Book Recommendation: The Goose Girl

12 Dec

by Vanessa Di Gregorio

“She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.”

I am a huge fan of fairytales; and an even bigger fan of fairytale retellings. And though I know I’m late to the party with Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl (which was originally published in 2003), I’m only sad that it took me so long to finally pick up this book. I absolutely adored this book; I loved every page of it! And I’ve already picked up the other books in The Books of Bayern series.

Based on the German fairytale of the same name, the story follows a young princess who is sent off by her mother to be married to a prince in another land, with her talking horse Falada and a waiting-maid accompanying her. The waiting-maid steals the identity of the Princess when they arrive in the new kingdom, and the real Princess is forced to become a Goose girl.

For those who aren’t familiar with the fairytale and don’t want the rest of the story spoiled, I’ll stop there. I actually started reading this book without knowing the actual fairytale it was based off of, and so I read it not knowing exactly how it would play out (which, of course, made certain key elements shocking and exciting). But even if you do know the fairytale, you’ll still be wonderfully surprised.

Want to know more about Shannon Hale’s retelling? Here’s a summary from Goodreads:

She was born with her eyes closed and a word on her tongue, a word she could not taste.

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt’s guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani’s journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny.

From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original, and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.


Hale’s prose is wonderfully lyrical, which is hinted at in the summary from Goodreads above. Reading The Goose Girl, I couldn’t help but notice just how beautiful the words flowed together; and how smooth her dialogue and prose were. This is Hale’s greatest display of her craft – the easy way in which it seems she has placed perfectly-chosen words for the page. She is brilliant at it.

But that isn’t the only thing Hale does remarkably well. The story in The Goose Girl is also well-crafted, and thoroughly captivating. I didn’t want to put this book down – and every time I did, I couldn’t help but think of the world and the characters Hale had created. The world building in the first of the Books of Bayern series is fully realized. Full of lushly detailed settings, wonderfully different cultures, and a touch of magic, Shannon Hale has created a world that has quickly become one of my favourites.

Princess Ani is one of the most likeable characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The meek young woman you meet at the beginning of the story (though a Crown Princess by title) doesn’t have the strength of one. But once a goose girl, Ani grows by leaps and bounds into a strong heroine. And it isn’t only Ani who is compelling – Geric is loveable, Selia is incredibly devious, and even Falada, Ani’s horse, will find a way to your heart.

And the magic! Absolutely wonderful; it is woven into the story perfectly. Hale has crafted a world of magical speech; of people-speaking, animal-speaking, and nature-speaking. And though she doesn’t posses the persuasive gift of people-speaking that her mother the Queen does, Ani’s own gifts will truly shine through in their own right.

If you love fantastic adventures in Medieval worlds with a strong heroine, you’ll love this book. Full of deception, intrigue, treason, and redemption (and a little bit of romance), this book was a wonderful read in so many ways. So pick it up; it’s definitely found its way to my favourites shelf, and I’m sure it’ll find it’s way onto yours.


Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.


22 Responses to “Book Recommendation: The Goose Girl”

  1. Meagan Spooner December 12, 2010 at 1:07 AM #

    Ooh, I love fairy tale retellings! I’ve never read this one, and it sounds like it’d be the perfect book for me. I’m definitely adding it to my to-be-read list–thanks for the great review!

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:03 PM #

      It’s amazing… I could gush about this book for HOURS! I’m currently reading ENNA BURNING, which is another book in the series – and it’s just as good! 😀

      When you do get around to reading it, let me know what you think!

  2. Melpomene Selemidis December 12, 2010 at 2:00 AM #

    I’ve had this on my bookshelf for a while and you just reminded me. Thanks..Can’t wait go get into that & Shannon Hale’s ‘The Book of a Thousand Days’.

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:05 PM #

      I plan on picking up THE BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS as soon as I finish all the book in this series 😀

  3. Danya December 12, 2010 at 3:10 AM #

    Oh yes, I wholeheartedly second this recommendation! Lyrical is the perfect word to describe Shannon Hale’s writing, and her world-building and characters are fabulous too. This book’s on my favorites shelf!

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:08 PM #

      Wooo! So glad to find another person who loves this book as much as I do!

      Honestly, i really don’t know WHY it took me so long to finally pick it up! I guess I was thrown off by the cover (which looks very young… but I loved plenty of books with covers that appeal to younger audiences, like ELLA ENCHANTED. I’m glad I finally got past that and picked it up anyways).

      And I LOVE Shannon Hale’s writing!

  4. Susan December 12, 2010 at 5:44 AM #

    I haven’t read this, but, oh boy, do I want to now! Great review, V.!

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:08 PM #

      Thanks Sooz! 😀 (When you do pick it up and read it, let me know! I love talking about good books!)

  5. Bookflower December 12, 2010 at 5:55 AM #

    I adore this book. I’ve read it several times and it’s on my list of books that I really need to buy soon. It’s one of those books that just makes me happy!

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:10 PM #

      I LOVE owning books that I can reread again and again. I think that’s when you know a book has really stuck with you – when you find yourself picking it up again and again.

      I’m SO GLAD that you like it as much as I do!

  6. Julie Eshbaugh December 12, 2010 at 8:09 AM #

    This looks so good, V! Thanks for the recommendation! 🙂

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:10 PM #

      No prob Julie! (Now go pick it up and read it!!!) :p

  7. Landon December 12, 2010 at 11:06 AM #

    Due to my love of fairytales/retellings, I bought this a while ago, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for a while. This may have convinced me to read it next! Thanks for the rec.

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:12 PM #

      AHHHH! Start reading it now! Don’t let it sit unread on your shelf any longer! It’s a guaranteed awesome read. (And you’re very welcome!) 😀

  8. Victoria Dixon December 12, 2010 at 11:55 AM #

    Thanks, Vanessa! I loved Hale’s Book of a Thousand days and this was always a favorite fairy tale, so I have to read it. I appreciate you telling me about it. 🙂

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:14 PM #

      I actually haven’t read BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS – although that book is next after I finish reading the rest of the books in this series.

      Definitely let me know what you think of it after you read it! (I love love LOVE discussing books :D)

  9. Caitlin December 12, 2010 at 5:05 PM #

    Not only is The Goose Girl good, but each successive book is totally wonderful. I think Forest Born (the most recent) is my favorite although admittedly I had almost forgotten that the series started with a fairy-tale retelling until I was reminded recently.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it Vanessa and I’m so excited for everyone who will read this now because of your recommendation.

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:20 PM #

      I am loving ENNA BURNING right now! And I’m just so glad, knowing that once I finish it, I have 3 more books in the series to read! 😀 I think one of the best feelings is finding an author who is this awesome, and knowing that you have a bunch of books of theirs to read!

      And I really do hope a lot of people pick it up! It really deserves to be read. (And the people who haven’t read it are missing out!)

  10. Arianna Sterling December 12, 2010 at 7:07 PM #

    Heck, yes! I absolutely adore this book. I’ve been meaning to read the rest of the Books of Bayern for ages but haven’t yet–I need to get around to that 🙂

    • Vanessa December 12, 2010 at 9:27 PM #

      Let’s make December BOOKS OF BAYERN month! :p We can go on a Shannon Hale reading spree! 😀

  11. Linna @ 21 Pages December 12, 2010 at 10:42 PM #

    Oh my gosh, this has to be one of my most favorite books of all time. Shannon Hale can make words into magic, and her lyrical style is just enchanting. I was totally blown away after picking this up randomly at a book fair one day.

    The writing is so beautiful, but the plot, the characterization, twists, fairytale roots, everything is so wonderfully done. I can’t stop praising it haha. Hope you enjoy the rest of the books in the series! I kind of dislike the new covers, but the other books are still pretty good. (Forest Born is a close second for me, but The Goose Girl just seems miles better in my opinion).

    Sorry for all that text, but seeing a review like this for such a good book is irresistible!

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio December 14, 2010 at 10:36 AM #

      Don’t you just love randomly picking up books, and then having it become an absolute favourite? It’s one of the best feelings – when you go into a book without any expectations.

      And yeah, I don’t really like the new covers – I’ve seen the old covers, and I think they’re much more whimsical and fairytale-esque. That’s one of the downfalls of falling in love with a series after it’s been around for a while, I guess!

      And omg, I love gushing about awesome books! 😀 So feel free to gush as much as you want!

      (And I’m halfway through Enna Burning and loving it! I’m definitely putting Shannon Hale on my list of fave authors!)

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