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Shannon Hale
book cover

2003, August, Bloomsbury
Buy from Amazon.com (hardcover)

Who recommends: Edith, Danielle
Who discommends:

Ani is a princess who is able to learn and speak the language of animals. Unfortunately, she doesnÕt have the gift of speaking to people (IÕd call it charisma), which the kings and queens of her country have always had. Probably because of this lack, her mother decides that even though Ani is the Crown Princess and was supposed to become Queen, she will be married to the prince of the neighboring powerful kingdom. Ani feels hurt and deeply betrayed as sheÕs sent off with a royal retinue.

Near the end of her journey, she has to flee for her life. She is saved by peasants, dons a disguise, and becomes a goose girl as she tries to figure out how to reclaim her rightful place. When she acquires the post of Goose Girl, Ani slowly and incrementally makes friends and learns the difficult speech of the geese. One of the men she meets is one of the princeÕs guards who has problems with his horse. He visits often, bringing her lunch. She falls in love, of course, but the romance is not to be.

Ani is forced to decide on a course of action.... There were many tense moments as Ani eludes her captors, and I wondered how she could possibly be saved approaching the gripping ending. This book is a nice blend of adventure and romance. Definitely recommended.--Edith (5 Dec 04)

I enjoyed this very much. The Grimm fairy tale that it's based on was one of my favourites as a child--I was a little morbid, what can I say--and I was happy to see it done so imaginatively. I would compare this book to McKinley's fairy tale retellings in THE DOOR IN THE HEDGE; if you like those, you'll appreciate this. The prose was lovely, if a bit self-consciously "literary" (some of the figurative language tries too hard for an effect).

The romance was subtly done and convincing. There were more philosophical musings on the nature of identity and justice than I'd have expected in a YA novel, but I liked the fact that Ani didn't simply step back into her old life without being changed, and without acknowledging the cost.--Danielle (7 Dec 04)

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