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Mary Quattlebaum (Children's Literature)
Education is important but the Princess Academy makes it imperative. The academy houses a group of rough mountain girls who must be tutored in the ways of royalty. After all, Prince Steffan, from the far-off lowland, will choose one to be his bride. Miri learns eagerly but struggles with homesickness and the cattiness of some of the other girls. But when bandits break into the academy and hold the girls hostage, Miri finds a well of fierce strength within herself. She engineers a group escape but is recaptured by the bloodthirsty leader. No, the prince does not come galloping up to save her. Full of suspense and even a literal cliffhanger, this novel by acclaimed author Shannon Hale will keep young readers stuck to the page like the winter snow on Miri’s beloved mountain. 2005, Bloomsbury, $16.95. Ages 8 to 12.
Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)
Shannon Hale’s career began with a fascinating retelling of The Goose Girl. One of the invented characters from that book became the heroine of Enna Burning. Now she writes a completely new tale and once again shows us that she knows the language, structure, and images of the world of fairy tales. The story begins in the mountainous region of Mount Eskel, a place where miners remove linder, a sought-after stone. Sometimes they do this without speech, for they have learned to communicate in a whole different way. All but Miri, a child who is not strong and who grieves this separation, as much as she grieves that her mother died at her birth. Everything changes when all the young women in the village must train in a hastily constructed Princess Academy so that one can be chosen to marry the prince. The governess Olana is a harsh task mistress, even cruel, as she crams her unschooled students full of information about poise, reading, and history. For once in her life, Miri is part of a community and she fights for fairness for her fellow students, even as she herself fights to learn. She also faces inner battles, trying to forget her growing love for her childhood friend, Peder, should she have to marry the prince. Coming of age in a princess academy, and understanding her past and her future path, are made stronger by the fairy tale voice Hale creates. This voice allows readers to lose themselves in her stories. 2005, Bloomsbury, $16.95. Ages 9 to 12.
Sheilah Egan (Children's Literature)
Miri yearns to prove herself useful to her widowed father by working in the village quarry, but, he forbids this, thus cutting his daughter off from the bond of the villagers who earn their living carving stone on Mount Eskel. In this unusual blend of coming-of-age, adventure, fantasy, and fairy tale story Shannon Hale gives us a strong girl persona, wicked “outlaw outsiders,” corrupt business dealings, strict “princess trainers,” and a prince in need of a proper princess. Miri proves her worth to her father, the village, the head of the Academy itself, and to the fellow worthy of this quick-witted, hard-working “almost a woman.” The crux of the tale is the “quarry speech” used by the stone workers to communicate over the noise and confusion of the quarry, which is adapted by Miri in her desperation to save the village girls after they have been kidnapped by the outlaws. As usual, Hale ties her characters to the land in which they have been born and to Nature itself. This is an engaging, plain “good read” that just happens to be filled with life lessons about friendship, acceptance, courage, endurance, and finding the right path. Guard against dismissing this fantasy as more of the same old genre; there are a lot of fresh ideas and solid truths to be had in this finely-crafted novel. 2005, Bloomsbury, $16.95. Ages 12 up.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2005 (Vol. 73, No. 14))
There are many pleasures to this satisfying tale: a precise lyricism to the language ("The world was as dark as eyes closed" or "Miri's laugh is a tune you love to whistle") and a rhythm to the story that takes its tropes from many places, but its heart from ours. Miri is very small; her father has never let her work in the linder stone quarries where her village makes its living and she fears that it's because she lacks something. However, she's rounded up, with the other handful of girls ages 12 to 17, to be taught and trained when it's foreseen that the prince's bride will come from their own Mount Eskel. Olana, their teacher, is pinched and cruel, but Miri and the others take to their studies, for it opens the world beyond the linder quarries to them. Miri seeks other learning as well, including the mindspeech that ties her to her people, and seems to work through the linder stone itself. There's a lot about girls in groups, both kind and cutting; a sweet boy; the warmth of friends, fathers and sisters; and the possibility of being chosen by a prince one barely knows. The climax involving evil brigands is a bit forced, but everything else is an unalloyed joy. 2005, Bloomsbury, 308p, $16.95. Category: Fantasy. Ages 9 to 14. Starred Review. © 2005 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Readers enchanted by Hale's
Timnah Card (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2005 (Vol. 59, No. 1))
According to ancient Danlandish law, the teenaged girls of a given city or town must prepare for one of them to be chosen by their prince as his future bride. For the first time, the priests have divined that that town shall be a tiny cluster of quarriers’ huts on the mountainside, the home of a poverty-stricken people despised by more affluent lowlanders. Though initially unwilling to participate in the new state-run princess academy, fourteen-year-old Miri, the daughter of a quarrier, soon finds the things she learns (such as “Commerce” and “Diplomacy”) can improve the living standard of her village and the relationship between the girls and their bad-tempered schoolmistress. By the time the prince arrives, Miri has developed ability in leadership and in what her people call “quarry-speech”, telepathic communication via the stone the quarriers harvest from the peaks, and her skill in both these areas saves the lives of everyone at the academy. Because she is small, Miri sees herself as useless in her working community of burly laborers, and her envy of those larger and stronger than she contrasts powerfully with her later pleasure in her growing gifts. Miri’s culture is deftly drawn; snippets from the quarriers’ working songs lead each chapter, and the harsh yet beautiful physical and cultural details of Miri’s world keep this optimistic tale believable. This could be a useful introduction to fantasy for realistic-novel buffs, the authentic sniping and backbiting of jealous girls cooped up together for a year, the character-driven plot, and the vigorous prose will carry readers of all kinds into the center of the story. Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2005, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2005, Bloomsbury, 314p, $16.95. Grades 6-9.
Kathleen Roseboom (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 18, No. 3))
The small mountain village of Mount Eskel is chosen by the king’s assembly as the selection site for the next princess. This creates a dilemma as the village is isolated, and the young girls are uneducated. A school for all girls younger than the prince is established a few miles from the village, and the girls are all escorted there and begin their education. As the winter comes and they are cut off from the village, the girls begin to compete in earnest to become the best in their class. This tale will delight many of its readers; however, as they are reading, they will discover that education itself becomes a main focus. This leads to developing leadership and self-confidence, which become extremely important to the main character, Miri. She comes to believe in education as a means to a better life and a better way to help others in her village. Fiction. Grades 4-8. 2005, Bloomsbury, 314p., $16.95. Ages 9 to 14.
Jenny Ingram (VOYA, August 2005 (Vol. 28, No. 3))
In her mountain village, fourteen-year-old Miri is much smaller than her peers and not allowed to work in the quarry alongside the other able-bodied villagers. Instead she keeps house for her widower father and her sister and hopes to strike a good deal with the trader who visits periodically. When a royal messenger arrives one day to tell the villagers that the country's priests have determined that the prince's bride will come from their region, the village girls go away to school to be educated for royal life. Despite the bleak, strict nature of their school, Miri comes away from the experience with knowledge that she uses to change the economy and quality of life for her village. The imaginative setting for the story makes it timeless and universal. Hale creates a parallel universe where things are just familiar enough to recognize yet remain unique to the story. In their isolation, the mountain people have learned to communicate telepathically, which contributes to the magical aura of the story. Miri's emerging leadership at the school and her choice to use her education for the benefit of her village are refreshing takes on a classic setup. In the end, she gets her man, having known all along that the prince was not for her. This new classic will have a place with leisure readers and in the classroom. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Bloomsbury, 300p., $16.95. Ages 11 to 15.
Rebecca Moreland, Teen Reviewer (VOYA, August 2005 (Vol. 28, No. 3))
Princess Academy is a delightful read with everything you need in a good fantasy book: action, adventure, romance-and a good kidnapping. Although many people who read this book will not have any connection to Miri's way of life (people usually don't tend goats high on a mountainside their whole lives), Hale's writing places you in the book, so you feel you can relate. The plot seems predictable, like any other book of its genre, but it has a twist that sets it apart and makes it all the more enjoyable. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Bloomsbury, 300p., $16.95. Ages 11 to 15.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ7.H13824 Pr 2005