‘Princess Academy’ by Shannon Hale

314p 2005 Bloomsbury USA Childrens Bought

51p5mm9jgrl-_sx313_bo1204203200_1On Mt. Eskel, Miri Larendaughter has always been babied by her Pa, ever since her mother died soon after giving birth to her. For reasons unknown, Miri’s Pa doesn’t allow her to do the quarry work like all the other villagers and her sister; instead she is left at home to take care of the small house and goats.

Before winter arrives, traders come up the mountain in their wagons to barter their lowland foodstuffs for the villages’ main source of income, the quarried rock, linder. This year, a court official scales the mountain with the traders. He brings the shocking news that all the Mt. Eskel girls under the age of eighteen have been selected to go to a new Princess Academy for a year. The academy was created to help the prince of Danland pick his bride. Miri’s sister Marda is too old to go, so Miri will be away from her family for the first time. She is not confident about leaving home, but the chance of a brighter future for her small family beckons.

The only teacher at the Princess Academy, Tutor Olana, is harsh and unfair. At the Princess Academy, Miri doesn’t have many friends. She’s always been a loner in her village as she didn’t work in the quarry, so she didn’t really know the other girls well before they came to the academy. She slowly begins to make friends with 15 year old Britta, who moved up to Mt. Eskel from the lowlands only recently. When Miri learns to read and write in the long weeks at the academy, her eyes are opened up to the world outside of Mt Eskel, and how her village can profit more in their trade of linder.

At the end of the princess academy year, there is a ball, and Miri is crowned academy princess, the best student and the one with the highest hopes of winning the prince’s favour. Miri dances and talks with the prince, and finds him to be a nice person, but she can’t really stop thinking about Peder, her childhood playmate and crush. After the ball, the prince leaves the academy without picking his bride, and the girls have to over-winter once more.

But when a group of desperate bandits break into the academy, assuming that the prince is still there, everyone’s life is put in danger. How will the girls escape, and will one of them finally be chosen to be the new princess?

I loved Princess Academy by Shannon Hale the moment I started reading. The story is wonderfully woven and the characters made me feel for them and want to stand at their sides cheering. Shannon Hale is one of my favourite fantasy authors and she really excelled in Princess Academy. Beautifully crafted, and perfect to curl up with on a cold winter night.

I have yet to read the third book in the Princess Academy series, which only came out in March 2015, but the second book, Princess Academy: Palace of Stone is another great story that I would definitely recommend.

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