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. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.
First of all, Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors. Everything she writes is sweet and fun and clean. And this happened to be the first Hale novel I read. Which makes sense because it was her first publication.
So, you've got Ani, who's a princess being married off to a neighboring kingdom. Now right off the bat Ani could be severely annoying because she's a spoiled princess. But she's not. Ani's really very likable and relatable. She's just... sweet. Very shy, very insecure and just a nice person. But she also has this crazy secret (she can talk to animals!) that she can't tell anyone, which makes her intriguing. So I liked her. Everyone else in Kildenree, where Ani was from, I could have done without (with the exception of that one nice sister). They just weren't very kind. Which was ironic because Kildenree was known as the nice, peaceful kingdom.
Once Ani is betrayed things get really interesting. The lady-in-waiting has a special gift of her own which I found interesting to read. She was just so good at manipulating everyone. The act of the betrayal and how Ani survived was exciting. And I liked how she wasn't just automatically good at everything; She had to learn and grow and develop.
I loved how this story played out even though things that happened were a little cliche (a pampered princess learning how to work hard? How original!). I loved all the people Ani met in the new kingdom. Razo was my absolute favorite secondary character. His voice was so great. He was such a typical guy's guy but a good person. If he were real I'd like to just go hang out with him, ya know? So entertaining.
The Prince was, of course, perfect and likable. He wasn't completely flat but I almost felt like he wasn't as developed a character as he could have been. Fun, yes. Romantic, sure. Well-rounded, meh. Or maybe I'm remembering wrong and need to go back and re-read it.
Ani's growth as a character was very satisfying to watch. In the beginning of the story she's so very insecure and timid. You feel bad for her most of the time. At least I did. As she learned to work and make her own friends she really bloomed. It was nice to watch. I really appreciated the way Hale handled it.
I would recommend this book to anyone. And I have. It's one of my go-to, anyone-can-safely-read-it books. So if you're into sweet stories based on little-known fairy tales, fantasy with magical elements and a little bit of love thrown in, you will completely love this book.
Sexual Content: None