Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. (Amazon)
Reviewed by Julie, Children's Lit. enthusiast and pop culture geek
“Princess Academy” by Shannon Hale is a Newbery Honor book that, despite its title, teaches its readers about far more important things than pink gowns, tiaras, and how to sweep a fine curtsey. The novel’s main character is a young girl named Miri, who learns that she and the other girls from her community on Mount Eskel will be considered for marriage by the prince of Danland. However, first they must go through rigorous training in education and etiquette from strict Mistress Olana at the Princess Academy.
The highlight of the novel is Hale’s main character, Miri, a strong girl with a formidable sense of justice that can often get her into trouble. As she stands up for weaker girls at the Academy, Miri gains both friends and enemies, all at the expense of doing what she feels is right. Readers will empathize with Miri’s ethical dilemmas and cheer for her victories in the face of adversity. In addition to this, Miri’s struggles within the competition will fascinate: should she strive to win for the honor that a royal title will bestow upon her and her family? Or should she return to the quarrying town where she was raised and use the knowledge she has gleaned from the academy to improve economic and social matters? The premise will interest readers, but the strong plot and lovable characters will keep readers moving.
As always, Hale’s language is beautiful and lyrical. Unexpected bits of humor made me laugh out loud, while action-packed scenes near the end gripped me and wouldn’t let go. The beauty of this book lies in how complex and full it feels: it has something for everyone, no matter what age or gender the reader is. If you love it as much as I do, look forward to the sequel: “Palace of Stone.”
Market: Middle Grade fiction
Sensuality: Mild (first crush kinds of feelings)
Violence: Mild (Mostly discipline-oriented)
Mature Themes: Social class, identity, marriage