“... If we don't tell strange stories, when something strange happens we won't believe it.”
― Shannon Hale, The Goose Girl
The Goose Girl is a nice Grimm fairy-tale inspired piece of fiction. The fantasy fiction is well written, and quite creative in its own way. I stayed up all night reading this leisurely paced book. This is absorbing, exciting, and has a descriptive writing style. It is a slow moving tale at first, and some might be tempted to stop reading in the opening chapters where we are introduced to the excessively timid Princess Ani. Ani is a girl taken from her position as next in line to the throne and instead sent on a months long journey through the forest for a strategically arranged marriage to the prince of a larger neighboring kingdom. The character-driven storyline is worth the wait.
I can't do justice to the story, but in simple terms it is about Princess Ani who faces betrayal by her maid servant when the princess is on a journey to be married to a prince in another kingdom. On her journey to meet her betrothed she is attacked by those she once trusted, almost killed, looses her place as the rightful heir, and sent escaping into the forest. Her entourage is killed off, and Ani has to show courage to escape. There she is cared for by a forest dwelling woman and her son, eventually preparing her to enter the city and find a way to reclaim her identity from one who has stolen it.
Ani finally makes it to the next kingdom (after many trials) to find that her maid servant has taken her identity and is scheduled to marry the prince. Of course Ani is in no shape or form after her travels to prove the maid's disguise and claim she is the rightful princess, so she gets a job as the keeper of the castle's geese. The princess has a secret about human/animal communication. Ani has the ability to talk to swans and other birds and communicate telepathically with her trusted horse and has a strong sense of place in these imaginary kingdoms. She spends months as the palace goose girl, tending her flock of geese, learning their language, and in the process learning exactly how courageous she is and who the poorer people of Bayern truly are.
As Ani learns how to speak to the geese in the new kingdom's lands she is trying to figure out what to do about the maid's inheritance and the prince's succession. But Ani is often tongue-tied as she speaks to humans, making her seemingly weak as royalty, and giving her trouble when the suspenseful tone picks up. Our princess lives in the servants' quarters while biding her time and trying to find a way to let the prince know who she really is.
This is a beautiful introspective story. Seeing the transformation from the weak Crown Princess Ani into the stronger likable goose girl Isi, and finally taking her place as Princess Ani, future wife of the prince of Bayern was fascinating to read.