People have recommended this book to me for over a decade now, no joke, but I finally found the motivation to try it out, and all I can say is that I'm glad I did.
Wow! It's been a few months since I've read a novel that I enjoyed this much. The only other novel of Shannon Hale's that I've read is Austenland,
and because that particular genre is just not my cup of tea, it led me to grossly underestimate Hale's writing ability. My loss. Almost every single page boasted a description that made me think the following:
"That's incredibly vivid and lyrical!"
"I've never heard something described that way, yet it fits perfectly. How on earth did she come up with it?"
Shannon Hale also managed to surprise me, which is difficult to do. I hadn't expected her to kill off some of those characters for good, like the aunt and Ani's father and Falada--
goodness me that cut deep. The story is so pretty and bright that it makes you assume that the subject matter will be similar when it isn't always. And I did suspect that Geric was in fact the prince when we first met him, but claiming he was a guard and introducing the younger prince threw me off his trail again until the end. Not to mention that Ani received her fair share of injuries before the last page. Some of them caused twinges of sympathetic pain.
I didn't connect quite as strongly with the characters as I would have preferred, but I did
connect with them, which is still impressive. I don't love characters easily. I found myself actually feeling
Ani's frustration and loneliness when she had to keep her identity a secret. That's quite rare as well, so thumbs up in that area.
Something else I have to point out: It's kind of different and funny that Ani actually speaks to birds with their noises--she has to learn goose honks and sparrow tweets rather than the usual speak-English-but-they-hear-their-language. Neither of these is bad, of course. I've just read considerably less of the former and it was kind of refreshing.
Only two minor things bothered me about The Goose Girl:
1. It seemed a little too easy whenever Ani had to sneak into the palace. I had a hard time finding it believable that people could either talk their way past the guards or just... walk through because, somehow, in an enormous city, not one soul happened to be looking.
2. This is a common complaint of mine, perhaps because I'm an eager reader and have a habit of almost skimming to get to the meat of any given scene, but there were some points where I felt that I didn't have a complete understanding of how things worked in this fantasy world or which characters were interacting in what way, etc. I had to stop and re-read passages somewhat often.
Looking forward to the companion novel, and I will definitely read more of Shannon Hale in the near future!