Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.
Reviewed by Ruya
Princess Academy is the story of Miri, a small peasant girl of fourteen, named after a flower in her native home Mount Eskel, a minor territory of a mythical country. Her content life is changed forever when royal messengers come to her village and announce that a prophecy has been made: the wife of the future king is to come from Mount Eskel! All the mountain girls of an appropriate age (no one older than the prince) are shipped off to a strict school, where they learn everything that a princess should know. The best student would be the "academy princess," given special privileges, and introduced as such to the prince at the ball where he is to choose his bride. Though reluctant at first, the girls throw themselves into their studies, with the hope of marrying the prince, if only to earn a fine house for their families. Nobody works harder than Miri, who, in the process of studying at the academy, learns how to function better in her mountain life, learns the secrets of linder, a stone which is the primary export of Mount Eskel, and learns more about herself.
Princess Academy is best described as a fairy tale mixed with the original Swiss Heidi (Heidi, the Girl from the Alps by Johanna Spyri). It's got the goats (Heidi), the mountain (Heidi), the prince (fairy tale), the magic (just a touch; fairy tale), the main character with her ability to change people (Heidi mostly, but could be both), and the happy ending (Heidi ends rather happily, but happy endings are a fairy tale stereotype. Shannon Hale seems to be a fan of fairy tales, actually, because another of her books, The Goose Girl, was based on one.) While I think there are certain elements of the story that weren't explained enough, like the part about Britta's childhood, which you don't learn until the very end, those parts were unimportant to the main idea of the story. The parts about Miri learning how to negotiate, the magic of the linder, and her relationship with Peder are of more importance, and those were the parts which I think were done best. This story possesses all of the qualities that make a good story: humor, unexpected twists, entertaining characters (especially Miri. She's the kind of character you want to meet and be best friends with) and little moments that just make you smile and feel warm inside. While not the best book I've ever read, Princess Academy is definitely deserving of its Newbery Honor Award. It's the kind of book that I like to read when I'm feeling sad or depressed about something, because it never fails to put me in a good mood.Posted by at October 9, 2009 01:42 PM