The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation by Shannon and Dean Hale, LeUyen Pham


Goodreads: The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation
Series:  Princess in Black #4
Source: Library
Published: Nov. 2016


Fifteen monsters in seven days?  Princess Marigold is ready for a break from her goat-protecting duties as the Princess in Black.  But when she takes a trip to the beach, she discovers that her vacation might not be so peaceful after all.


Though my library shelves these books with the middle grade, I think that they could more accurately be considered beginner readers.  The plots and the jokes are very simplistic and somewhat repetitive.  Some of the vocabulary is more advanced, but the sentences are simple and also somewhat repetitive.  I can see young readers enjoying these a lot, especially because the idea of a princess who fights monsters is undeniably cool, but, as an older reader, I find myself not entirely charmed.

Strikingly, I have only read the first book and the series and now this fourth one and it seems very much as if I have not missed anything and that I am actually reading a variation of the same book.  In book one, we are introduced to the Goat Avenger.  In book four, it seems the Princess in Black has just met the Goat Avenger.  A joke that was made about the Princess in Black in book one is made about the Goat Avenger in book four.  Moves that the Princess in Black uses in book one are used again in book four (perhaps not surprisingly).  And the plot?  Well, it boils down to the Princess in Black fights monsters.  This could work, obviously–“monster of the week” works–but somehow it feels a tad bland, even with all the bright illustrations.

Still, I recognize that younger readers tend to embrace repetition and that these books are not written for me.  I would definitely introduce children to them because I am sure they’d fall in love with a princess who can fight and that they would find the jokes funny even when I do not.  I would prefer a beginner reader that could also appeal more to adults–this is important since adults end up reading these books many times with their children–but the series sells, so it’s clearly doing something right.

3 starsKrysta 64

Princess Academy Blog Tour: Guest Post by Shannon Hale (+Giveaway)

We are very excited to be part of the Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters blog tour today!  We love Shannon Hale’s books at Pages Unbound and have read and reviewed just about all of them! Today we are featuring a guest post by Hale (5 Tips for Surviving a Princess Academy), mini-reviews of all three books in the Princess Academy series, and a giveaway!  You can also find a schedule of the entire blog tour at the bottom of the page.

Top 5 Tips for Surviving a Princess Academy

1. Learn to walk with a boot on your head.

2. Read books after everyone else has gone to bed.

3. Memorize all the rules.

4. Break all the rules that ought to be broken.

5. Save your friends from uncertain danger.

About the Author

Shannon HaleShannon Hale is the Newbery Honor–winning and New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Academy series; Book of a Thousand Days; The Books of Bayern; Dangerous; and the graphic novels Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack. She also wrote three novels for adults, including Austenland, now a major motion picture starring Keri Russell. She and her husband, the author Dean Hale, have four children and live near Salt Lake City, Utah. Visit Shannon online at and on Twitter at @HaleShannon.

Reviews: The Princess Academy Series

Here are excerpts from my previously posted reviews of the Princess Academy series.  If you would like to read the full reviews, please click on the titles.

Princess Academy

Princess Academy Collage

Palace of Stone

Palace of Stone Collage

The Forgotten Sisters

Forgotten Sisters Collage


To celebrate the release of The Forgotten Sisters, Bloomsbury is giving away a set of the entire Princess Academy series featuring their new covers! (US only)

Click Here to Enter the Giveaway

giveaway Collage

Tour Schedule

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale (ARC Review)

Cover of The Forgotten SistersInformation

Goodreads: The Forgotten Sisters
Series: Princess Academy #3
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Publication Date: March 3, 2015

Official Summary

After a year at the king’s palace, Miri has learned all about being a proper princess. But the tables turn when the student must become the teacher!

Instead of returning to her beloved Mount Eskel, Miri is ordered to journey to a distant swamp and start a princess academy for three sisters, cousins of the royal family. Unfortunately, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than becoming princesses.

As Miri spends more time with the sisters, she realizes the king and queen’s interest in them hides a long-buried secret. She must rely on her own strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the girls, complete her assignment, and finally make her way home.


In The Forgotten Sisters, Shannon Hale demonstrates once again that upper middle grade/young adult may be her strongest area.  This conclusion to the Princess Academy series is strong; it includes all the elements readers have come to expect from stories featuring Miri—humor, friendship, cleverness, and fun—while also managing to throw in a few surprises.  Anyone who loved the first two books will not want to miss out on this one.

Although Miri has been hoping to return to her home on Mount Eskel, the king and queen decide to send her to a remote and swampy province to train some long-neglected members of the royal family.  Offering readers new settings has always been an effective writing tool for Hale, and The Forgotten Sisters is no exception.  Havoc ensues as Miri attempts to learn the ways of the swamp and to win over her new charges, yet Miri also gets to increase her knowledge of etiquette and diplomacy.

The sisters themselves are also quite wonderful.  Hale develops each in detail, giving them complex personalities.  On one hand, they are “rough” citizens of the swamp who hunt and prepare their own food.  On the other, they are normal girls with hopes and dreams, and enough nobleness of spirit one can easily believe they are part of the royal family.  (If, you know, one adheres to the idea that noble-born people also have noble spirits.)  Hale also creates a funny yet endearing group dynamic among the sisters; these girls clearly look out for each other.

And for those wondering where Peder is (he isn’t mentioned in the publisher’s summary!), he does make more than a passing appearance.  Readers who have loved seeing Miri and Peder’s relationship grow will not be disappointed by the final leg of their story, which is filled with moments of tenderness and understanding.

Finally, the tone of The Forgotten Sisters is immensely uplifting.  One can help but feel good reading about the strong relationships that many of the characters have—and cannot help but feel there must be hope for those with broken ones.  The book is by turns funny (I laughed out loud more than once), thoughtful, clever, and moving.  One can easily believe that Miri is both a good friend and a smart planner, deserving of having been appointed a royal tutor.

Altogether, The Forgotten Sisters is an extremely satisfying book.  Full of heart, humor, and strong writing, it is a perfect end to Miri’s story (though I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing more!).  Recommended for those who enjoy fantasy, strong female friendships, or just good books.

The Unfairest of Them All by Shannon Hale

The Unfairest of Them AllInformation

GoodreadsThe Unfairest of Them All
Series: Ever After High #2
Source: Library
Published: March 25, 2014


After Raven Queen’s refusal to sign the Storybook of Legends at the last Legacy Day, students have formed themselves in the opposing groups Royals and Rebels–those who wish to live out their parents’ destinies and those who wish to create their own.  Tensions are high, but then the Headmaster accuses Madeline Hatter of a terrible crime.  Can the students forget their differences and band together to save Madeline from Banishment?


The sequel to The Storybook of Legends jumps right into the story, mostly ignoring not only the events of the last book but also many of the questions the premise raised.  Although Raven Queen refused to sign the Storybook and thus should have disappeared from existence, she remains at school along with all of her friends.  Aside from identifying themselves as “Royals” or “Rebels” based on whether they wish to relive their parents’ fairytales or whether they want to break from their tales and forge a new destiny they do nothing about the new state of affairs. (Presumably the “Royals” are so called, not just because of the catchy alliteration but because most Royals would naturally want to relive their tales, whereas the villains, for instance, might not be so keen on the grisly deaths that await them.)  No one questions why Raven has not disappeared and even Raven, despite her investigations into the implications of deviating from the story, does not notice the elephant in the room.

The problem with the premise is that no one is actually reliving their parents’ destinies–not if Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel are at school rather than growing up in isolation, not if Madeline Hatter and others are not living in Wonderland at all, not if the villains are not dying as specified in the stories but surviving to raise children who will become the next villains.  And one might assume that the marriages would eventually get awkward (Raven Queen has to become her roommate Apple White’s stepmother at some point), but no one addresses these problems, either.  At least in this book Raven starts to notice some of the cracks in the story–she realizes for instance, that Hansel and Gretel’s witch was not baked in her oven but escaped out the other end–but these implications are still not addressed in terms of the overarching plot.  Raven seems to find it a bit weird, but cannot make the jump to the sort of conspiracy that must be happening to keep everyone in order and reliving their tales.

Of course, this series exists to market a line of dolls, so getting to the point probably would not serve well in terms of marketing.  Thus this book proves nothing but a filler episode.  Madeline Hatter is accused of a random crime and sentenced to Banishment.  Apple and Raven must go on a random quest to save her.  Questions about whether the Royals or the Rebels are right are not really addressed until the very end of the book, when the discussion is abruptly cut short before it can become too serious.  After all, we can’t let this cash cow escape just yet.  No point in really looking at this whole “destiny” thing.  Not when we can have a random interlude about a Jabberwocky in the upcoming book.

The dolls have left other marks on the book, as well.  The author provides a lot of random descriptions about what everyone is wearing and things like that, apparently because little girls will want to a doll to dress up in her very own sparkly pink jumpsuit?  There’s a lot of random slang that makes little sense–“Castleleria” instead of “cafeteria”, for instance.  Never mind that “leria” says nothing about food and the pun cannot make sense in that world.  Fairy-tale slang is cool and will attract modern girls to the product!  And then there are the pets.  I cannot imagine why they exist, unless at some point they appear on shelves along with the dolls.  The characters do not actually take care of these pets.  Instead, they conveniently live in the forest where they fend for themselves and their owners forget about them until they can prove useful on a quest.  It is a bit disturbing to think that responsibility for pets is not required in this world, that pets instead are there mostly to make some sort of fashion statement.

I admit that, despite its many flaws, the book is kind of fun.  I mostly enjoy reading about Madeline Hatter and watching her interact with the Narrator, who desperately tries to keep Maddie from hearing the story when she is not supposed to.  Watching the other fairy-tale characters interact is rather fun, too, but sadly there are too many of them for Hale to focus on more than maybe four at a time.  This story highlights Cerise Hood.  In the future I hope not only to see Ashlynn Ella, but also Dexter Charming, who seems to have been a bit forgotten.

I do not yet know, however, if I will really continue on with the series.  The books are light and easy to get through quickly–something that works in their favor since the lack of logic might otherwise make me decide not to carry on.  However, now that I see that both books two and three seem to be filler, I worry about getting caught up in a series that will never end–not because there is a story to tell but because there are dolls to sell.


Dangerous by Shannon Hale


Goodreads: Dangerous
Source: Library
Published: March 4, 2014


Maisie Danger Brown applies to astronaut camp never expecting to get in, but soon she’s on her way to the experience of a lifetime.  Not because of the advanced classes, the astronaut training, or even the boys, but because one chance exposure to alien technology means that saving the world is now up to her.  If she can figure out what the world needs saving from, that is.


I looked forward to Shannon Hale’s Dangerous for a long time, not only because it features a protagonist who is half-Paraguayan and we need more diversity in young adult literature, but also because I wanted to see how Hale would write a superhero novel.  Superhero comics and movies make sense, yes, but a superhero novel is something rare indeed.  Interestingly enough, however, when I finally read Dangerous, I wondered whether this qualifies as a superhero novel at all.

Plot details on Dangerous were kept tight and, if you prefer to keep yourself in a pristine state free of spoilers, you may want to skip this review.  While I will try to keep the information I reveal vague, I cannot discuss my reactions to this story without at least outlining certain plot points.  This first plot point, is in fact, the plot.  (Please do stop reading now if you wish to be spoiler-free!)  From the lead-up to Dangerous, I had some idea that we would be getting a typical story where the hero is exposed to some sort of scientific anomaly, gains powers, and becomes a crime-fighting vigilante.  What we got was similar–Maisie is exposed to a foreign substance and gains unusual skills as a result–but diverged, I thought, into science-fiction territory.  (Here I reveal a detail of the plot that the plot thought was a secret, but that I think just about every reader understood from the beginning.) After all, the substance is alien technology and is designed to help the bearer fight off an alien invasion.  (Really, was anyone surprised that the book ended with an alien invasion?  One of those tokens is supposed to give extra intelligence, but no one in the book figured that one out?)

All this raised a question for me: what exactly constitutes a superhero story?  Shannon Hale clearly thought Dangerous qualifies.  After all, it features a girl with special powers who saves the day.  That is what superheroes do.  But once aliens got involved, I thought the story was science fiction.  Does that mean superheroes cannot feature in science fiction?  To say so seems not only overly broad, but also kind of silly.  After all, do not a lot of superheroes receive their powers from science gone wrong?  Are they not, then, sort of in a science fiction story?  One cannot really gain spider powers from a spider bite–that’s fiction!  Or maybe this means aliens cannot be in superhero stories?  But what about The Avengers?  Maybe, I thought, it was the vigilante business.  Maisie does not (to her best friend’s disappointment) start fighting crime on the streets.  She sees her mission as solely facing the menace that she knows is coming, thanks to the alien technology now lodged in her breast.  And that mindset  is what made me think science fiction.  Because it’s sort of like Ender’s Game, isn’t it?  A group of people using special skills to face an alien threat and then going home.  Case closed.  But maybe I am wrong or maybe the borders we have delineated around genres are too strict.  Whatever the case, I started becoming more concerned with this issue than with the story.

There was one other thing that bothered me about Dangerous, though–the romance.  Maisie falls hard for a boy anyone can see at a glace must be trouble.  He’s clearly a player, one of those stereotypical rich kids who likes to use women to boost his own ego.  One wonders when he goes after Maisie what it is he wants from her.  Throughout the story, however, Hale provides various clues as to his real motives and it is hard to decide whether he is “good” or “bad” or just playing the field for himself.  He often excuses his behavior by essentially admitting he has “daddy issues” and Maisie accepts that.  But even if one is inclined to forgive his worst moments, that does not, in my opinion, make him a suitable romantic partner for Maisie.  He may want to save the world or just himself, but underneath it all he still was–and, as far as I know, is–a player.  He says he cares about Maisie but he still uses her in various ways.  Fortunately, readers have one of those infamous love triangles to give them hope that Maisie will not end up with him at all.  (Spoilers about the result of this love triangle and other details of the romance.)  Like most love triangles, however, this one is not particularly suspense-inducing.  The second guy never really had a chance and Maisie ends up with the player.  The one who tried to get her to sleep with him while he was using her politically.  Isn’t that a nice take-away?  Guys can use women, say they are sorry, and have the women take them back.

Dangerous is an exciting, fast-paced adventure that kept me flipping pages until I had finished (really, I don’t remember putting it down, except maybe to eat and then just because society kind of expects that). And yet, in the end, all I remember is the cringe-worthy romance.  Very disappointing.

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale

Ever After HighInformation

Goodreads: Ever After High:  The Storybook of Legends
Series: Ever After High #1
Source: Library
Published: October 1, 2013

Official Summary

At Ever After High, an enchanting boarding school, the children of fairytale legends prepare themselves to fulfill their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings and Evil Queens…whether they want to or not. Each year on Legacy Day, students sign the Storybook of Legends to seal their scripted fates. For generations, the Village of Book End has whispered that refusing to sign means The End-both for a story and for a life.

As the daughter of the Evil Queen, Raven Queen’s destiny is to follow in her mother’s wicked footsteps, but evil is so not Raven’s style. She’s starting to wonder, what if she rewrote her own story? The royal Apple White, daughter of the Fairest of Them All, has a happy ever after planned for herself, but it depends upon Raven feeding her a poison apple in their future.

What if Raven doesn’t sign the Storybook of Legends? It could mean a happily never after for them both.


This review has to begin by addressing the elephant in the room: The premise of The Storybook of Legends makes absolutely no sense—and the problem is not one that can be fixed, bar rewriting the entire book with a new plot.  In Hale’s fairy tale world, each new generation of characters must relive their parents’ stories.  Apple White will become the next Snow White, eat an apple, fall asleep, fall in love, etc.  Ashlynn Ella will become the next Cinderella, work hard, go to a ball,  meet her prince, lose her shoe, etc.  And so on.  This social structure raises a lot of questions.

For one, why are all these characters in high school together?  Holly O’Hair (Rapunzel) should have been kidnapped as a baby and raised in a tower.  Ashlynn (Cinderella) should have had a terrible childhood with an evil stepmother.  Briar (Sleeping) Beauty should be hidden away from spinning wheels. And so on.  These fairy tale characters have already missed half of their stories!  Other complications arise, however.  Apple White and Raven Queen are supposed to be Snow White and the Evil Queen, which means Raven should be Apple’s stepmother.  She is not.  This is actually mentioned in the book and the characters shrug it off, saying, “There must be slight variations in the story.”

Yet other characters have similar relationship problems.  For instance, Ashlynn Ella’s parents are Cinderella and Prince Charming—yet Ashlynn is supposed to marry Prince Charming.  But would not her brother, if she had one, be Prince Charming?  Whom, then, does she marry?  And, since her mother Cinderella is still alive, must  she suddenly die so that Ashlynn’s father can remarry an evil stepmother?  And then does her family suddenly lose their fortune and royal status so Ashlynn can live as a mistreated commoner girl?  The questions  can go on and on and on, for each and every one of the characters.  Saying that the stories must change a bit with each general of fairy tale characters is far from an adequate explanation.

Nonsensical premise aside (and we must put it aside to get anywhere with this book), The Storybook of Legends is a pretty entertaining read.  It is more commercial, or perhaps gimmicky, than Hale’s typical stories, filled with cheesy modern references to musicians (Taylor Quick), and brands and with silly fairy tale puns.  The characters have their own fantasy slang, such as telling each other they look “fairy nice,” apparently an attempt to make the book sound hip.

The story’s strongest point, however, is probably the characters.  Though Hale is working with fairy tale “types” and with somewhat predetermined personalities, she manages to make each person come alive.  Even the characters truly invested in living out their well-known destinies have unique hopes, dreams, and quirks.  Apple White is determined to be the best queen she can, yet experiences moments of self-doubt.  Briar Beauty wants to live life to the fullest, since she is going to spend a lot of time sleeping.  Dexter Charming wishes to be as brave and, well, charming as his older brother.  Hale’s star character, however, is Madeline Hatter, a slightly mad girl who speaks in Riddlish yet has the world’s biggest heart and a lot of wisdom.  For me, her charisma helps her outshine even protagonist Raven Queen.

The main storyline, following Raven as she decides whether or not to sign the Storybook of Legends and seal her destiny as the world’s most evil queen, is an engaging little adventure.  Raven gets into a number of escapades, some related to discovering her destiny, some just to get her through the daily trials of high school.  Readers spend as much time with Raven trying to navigate friendships and classes and they do navigating magical perils.  In the end, the plot does not get quite as far as readers might wish, instead saving the things that I, at least, really wanted to know for future books in the series.  The Storybook of Legends just gives readers a taste, introducing characters and the main problem, without really solving it.  Truthfully, I would have liked to see a tighter plot, with everything answered and tied up in a standalone, rather than an entire Ever After High series.

All that said, The Storybook  of Legends is still fun, creative, and cute.  Shannon Hale has written better books, but for a book trying to sell a series of Mattel dolls, it really is quality stuff. I would recommend it for readers who enjoy light fairy tale retellings and fantasy books with a modern touch.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Goodreads: Austenland
Series: Austenland #1

Summary: After a dozen failed relationships, Jane Hayes has given up on men and accepted that none of them can live up to the expectations she has gained from watching Colin Firth play Mr. Darcy.  She believes that a vacation at the exclusive, and somewhat mysterious, Austenland will be her one last fling with romance before she packs away all her dreams.  There women can enter a world where they live like Jane Austen’s heroines, down to their Regency dresses and their flirtations with eligible young men.  At first Jane has trouble entering the play; she is all too keenly aware of how awkward it is to have a fake romance with an actor.  However, as time passes, she begins to wonder if some of the romance might be real.

Review: Looking at Austenland, one cannot help but wonder why no one thought of this concept before Shannon Hale.  It combines Austenmania—and the well-known obsession of women with Colin Firth—with a sympathetic protagonist whose despair at finding love mirrors that of countless readers.  Jane Hayes thus serves as a sort of screen onto which women can project themselves and their fantasies.  Through her, they live the life of a Jane Austen heroine.  They find themselves clever, witty, pretty, and engaging—in short, desirable.  They can associate with handsome men dressed in breeches and cravats and do nothing all day but read or paint.  Jane is in some respects better than Elizabeth Bennet, however, because she allows women to bring the fantasy back into their own world—thus strengthening it.  She is a single, career-minded girl living in NYC who ultimately proves that Mr. Darcys still exist.  The only problem is that this ultimate message seems to contradict the theme of the story.

At the beginning of the book, Jane seems to admit that her longings for Mr. Darcy have ruined her real-life relationships.  Readers find out later that most of her boyfriends actually deserved to go based on their own infantile/disrespectful/downright scandalous behavior.  However, Jane’s thoughts suggest that she might not be happy even if she found a nice, upright man who respected her.  Thanks to countless hours spent watching Colin Firth, she wants a man who wears top hats and says romantic things with a British accent.  Readers simply cannot know that she would accept anything else.  She, at least, seems to think she will not.  Readers now have the dilemma of a chick lit announcing that reading too much chick lit (or watching too many chick flicks) can prove unhealthy.

Of course, readers know that the genre demands Jane will end up with a man.  The question is not whether Jane will find love, but how Hale will make her do it in a way that defies the norms of chick lit and makes this one somehow superior to the rest.  Hale does not pull it off.  Jane falls in love exactly the way anyone would have predicted.  She finds a nice Mr. Darcy-esque guy in the most improbable of places, they hit it off quickly, some obstacles occur, they end up happily together.  But wasn’t the moral of the story that women should not expect Mr. Darcy’s to fall into their laps?

The book, of course, never implied that good men do not exist or that women will never find them.  It did, however, suggest that women should not live in their daydreams.  Yet the book is exactly the type of thing it condemned for leading women into these daydreams. It is perhaps even more successful than most due to the inspired combination of Austen with the modern-day world.

The story is fun, the characters are likeable, and the mystery of Austenland is intriguing.  The book has wide appeal for those who like Austen, romance, or chick lit.  However, the attempt to warn against chick lit strikes a jarring note throughout the book and ultimately just proves baffling.

Published: 2007

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Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Goodreads: Princess Academy
Series: Princess Academy #1

Summary: Miri lives on a remote mountain where the families trade the stone they quarry for food.  Then one day, a messenger from the king arrives to announce that the priests in the capital have foretold the next princess will come from the territory of Mount Eskel.  All the eligible young girls are sent to an academy where they learn and compete to be the most like a princess.  At the end of their training, they will host a ball for the prince and he will choose his future bride.

Review: Princess Academy is a delightful book full of adventure and family, not at all the glittery and girly read the title can suggest.  Miri is a spunky but lonely mountain girl who is in love with her home on Mount Eskel, even if the work in the quarry can be hard on all the villagers and the winters there are long and cold.  She finds value in the uniqueness of the mountain, its beauty, and the community it inspires among those who live there.  Even when the chance of becoming a princess with beautiful clothes and a big home in the green lowlands arises, Miri remembers what makes her and Mount Eskel special.

Princess Academy is almost unique in that it places value on a variety of talents and characteristics.  It is not more important to be a princess than it is to be a goat herd, and it does not make one better to be book smart instead of wise in the ways of quarrying.  Learning is presented as being important and a great way to open life opportunities, but doing any job well makes a person special.  It is also clear that everyone, whether in the scheme of the academy, the village, or the whole kingdom, has a role to play, and that every role is essential to helping things run as best as they can.  None of these “lessons” come across as preachy or forced, however.  They are simply built into the story and Miri’s own thought processes, and they make the reader feel as if she must be important somehow, too.

Hale’s management of the romance is equally as beautiful.  Miri fluctuates between dreaming that the prince will fall in love with her and wondering why she would want to marry someone that she barely knows.  There is also a boy at home who has recently caught her interest, so should she dream of the prince or of him?  This is no annoying love triangle, and everything turns out quite perfectly.  There is the sense everyone ends up where they belong, not that the author has contrived a bunch of pairings.

The focus is not really on romantic relationships, however, but on friendships and families.  Miri is very close to her sister and her father, but sometimes feels a bit left out.  She wonders how she can fix that.  She also feels alone, and there are other girls who are something like social outcasts, as well—something authors often fail to imagine in a community so small.  The way the villagers all come together as families, friends, and sometimes couples is very inspiring.

Hale has written a wholesome book for girls full of adventure, thoughtful questions, beautiful friendships, and just the right amounts of magic and romance.  The characters grow through their time at the academy, and readers will grow with them as they ponder what it means to truly to be happy and a good person.

Published: 2007

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The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose GirlSummary: Princess Anidori-Kiladra of Kildenree had every reason to expect she would one day rule as queen of her country.  Instead, her mother offers her as a bride to the prince of Bayern, hoping in that manner to make peace between the two countries.  During the trip to Bayern, however, half of Ani’s guards rebel, setting up her maid Selia as princess of Kildenree.  Ani flees for her life, ultimately finding work as a goose girl for the palace of her betrothed.  To unmask Selia and claim her rightful identity, however, Ani will have to learn to trust her co-workers, as well as her own abilities.  The first of the Books of Bayern.

Review: Although Hale’s retelling of “The Goose Girl” adds no major changes to the original story, it feels as fresh and contemporary as if Hale had invented the tale herself.  Readers will fall in love with her vividly imagined world, where people can talk with animals and control the elements, and with her characters, whose flaws only make them more endearing.  The action never flags, yet the plot elements never seem forced or gratuitous.  Hale’s deft storytelling will enchant readers and bring them back to Bayern for more.

Published: 2003

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Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Book of a Thousand DaysSummary: After Lady Saren refuses to marry the man her father has chosen for her, she, along with her maid Dashti, is sentenced to a seven-year imprisonment inside a tower as punishment.  Dashti keeps a journal of their experience as she struggles to lighten the spirits of her mistress, save their food storage from rats, and stave off her own boredom.  She hopes that Khan Tegus, the man to whom Saren secretly betrothed herself, will rescue them both, but Saren refuses to speak to him when he visits the tower and forces Dashti to take on her identity.  Eventually, however, Tegus stops visiting and Dashti realizes they have run out of food.  Their only chance of survival lies in breaking out of the tower and starting a new life in a different land.  Dashti, however, does not wish solely to survive; she hopes also to reunite her mistress with her true love.  A retelling of “Maid Maleen.”

Review Book of a Thousand Days is geared towards a younger audience than the Books of Bayern, and it demonstrates this with simple language, a straightforward plot, and flat characters–all of which combine to make the novel a little dull for readers able to follow something much more complicated.  The journal format is an interesting choice for Hale, and she manages to make use of it on a couple occasions by having Dashti add notes “later” or write very short humorous entries when little happens on a particular day, but overall it just adds to the sense that the tale is very limited in scope.  There are also some illustrations when Dashti writes “And the flap looked like this,” but they are mainly of characters and random things and do not really add much to the reader’s visualization of the tale. Book of a Thousand Days might be worth an afternoon if one has run out of other books to read, but there is no need to rush for it and I would not recommend spending the money to purchase it.

Published: 2007

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