The Princess Academy
by Shannon Hale
read February 2009
Once my daughter and I got into this book we both really enjoyed it. It was difficult at first to understand what was happening. It is set in a made-up land, with a made-up culture which isn’t an out-there fantasy land, it’s believable, which I think made it hard for my daughter to understand. I spent the first 3 chapters doubling back and explaining things.
The Princess Academyis the story of 14 year-old Miri. Miri lives in a small village at the top of Mount Eskel, a part of Danland. Miri’s village does one thing, produce linder blocks from the quarry. Virtually everyone over a certain age works in the quarry, apart from Miri, her father will not allow it. She thinks it is because of her small stature, but the reasons run much deeper.
The only interaction that the people of Mount Eskel usually have with the “lowlanders” of Danland is for trade. The traders come up the hill and trade food and supplies for the blocks of linder.
One day a messenger from the king arrives with soldiers and announces that it has been divined that the prince’s future bride would be from Mount Eskel. Everyone is surprised because neither side think highly of the other. It is further ordered that all girls over the age of 12 and under 18 are ordered to go away and attend the newly formed “Princess Academy.” There Tutor Olana will teach them how to read and write as well as give them lessons in history, etiquette, and dance among other things.
None of the girls want to go, but they all begin to appreciate the education they are getting. Having lived on the mountain all of their lives, they knew very little of the outside world. It actually starts to get quite competitive amongst the girls. Many actually want to marry the prince. Miri is torn between her desire to provide a better life for he Pa and sister, Marda, and her secret love for Peder.
I can’t divulge much more without giving away the whole story. I actually liked it quite a bit. My daughter and I would read one or two chapters a night and there would be times that I didn’t want to put it down. Shannon Hale has a way with words and this book is well-written. You can actually feel Miri’s thoughts and emotions.
I asked my daughter what she thought about it and she wanted to know if there was a second book. So I guess that is a thumbs-up from the 7 year-old.
This book received a Newberry Honor in 2006.
Themes- death, old-school punishments (i.e. hitting with a ruler and locking children in a closet), strong family and community bonds
Setting: Danland, a made-up country that seems much like medieval Europe
Characters: Miri, Peder, Britta, Marda, Pa, Esa, Tutor Olana, Katar, Steffan
Topic: Miri and her fellow girls from Mount Eskel must attend an academy set up just for them to teach them how to become princesses. Little do they know, it will teach them much more.