The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Release date: 2005
# 1 in series (standalone)
4/ 5 stars
CW: Violence, animal death
Synopsis (from GoodReads)
Anidora-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree 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.
Why I was interested:
It’s a retelling of The Goose Girl, and I love retellings.
What I liked:
I liked the magic system. It was simple, and the basic premise was that certain people have the ability to ‘speak.’ Some possess a gift for speaking to people, persuading them, guiding them, that sort of thing. Others can speak to animals, and our princess is one of these, learning to speak to birds from her aunt. The final ability is rare and allows a person to ‘speak’ to inanimate things, such as wind, or fire.
I liked that while magic was a useful tool, it was not the solution to Ani’s problems. I also liked that it was like any other skill – you had to learn and practice and hone it over time. It wasn’t instant. All that was inherent was the ability to be able to learn. So in Ani’s case, she spent years practicing her ability to speak to swans and other types of birds. She didn’t magically work it all out over night.
I enjoyed the romance in the Goose Girl, mainly because it was subtle and sweet, and didn’t take centre stage. The emphasis in The Goose Girl was really on friendship, ‘found family,’ and developing self confidence in the face of adversity. I really adored Ani’s friendships with a number of side characters, and overall I felt that Ani’s growth was really organic and believable.
What I didn’t like:
As you can see above I’ve given a content warning for animal death. I found it rather distressing personally, and I don’t know if I can even say it was justified, or that it really contributed to the story. Either way, I don’t think the on page gore was necessary at all.
My only other comment regards that depth and complexity of the secondary characters (which was pretty much every character apart from Ani). The bad guys are pretty stereotypical and 2D, and any complexity in the other side characters is only really hinted at and not much explored in this novel (but there are other novels in the series!). So if you like all of your characters deep, and morally grey, this is not the book for you. It’s probably going a bit far to say this was something I really disliked. I just wish I had got a bit more from the side characters.
Do you like fairytale retellings? What is your favourite? Have you read The Goose Girl? Let me know in the comments below.