NESFA Members' Reviews

The Goose Girl

by Shannon Hale

Bloomsbury, 2003, ISBN 0-58234-843-X

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

Anidora-Kilandra, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends her early childhood learning her aunt's stories and the language of birds, which has the unhappy effect of making her a figure of some suspicion and distrust to many of those around her. She has not inherited her mother's gift for commanding and persuading those she speaks to. After her aunt is sent away from court (because of her bad influence on Anidora), she's only really close to her father, her horse, and, she imagines, her lady-in-waiting, Selia. When her father dies, just before her sixteenth birthday, her mother reveals that she negotiated a treaty years ago, for Anidora to marry the heir of a neighboring kingdom, to seal a peace and avoid a war that little Kildenree would surely lose. Her father the king believed that the treaty involved the second daughter, the third child, but the queen decided that, since her eldest daughter was clearly unsuited to the role of reigning queen, the crown should go to their second child, the only son.

So Ani is packed off to Bayern with an impressive entourage, including her lady-in-waiting, Selia. As they get closer and closer to Bayern, Ani realizes that Selia and some of the guards and attendants are behaving rather oddly, and eventually understands that Selia is not her friend. It's still a surprise to her when Selia and her cabal among the guards turn upon her and the loyal guards. Most of the loyalists are killed, Ani flees into the forest, and Selia proceeds on to the capital of Bayern, taking Ani's place as the princess.

Ani, of course, becomes the king's goose girl, makes the acquaintance of a palace guard, makes friends, and learns an awful lot about how to relate to people and how to lead them, and about her own talents and gifts that she could never have learned from mother.

This is an adaptation of the Goose Girl fairy tale, so you know how it ends. It's an enjoyable adaption, and the only seriously worrying part is the promise that it's the first of a planned trilogy. Why does the Goose Girl need even one sequel, much less two?

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