The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Summary from Goodreads:
She can whisper to horses and communicate with birds, but the crown princess Ani has a difficult time finding her place in the royal family and measuring up to her imperial mother. When she is shipped off to a neighboring kingdom as a bride, her scheming entourage mounts a bloody mutiny to replace her with a jealous lady-in-waiting, Selia, and to allow an inner circle of guards more power in the new land. Barely escaping with her life, Ani disguises herself as a goose girl and wanders on the royal estate. Does she have the pluck to reclaim her rightful place? Get ready for a fine adventure tale full of danger, suspense, surprising twists, and a satisfying conclusion. The engaging plot can certainly carry the tale, but Hale's likable, introspective heroine makes this also a book about courage and justice in the face of overwhelming odds. The richly rendered, medieval folkloric setting adds to the charm.
I got familiar with Shannon Hale's writing through The Princess Academy and I am glad to have found the same things that I loved about Shannon Hale's writing, here in The Goose Girl.
There's the ability to create an idyllic setting where you can get to feel as close to nature as you can get through reading a book.
Then, there's making you feel that sense of community fostered by people in a certain kingdom and in this case, the respective kingdoms of Kildenree, Bayern, and even the Forest people.
And just as the "quarry speech" in The Princess Academy, Hale still emphasized the magic of a language through the three kinds of speaking: people-speaking, animal-speaking, and nature-speaking. Ani discovered that she actually possessed more than one of these three, which became an added complication to her life both as a Princess and future Queen and as a Girl.
Ani, the main protagonist, shows that genuineness that I find to be a typical Shannon Hale female lead characteristic. She is a young girl, just coming of age, filled with fears and insecurities, and in the process of finding her place in the world. She is suddenly thrust to fulfill responsibilities not befitting her age, and some not befitting at all. And yet somehow, she goes on and does it, she endures, but in the end she stood up to herself and proved that she has the heart and the capability to be a ruler of a kingdom.
I also loved how the romance was played out. Sweet, playful, subtle. In fact, I was a bit "kilig" about it, even though this is clearly a children's book.
During the time that I read this book, I was unfamiliar with the original Goose Girl fairytale. In fact, I thought it would be more along the lines of The Swan Princess, an animated movie I watched eons ago. (which I found out, is based on the ballet "Swan Lake") It was only after I've read the book and googled the original Grimm Brothers fairy tale that I learned how brilliant Shannon Hale is at crafting a new tale out of this. There were parts in the original that she kept and just added the right amount of new elements to enhance the fairy tale.
I have already included this on my list of favorite fairy tale retellings, along side Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted and Robin Mckinley's Beauty. :)
The Goose Girl is a recipient of the ff: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children's Literature (2010), Utah State Book Award, Utah Speculative Fiction Award Winner, Bank Street College of Education Josette Frank Award, ALA Teens' Top Ten (2004)