She was born with her eyes closed and a word on her tongue, a word she could not taste. Her name was Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the... read more
The novel begins with the birth of Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree, or Ani. She does not open her eyes until the arrival of the Queen's sister three days later. Her aunt becomes Ani's nursemaid, becoming her closest companion since Ani was neglected after she was... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The novel begins with the birth of Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree, or Ani. She does not open her eyes until the arrival of the Queen's sister three days later. Her aunt becomes Ani's nursemaid, becoming her closest companion since Ani was neglected after she was born. Her aunt explains to her the three kinds of gifts people may have: People-speaking, Animal-speaking and Nature-speaking. She further explains that the queen has the power of people-speaking, because it is always easy for the queen to persuade people and be sociable. The aunt also explains that she has the gift of animal speaking, but those who can speak to nature are almost unheard of now. The aunt puts particular emphasis on these for Ani to always keep in mind. No sooner had her aunt told her this, when the key-mistress and her daughter Selia, walk by and invite Ani to come over for tea. Her aunt then warned her that, “That one has the gift of people-speaking. It can be powerful. Mark me and watch her” (Hale 10). Soon after, the aunt announced her return home to the wilderness. After her aunt left, Ani got a new nursemaid, and Ani informed her of her desire to speak to animals. The nursemaid was appalled, and informed the queen. Consequently, Ani was not allowed near live animals for fear of her strange behavior. The queen told her daughter that no one wanted a queen who, “...makes up stories and seems to talk to wild beasts” (Hale 13). When the queen is about to leave, the queen stops and tells Ani that her aunt has died. Ani feels intense loneliness. Now in her teen years, Ani is preparing to be queen, attending tea with the key-mistress. Selia is now her lady-in-waiting and close friend. Ani tries very hard to become a queen just as perfect as her mother, but this is very hard, as Ani doesn't have the gift of people-speaking. While out riding, the king of Kildenree is seriously injured, and dies peacefully within a few days. At the funeral, Ani is shocked to hear that her mother changed her mind—instead of her being the heir, her younger brother the Prince, would get the title. Her mother takes her aside, explaining how she made arrangements without the King's consent for her betrothal to the Crown Prince of Bayern, a neighboring kingdom of Kildenree, to make peace between their kingdoms. Ani feels betrayed, but does as her mother asks. The beginning of this journey starts out well,Ani with her horse Falada and her lady-in-waiting and her royal guards. Until several troubling incidents occur. Selia unsuccessfully hides her hostility for Ani when the definition of rank is shown. Ani also notices something odd between Selia and the guard Ungolad. One hot afternoon, mutiny occurs when the majority of the guards side with the treason-bent Selia, who decides to kill Princess Anidori and take her place. Ani witnesses most of this while drinking water, and is forced to flee, leaving behind her horse Falada and her loyal guards. After wandering in the woods, Ani collapses at the small cottage in Bayern of a woman named Gilsa. Once awakened, Ani is dressed and fed to go to the market with Gilsa's son Finn. She plans to find work in the castle so that she may somehow speak to the king and let him know of the false princess. However, when she gets to the palace, she realizes that Selia has already been recognized as the princess and if she reveals her true identity, the king might not believe her and kill her. Ani finds work as a goose girl among other forest children who work at the palace. With her ability to speak to avians, she is adept at her work and befriends one of her charges whom she names Jok. She also discovers her ability to manipulate wind. She tells Enna, one of the forest children she befriended, her secret of being the true princess. She meets a boy named Geric who tells her that he is a guard to the prince, and befriends him. She sees the royal family and yet again narrowly escapes death when Ungolad's guards see her. She goes back to Gilsa and Finn and finds out that one of her guards, Talone, had survived. She gets help from the palace workers and they form a band to protect her. She goes to save her kingdom from war (as Selia had tricked the Bayerners into believing Kildenree wanted war) by going to the army camped outside the borders of Kildenree. She convinces the guards that she is the younger sister of the princess, visiting her sister's wedding. Ani reveals her true self to the king but he doesn’t believe her. He leaves and Ani is left with her murderous captors. However, the guard Geric, who was actually the crown prince, believes her and hides behind a tapestry. As they take another attempt on her life, the king, prince, and guards come out from behind the tapestry, knowing the whole truth about everything that had happened. Selia is furious and her henchmen make a third try on her life, and a battle ensues. Selia is caught after attempting to escape. The next day, the king asks Ani to prove that Kildenree wants no war with Bayern. Ani goes on to tell them how ridiculous the notion of a small country like Kildenrees attacking the powerful Bayern was, and in her anger she tells them of all the terrible segregation that the forest people had to put up with from the people of the city of Bayern. She leaves and Geric finds her in the kitchen a while after she had cooled off. They explain what had been going through their minds during the whole epidemic and Geric confesses his love for Ani. She then agrees to marry him. Ani’s forest friends are then made into honorary javelin-bearers, which means they are now officially Bayerners. In the end, Ani marries Geric and they 'live happily ever after'.
Followed by Enna Burning.
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