Princess Ani's identity is stolen by her most loyal servant, Selia and she must build her confidence, cleverness and courageousness to set things back to rights. This story is set in the world where people can have certain categories of magical powers: the power of people-speaking, the power of animal-speaking and the power of nature-speaking. Unlike most of her ruling ancestors, Princess Ani does not have the power of people-speaking but rather has the power of animal-speaking. Unlike the other members of her family, Ani is not sociable and prefers to be outdoors with the animals than indoors, persuading and manipulating people to do one's bidding. It comes as little surprise, then, that her mother the Queen decides to award the kingdom to her younger brother instead of her. Everyone does not like the idea that one of their own does not have the people-speaking power so Ani is sent to marry a prince she has never met in a kingdom she has never been to. She is afraid but determined to do her family proud in this small way. She feels comforted that her most loyal servant, Selia, will be going with her as well as her horse Falada whom she can animal-speak with.
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On the way to the new kingdom, however, Selia betrays Princess Ani by persuading her lover the guard Ungolad to lead a mutiny. It is revealed that Selia had always felt jealous of Ani, and never understood how Ani who is so pathetic at speaking and leading people, should ever deserve to be a queen when she is so much more capable. Ani escapes into the woods where she wanders for a few days before meeting some simple Bayern people. Fearing for her life, she takes on the identity of Isi and disguises her looks and clothing to blend in with the peasant folk of Bayern. She gains a job as a royal animal-worker where she tends to geese. Here, she gains a new perspective on how the lower-class country folk live and are looked down upon by the upper-class folk and the city folk. Though circumstances are grim, Isi feels surprisingly free to be herself. When she was a Princess she always felt under pressure to meet the expectations of others and to hide her animal-speaking powers. Now, she is valued for who she truly is and what she can do. She begins to build her confidence.
One day as she was out working with the geese, a young guard named Geric comes galloping across the field on his horse. He loses control of his horse and Ani, using her powers of animal-speak, cajoles the horse back into calm and in fact, she gets a ride on the initially unruly horse. Geric is both taken aback by her lack of propriety but also impressed with her skills with his horse. Ani and Geric become good friends, meeting often at the fields where she works. Soon, Ani finds herself falling in love with Geric. During her time out in the field, she is surprised to learn she also has the gift of nature-speak - more specifically, to control the winds.
As time passes, she befriends more local country folk from Bayern and soon feels like she can trust them enough to reveal her true identity to them. They all express their loyalty to her and that they want to help her regain justice. Ani bids her time as she plans a way to topple Selia the imposter off the throne. One day, Ani is wracked with sadness when she sees Falada's head fastened to the city's walls, killed because it had gone insane. She finds out it was under Selia's orders. This adds fuel to her determination to face Selia and her secret following grows stronger, spreading through the folk of Bayern.
Somehow, Ungolad finds Ani when she is sleeping one night and Ani barely flees with her life in tact after being stabbed in the back by the man. After being nursed back to health, she realizes that Selia is hot on her tail and she must act soon if she wants to stand a chance.
Ani will eventually reveal her identity and face her clever insidious enemy, Selia. She will have to muster up her greatest courage and belief in herself and her powers to prove to everyone who the true Princess Ani is. Along the way, she will discover Geric's true identity and be reunited with him.
Best part of story, including ending:
I found it interesting that Selia took over Ani's title and Ani had to fight back and work hard to really deserve to gain it back.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when the Prince hides behind the curtain and hears the whole truth from Selia's own mouth - it was very satisfying.
Opinion about the main character:
I disliked that Ani was so weak-willed at first - this is why Selia was able to take advantage of her. Ani is like a timid, wild animal, shying at every sound. But I liked that by the end of the book she changed to become a stronger personality, unafraid and courageous enough to meet the obstacles in her way.