"In layer upon layer of detail a beautiful coming-of-age story emerges, a tale about learning to rescue yourself rather than falling accidentally into happily-ever-after. Hale uncovers her theme patiently and without preaching, focusing not on the moral but on the adventures her heroine must face in order to learn the lessons herself. The truly frightening moments are never gratuitous. Young readers may recognize parallels with their own lives in even her most magical adventures: the loneliness of feeling peculiar, the devastation of betrayal, the pride of sharing your talents and the joy of finding people to love and trust."
New York Times Book Review
(Here's a little backstory of how I came to completely fall in love with Shannon Hale's books)
When I was around 12-years-old I found a book at the library called 'Princess Academy'. I devoured that book. Unfortunately, at that age, I didn't have the knowledge to look for more books by the same author. Then I moved across the country and the 'Princess Academy' faded into the background as a book I'd never forget. Then one day my family traveled to South Carolina to visit my Gramma, and she surprised me with a ginormous pile of books she'd got for five dollars at a garage sale. To my complete enthrallment, one of those books was 'Princess Academy' by Shannon Hale! Once again, I devoured that book. Then twice. Then, once at the library, I found Full Cast Audio's production of it. I can truthfully say I listened to that book daily for weeks upon weeks. I also can truthfully say I still did not have the knowledge to look for more books by my new favorite author. I guess luck was on my side, because one day I stumbled upon Full Cast Audio's production of the 'Goose Girl'...also by Shannon Hale! I felt so stupid! Why had I not thought of looking for other books by her?!? I grabbed the audiobook without a moments hesitation. I devoured that book as well (if listening to it all night until 4:00 am counts [I did not fully appreciate a night of good sleep back then]. In a month I'd read all of the Books of Bayern and then went on to search for the audiobooks...but that's another story for another time. ;)
Okay, I lied. That was not a 'little' backstory. I'm so sincerely sorry. Please accept my condolences.
Now on to my review!
This story is beautifully written in a way that flows fluently and gracefully. There aren't too many long adjectives, but every scene is amazingly descriptive. I think one reason I love Shannon Hale's books is that I
The main character is a princess named Anidori, she the first child, and will someday rule her home kingdom of Kildenri. At a young age she learns she has the gift to speak to birds. Unfortunately, Kildenrians are superstitious of strange and unknown things. Therefore, her aunt (who also has the gift) helps her develop her gift, while keeping it secret. Her aunt also tells her stories. Tales of three 'gifts': People-speaking, Animal-speaking, and Nature-speaking. The last was either lost or rare, for the aunt had never met one, or heard rumors of one with this gift of speaking with fire, wind, water, or tree. The queen, Ani's mother, has the gift of People-speaking. Her ability to speak with convincing grace helps her in ruling her country, but others with this gift could wreak havoc if used for selfish reasons. Ani is quiet and shy, and doesn't like attention. She is constantly worried about failing her mother, and not making a good enough queen someday. Then, a horrible accident sends her life spinning, and she learns a secret her mother has been keeping for years. Ani soon finds herself in a foreign country, hiding, afraid for her life. Without a friend, without protection, and in disguise. Months later, news from Kildenri brings a new threat, and Ani must make a decision, that may or may not work, to save two countries.
There, did I do a good job? I hope I didn't give too much info, I really don't want to spoil it for anyone!