selia's) betrayal and the knowledge that relying too heavily on 'magic' only ends in disaster, Ani takes her life in her own hands and begins to become a stronger person. She accepts that she had taken everything for granted in her old life and from then on proves that she isn't useless.

I adored Ani turned Isi. She never quite let herself become an angst-machine, doesn't wallow in self-pity and someone come save me woes. She makes a plan, finds it to be flawed in the extreme and makes a new plan. She's persistent in her belief that she needs to get back to her Kingdom (Kildenree) and tell her Mother the Queen about her hand-maiden's treachery. Once the imposter princess' plans for Kildenree and Bayern are revealed, she redoubles her efforts in order to save lives.

The isolation and aloneness that Isi feels, first as the Crown Princess of Kildenree then as Isi the Goose Girl, is keenly felt throughout the novel. Its not that Isi didn't want to make friends, or have people to talk to, but her experiences have taught her that betrayal lies around every corner, something she could no longer afford. As she grows to know the other animal keepers however she begins friendships that are true and lasting--Enna who feels a kinship with fire, Razo with his quick wit and humor. In the forest as well she met people that she felt comfortable with--Finn and his mother Gilsa, who help her when she is injured and sick.

Her romance with Geric is the least covered plot development in the whole of the book I think. Its not that it was sudden or abrupt, or felt rushed, but its simple just another piece of her tale. Their connection was real and their conversation was easy banter. I enjoyed seeing their interactions because during them Isi really proved how far she had come from the beginning of the novel when light chatter at a tea party tangled her tongue.

The finale was heart breaking and filled with courage. Isi may not have had the power of 'people-speak' (a magic that makes the user's words seem like the truth), but she had the power of understanding. She knew the people she was fighting with and for, she understood their fears and strengths, knew she could count on their support and love. They didn't fight just because they were her friends, they fought because they believed in her ability to help everyone.

Goose Girl is a wonderful, shining example of young adult literature that doesn't take growing up lightly. Though a fantasy with magic and royalty, Goose Girl is really a book about a girl who learns her own value through adversity and pain.

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