It was certainly not written for someone in my demographic!
I enjoyed a number of aspects of this book and also a few disappointements.
1) The resolution of the primary conflict (who gets to be the princess) felt too much like a plotdevice (I can't say more without giving away the ending) that the author threw into the story to avoid a painful conflict between the characters.
2)The culture of the mountain village and the kingdom as a whole was not developed enoughthere was a lot of good potential here.
On the other hand.
3) What culture was discussed permeated the story.
Things like 'quarrysinging', holding hands, and twirling the miri flowers (to name a few) were present throughout the story, lending the culture a consistancy.
4) However, the absolute BEST aspect of this book is the overall theme on the value of education.
It was wonderful to see the education the girls received transforming their lives and the lives of their families.
Further, I loved how the principle characters recognized the impact and determined to continue pursuing and sharing it.
Despite the two negative comments above, please don't misconstrue my review for a negative one.
As I said before, this book wasn't really wriiten for me.
Were I an adolescent girl this probably would rate 5 stars.
I think my daughters will thoroughly enjoy reading the book when they get older (I know I will recommend it to them) and I highly recommend the book for any adolescent girls you may know.
AUGUST 2012: Just reread (technically relistened) to this one in anticipation of the sequel coming out this month.
Loved this book all over again!
MAY 2007: So the latest books I’ve read … I haven’t exactly enjoyed.
I mean, I do finish them and everything, so they must have been okay, but it’s not like I was ever reaching for my book multiple times a day, binging on pages.
I’ve kind of missed that.
But all that changed with Princess Academy! Seriously — I loved this book.
(I should probably only admit this through the relative anonymity of the Internet.
Seriously … Princess Academy? What am I, eleven?! Oh well.
This book is written for children.
Nevertheless, the writing was terrific (I didn’t feel like I was being led by the hand through the whole story, as some children’s writing might — must be one of the reasons it became a Newbury Honor book).
I thought the pacing was perfect; key pieces of information were given a little at a time.
It is fairytaleish, and happy endings abound, but none of those endings (even the romance) ended up being sickeningly unrealistic.
I loved the themes of this book: education as a key to opportunity, diplomacy to work through problems, kindness to all (even when they don’t seem to deserve it) which leads to empathy and understanding.
One of my favorite books I’ve read this year, hands down.
Sometimes you just want to take a break from endless angst and sexual tension of currently popular both adult and YA books and read something light and inoffensive.
"Princess Academy" is an excellent choice for this purpose.
Although this is an obviously children's book, it is not silly or overly simplistic.
The fairy tale is very imaginative and teaches many valuable lessons (importance of education is among many of them), but never in a preachy way.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found myself extending my walks and slowing my driving just to continue listening to this excellent full cast audio.
My only complaint was that the main narrator read a little too slowly, I really wanted her to speed it up a bit.
Overall, a great experience.
I will definitely read more of Shannon Hale's books when I am in a mood for a nice fairy tale.
Reading challenge: #1P.
Had a very long drive ahead of me yesterday, so took this lovely book along to reread it.
It was never very surprising to this old reader; I could see the plot turns coming a few chapters before they did, but the true pleasure is in the relationships of the families in the mountain village where Miri lives, and of course the relationships of the girls as they develop.
This reading, I appreciated how Hale takes the time to give all the girls at least some personality, and some chance to change and grow, even if lightly sketched in.
I loved the evolution of Miri's assumptions (often driven by anger and hurt) and how she would immediately catch herself when perceiving others' anger and hurt, and her attempts to communicate rather than brood for chapters over misunderstandings.
I also loved how the girls decided how to deal with the prince coming to choose one of them before he came, and how everything resolved.
And the touches of magic were subtle and fun.
Such a lovely book! Every now and then I like to read a good children's book, especially if it has a smart heroine.
Princess Academy was perfect reading for a Sunday afternoon.
It tells the story of Miri, a 14yearold girl living on a mountain that mines a valuable stone.
One day, it's announced that the prince will choose his next princess from Miri's village, and all of the girls are sent to an academy to be educated.
Miri is a spunky girl: she studies hard, she tries to make friends and she stands up for the rights of others.
What I especially liked is how the author emphasized education — Miri finds a way to use her new knowledge to help her family and the village.
By the end of the book, it didn't really matter who became princess, because Miri had found her purpose in life.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants a delightful dose of girl power.
The linder quarries on Mount Eskel make for hard labour, but the villagers who mine it wouldn't trade their life for anything.
The linder stone takes skill to extract in whole blocks from the mountainside, and its qualities enable them to converse without speaking.
Fourteen year old Miri wants nothing so much as to join her father and older sister in the quarry.
But she's small, and her father has forbidden her to set foot in the quarry.
Instead, Miri tends the goats; teases her childhood friend, Peder; and wishes on the little miri flowers that she was named after to be allowed to work with everyone else in the quarry.
But everything changes the day the traders arrive for the last time before winter, bringing with them an official from the capital of Dunlanda messenger from the King.
It has long been a tradition that the priests name the city from which the prince and heir to the throne must choose his bride.
This time, causing great shock amongst the noble families of Dunland, the priests have named Mount Eskelso overlooked it's not even considered a province of Dunland.
And so, further down the mountain in an abandoned stone manor house, the Princess Academy is established.
Usually a formality, this time the girls aged thirteen to seventeen really must be trainedtaught to read and write, how to walk and talk, about history and geography, diplomacy and economics.
Most of the girls don't want to become princess, and their families need them back in the village and quarry, but even so, competition sparks amongst them.
Who will be princess? Could Miri, who does so well at her studies and was able to make the prince smile, be the one? (And what about Peder?) Yet when a threat comes to the Academy, curtseys and platitudes won't save themonly wits, mountain strength and Miri's determination.
This is the first Hale book I've read, and arguably her most popular one.
It wasn't what I expected, but really it was better than I expected.
It's one of those quiet fantasy books, like General Winston’s Daughternothing showy, no loud magic tricks or evil sorcerers or that tedious battle between good and evil (yawn).
It also didn't follow those boring fantasy clichés that so many authors seem to enjoy perpetuatinga patriarchal social structure, for instance.
Men and women work alongside each other in the quarry, and respect each other.
Gender doesn't come into it.
I got the impression that, despite classic hierarchies and class divisions, the rest of Dunland is much the same.
The setting still had that typical medieval flavour, but with new angles and greater equality.
Since it's Fantasy, not historical fiction, this is precisely the kind of thing I want to seeand don't get enough of.
The story is also disarmingly simple in its stylethe prose has that lovely, unburdened quality that's usual in YA and Children's fictionno fancy adjectives, no heavyhanded descriptions, no longwinded paragraphs: light on its feet, detailed and yet deceptively straightforward.
Perfect for its target age group (912) but just as enjoyable for the rest of us.
I loved Miri: she was a sympathetic character, a resourceful, intelligent, spirited girl you could really admire.
She makes a great role model.
The other girls weren't as fleshedout as I'd have liked, but their characters still came through in small ways.
The plot wasn't predictable, and the ending was very sweet.
I also loved the small role economics plays in the story, not to mention the power an education gives youMiri uses her hardwon knowledge from the Academy to improve her village's ability to trade, thus improving the quality of life on the mountain as well as their bargaining power.
See, it's educational as well as a fun read!
The Princess Academy is a favorite comfort read, and a delightful older middle grade/younger YA fantasy, nominated for the 2006 Newbery Award.
Miri is a teenage girl living in a small, simple mountain village, where everyone makes a living quarrying a lovely marble rock that is found only on their mountain.
It's a sometimes harsh life, with everyone kind of scraping to get by, but filled with love and close friendships.
One day the simple life ends: the priests of their country have mystically divined that the prince is to marry a girl from their village.
The king's ministers, appalled that their prince needs to marry a rough and unsophisticated village girl, set up an academy, a day's hike down the mountain from the village, and force all the marriageable teenage girls in the village to go live there and be intensely tutored for a year, at which point the prince will arrive in great pomp, there will be a formal dance, and he'll choose his bride.
Most of the story follows Miri and the other village girls as they deal with a harsh, cold head mistress of the academy, and the competition between them to be the head of the class (which earns you the best dress at the princess ball, plus some other perks).
Miri deeply wants to be at the top of the class, but she's also conflicted because of her feelings for a boy back in the village.
What I love about this book is that it's about more than just a competition to win the attention and heart of the prince.
It's also about friendship, the importance of education, and being a strong person and true to your heart.
There's some magic in it, though it's fairly subtle.
Highly recommended! read this instead of The Selection unless your main interest is in teen makeout scenes.
read for my 2018 women of speculative fiction challenge.
“No wolf falters before the bite, so strike.
No hawk wavers before the dive, so swing.
No sun pauses before the set, just strike.
No rain delays before the fall, just swing.
In my most drastic tonal shift to date, we will be going from talking about The Poppy War to discussing Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, a 2006 nominee for the Newbery Medal.
Am I just using this reading project as an excuse to revisit the books that I read obsessively as a child? YOU KNOW IT.
So What’s It About?
Miri’s people have lived on Mount Askel for generations, quarrying rich stone for trade with the kingdom that lies below.
The simplicity of life in her village is shattered when word comes that the king’s priests have divined that the prince’s bride will be one of the village girls.
In response, every teenage girl in the village must leave her family to attend an academy intended to prepare them for the possibility of becoming princess.
At the academy Miri will have to confront how big the world truly is and how little she knows of it, all the while struggling to find her place with the other girls and fighting the prejudice of her instructor.
Does she even want to be princess if it means leaving her beloved mountain home?
What I Thought – The F Word
I’m actually starting to dread the day when I reread a classic from my childhood and it ends up disappointing me.
I’ve been extremely lucky so far (or maybe Little Charlotte had excellent taste in books…) because Princess Academy stands up just as well as Ella Enchanted, Dealing with Dragons and The Hero and the Crown.
For all the emphasis that is put upon the girls preparing themselves to meet the prince, it’s fascinating just how incidental he ends up being in the grand scheme of the story.
More than anything, this is actually a story about the doors that are opened by access to good education.
The prize that Miri wins at the end of the story is not a prince’s love; it is confidence, the ability to negotiate and advocate for herself and her village, and the chance to stand up against the exploitation that is being enacted against her people.
From the start, Miri is very aware of the way her people are stigmatized and judged for being “simple” mountain people and as she grows in knowledge and selfesteem her desire to fight against this unfairness only grows
The prince is also fairly tangential to Miri’s story because the most important relationships in the books are the bonds that form between all of the academy girls.
The importance and power of female friendship, support and communication in this book really cannot be overstated, and while there is a lot of competition between them especially in the start of the book, nearly all of the girls gradually learn that the most important thing is to support each other so they can all succeed.
One of my favorite scenes in this regard is the scene where they all use quarryspeak to help each other with an exam so that they can go back to the village for a holiday.
Just as Miri is instrumental in the push to better her village with the education the girls receive, she is also instrumental in the development of this sisterhood between the girls, but in the beginning of the book she is something of an outcast amongst them because her disability prevents her from working with them in the mines.
Hale does an excellent job of presenting Miri’s insecurity, shame and secret feelings of being useless, and it is an absolute joy to see the delicacy with which she explores the shame in particular.
Miri projects her own inner shame onto the people of the village, assuming that they think her just as useless as she thinks she is, and because she never talks about there is no chance for her to realize that her assumptions are in fact without basis.
It’s a wonderfully done examination of the way that shame perpetuates itself through silence and isolation, and I think one of the book’s greatest triumphs is when Miri is finally able to break through that shame to connect genuinely with others.
I love Miri for her cleverness, courage, vulnerability and humor and I love all of the girls of the academy, from shy fellow outcast Britta to Katar, the “mean girl” of the group.
Consistently nasty as she is to Miri, it is ultimately revealed that her unkindness and competitiveness come from her fierce unhappiness on the mountain and her desperate desire to know other places:
“‘I want to be somebody else and see other things.
And now I never will.
’Miri shivered at a breeze coming up from the valley.
All her life she had seen herself as the only lonesome thing in the world, but now even Katar seemed but a small child lost on a far hill.
As ever, Miri is an agent of change and encourages Princesstobe Britta to bring Katar down the mountain as a court representative of the mountain people.
Miri knows more than ever that her mountain is home, but now she has the tools to help make that home flourish more than ever.
It’s a lovely ending to a lovely book, and as I just recently discovered that there are two sequels, you may have to listen to me talk about them sometime in the near future.
About the Author (from Macmillan)
“Shannon Hale’s mother says she was a storyteller from birth, jabbering endlessly in her carriage as the two strolled through the neighborhood; once she could form complete sentences, she made up stories, bribing her younger siblings to perform them in mini plays.
When she was ten, she began writing books, mostly fantasy stories where she was the heroine, and she continued writing secretly for years while pursuing acting in stage and improv comedy.
After detours studying in Mexico, the U.
, and Paraguay, Shannon earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Utah and a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Montana.
In the interim, she submitted short stories and novels to magazines and publishers, saving all her rejection letters which she has since laminated into one continuous 60foot roll which she proudly unfurls to audiences as a testament to her dedication and determination.
Since the publication of her first book, The Goose Girl, in 2003, Shannon has become a beloved author to young readers as well as booksellers and educators.
Her third novel, Princess Academy, earned her a Newbery Honor and is a New York Times, Book Sense, and Publishers Weekly bestseller.
Shannon has also written books for adults, Austenland and The Actor and the Housewife.
Shannon lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, Dean, their children, and their pet, a small plastic pig.