Title: The Goose Girl
Author: Shannon Hale
What it's about: This story is a retelling of the fairy tale that bears the same name. Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree is a meek girl who gets along better with animals than with people. When she is sixteen, her mother tells her of an arranged marriage with the prince of neighboring country Bayern. This marital alliance is for the good of Kildenree, as Bayern is a large and war-like country. Ani leaves for Bayern, uncertain of what the future holds but eager to finally be her own person. Accompanying her is her serving maid Selia and a guard named Talone. The journey ends in betrayal, and Ani must hide herself in Bayern until she has the means to confront the traitor who now poses as princess. To do so, she becomes a goose girl to the royal flock and learns about friendship, love, and what it means to be yourself.
What I thought: Well, I first read this book this past Christmas, once again in February, and now for the third time in June. Three times in about six months. I think that says a lot about how good this is. For one thing, the descriptions are beautiful, really painting the world of the story. Speaking of the world, it's a really developed one. The culture of Kildenree isn't too much touched on, but there are some nice developments that are mentioned in passing, and we learn a lot about the country of Bayern and its customs through Ani's work trying to fit in there. As for the story itself, it's a lovely adaption of the fairy tale, not afraid to change things up to make a more real story. Ani's an interesting heroine who changes quite nicely in her character development arc. Enna's also pretty well-developed as a character, which is good 'cause she stars in the sequel. Another plus is that while there's a definite romance in there for Ani, it's not a dominating part of the story, and it definitely doesn't play a sappy role in the resolution. I mean, it helps, but Ani does most of the work herself and with the help of her friends. And there's plenty of action, too, and life or death stuff. Really, this is an all-around great story.
Overall: One of my favorite stories ever.