Monday, December 31, 2007

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Miri lives in the remote villiage of Mount Eskel where everyone lives by mining linder stone from the mountain. Everyone, that is, except Miri, whose father has forbidden her from ever entering the mines. It is a difficult life, but one in which the village people are content. But one day soldiers arrive and say they are taking all of the girls between the ages of 12 and 17. The priests at the capital have determined that the future wife of the prince will come from Mount Eskel and all of his potential mates must be trained in how to be a princess. These girls are taken away from their village and placed in an old minister’s house near the mountain pass to their village. This “princess academy” will allow the prince to choice a well-trained princess for his wife.

Life at the academy is not easy. The woman in charge of training them, Olana, is harsh and the girls have a difficult time adjusting to learning to read and curtsy and all of the other skills a princess must know (my favorite was Conversation). They are also homesick, going for the first many months without seeing their families. But they do learn and they use their talents to negotiate for better conditions at the academy.

From the beginning, Miri is one of the strongest members at that academy. Because she’s the only one to not work in the mines, she is the outcast. She’s also outspoken, and that gets both her and the other girls in trouble. But when danger strikes, Miri is the one who is tough enough to save them all.

I really enjoyed Princess Academy. It’s the third Shannon Hale book I’ve read during Christmas break. Like Book of a Thousand Days, it features a strong female protagonist who has to learn to get by in a completely foreign (and mostly hostile) environment.

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