Sunday Salon – Review of “Princess Academy” by Shannon Hale

The Sunday Salon.com

I got this book because I enjoyed The Actor and The Housewife so much, and so I sought out another book by Shannon Hale. I was not disappointed! This book is like a lovely, iridescent polished stone of linder, the fictional opaline marble quarried by the villagers of Mount Eskel. It has hidden facets from different angles that catch your eye and your heart and leave you with a sense of strength and beauty.

princessacademy

Most of the children in the village start work in the quarry at age 8, but Miri, named after the tiny pink flower that blooms out of the cracks in the linder rocks, has never been allowed to work there. She thought it was because she was small for her age, and had been deemed inadequate. Now, at age 14, she learns she, along with all the other village girls between the ages of 12 to 17, must go to a “princess academy” to train to be acceptable as a potential bride for the Prince.

She takes leave of her father, older sister Marda, and lifelong crush Peder to make the 3-hour journey along with 19 other girls. While there, they are exposed not only to book learning for the first time, but to competition, cliques and jealousy, and unanticipated tests of courage and friendship. Only occasionally are they allowed to return to their village on breaks.

Miri may be one of the smallest children, but it is she who figures out the secret of the linder stone, and when the academy is in real danger, it is only her secret that can help save it.

Hale is a gifted writer of different genres that at first glance seem not to bear relation to one another. But all of her books are characterized by faith, good humor, and above all, the self-sufficiency and resilience of women and girls.

Her language often plays just the right note. At one village gathering, Peder has just kissed Miri on the cheek, then runs off:

“Miri did not move for three verses of the next bonfire song. A smile tugged at one corner of her mouth like a brook trout on a fishing line, but she was too staggered to give in to it.”

In another instance, one of the girls at the academy, Katar, has just confessed to Miri about the source of her unhappiness:

“…Katar sobbed misery at her side. ’I’m sorry,’ Miri said again, hating how hollow those words sounded. Katar had given her a small gift by opening her heart and showing her pain. Miri tucked the moment in her own heart and hoped somehow to repay.”

This book is not really about princesses, unless you define princess as a young lady who is not afraid to summon all of her assets to take on the world and make a difference.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2005

Awards:

Newbery Award Honor Book (2006)
Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2008)
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2007)

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13 Responses to Sunday Salon – Review of “Princess Academy” by Shannon Hale

  1. bermudaonion says:

    I love strong female protagonists and always celebrate when I find one in a book for young readers. This sounds wonderful.

  2. susan says:

    I’ve heard good things about Hale but haven’t read her. Will have to push her up on my list. Any writer who successfully writes strong, empowered females leads is someone I want to check out.

    Thanks.

  3. Doret says:

    This is a great book.

  4. Biblibio says:

    What I think is nice about Hale’s fantasy/fiction is that it gives young female readers enjoyable stories without overemphasizing the fantasy, providing good quality literature for young girls. It’s a pity that the writing doesn’t translate well to boys as well (Hale’s “The Goose Girl” is a bit better suited for boys, but is still much more a girl’s book than anything else) but it is good for its intended audience. I think it would reach a much larger audience of girls as well if it didn’t have that ridiculous title to it but it’s certainly one to recommend.

  5. Biblio, I totally agree with you on the title. I picked it up because (a) it was in the Newbery Award section and (b) it was by Shannon Hale. If I were just going by the title, I would not have picked it up!

  6. Alyce says:

    This sounds like something I would love! I agree that the Princess title being a turn off – I would have thought it was something like a princess diaries book. I’m going to go put this one on hold at the library right now. 🙂

  7. 3m says:

    I have yet to read a Shannon Hale book. I must remedy that some day.

  8. autumn says:

    i love this book you can realy relate her charecters to yourself now im just hoping there will be a sequal and it will be as good as the first one

  9. Courtney says:

    I just finished reading this book this morning.. it was amazing! I loved it from start to finish.. now if only there was a sequel to this book so I knew how Miri and her family go on after the academy and what happens with her own academy and love Peder..
    I definitely think this book would make an excellent movie too! =)

    • Camille says:

      i agree there should be a sequel! i think that if they do make it a movie they should make it exactly like the book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Alex says:

    I found this book on sale at Barnes & Noble and I figured I would try it out, and boy was I surprised! I absolutely loved it! It is so elequently written that I was hanging on to every word and couldn’t put the book down. I have to say though, at first I was a little confused about the whole “quarry-speech” . However, after I read the book for a second time I started to catch on. This is one of my favorite books of all time.

  11. Camille says:

    i love this book and i think Hale is amazing right now im reading her book the goose girl it is a really good book Hale fans should read it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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