My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: April 17th 2007
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Point of View: 3rd Person & Female
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Prince & Princess, Education, Fantasy, Magic, Love, Family, Friendship
Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.
Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.
If only…If only my eleven-year-old younger self had read this book. I know she would’ve shrieked with happiness at holding Princess Academy against her innocent little heart. Miri and younger Lola might’ve shared a stronger and more vivid level of connection and this latter probably would’ve eagerly pressed five stars as rating. (Well, it certainly isn’t every day that I refer to myself in the 3rd person.)
But I’m not eleven anymore, and, even if I enjoy some middle grade and younger reads from time to time, I will never feel the same way when reading them as I feel toward Young Adult novels, my favorite genre. Why I do still read these books aimed to children is for the fluffiness, cuteness and fairytale omnipresent ambience that takes you to another dimension, one of dreams and endless possibilities. Something I can rarely find in YA novels.
And this happened to be a good example of a book giving me this opportunity. I mean, princess stories, if they are of your taste, are wonderful to plunge into and read. Miri as a heroine lacked maturity though. I don’t know if it is my own fault thinking that, since we obviously are not same age (she is fourteen) but she spoke without thinking oh so many times…which equalled trouble, or in this context hand lashing and uncountable hours in the closet next to a rat. I kept muttering for her to stop bluntly bursting out words and felt exasperated when she did so anyway, but that’s the thing with MG novels: You can’t one hundred percent blame the young characters, since it’s normal for them, due to their age, to make mistakes and it’s usually in purpose for a character growth, which we very much could observe in this story.
I’ve read three Shannon Hale books so far – The Storybook of Legends, The Goose Girl, Austenland – and I realized that her style varies depending of the genre and type of book she is writing. Probably, if you enjoyed the first two, you will feel the same for Princess Academy. But if you’ve only read Austenland, then you will find that this book is written differently (with reason and a ‘thank god’ muttered because Austenland was just a poorly written and confusing book; I couldn’t even finish it. But the movie was enjoyable – recommended!)
The romance lovely presented istelf. I’m rarely into situations in which a character is in love with her/his best friend but the author managed to make this one not sound cliché or annoyingly cheesy. They were good together and the chemistry evident!
This is not a book for everyone but it was short and sweet and actually not that predictable. Sure, many situations made it easy for us to foresee their outcome, but some others contained plenty of surprises. What I loved most about this book was the lyrical writing and relationship between Miri and Britta, whom she misjudged quite too quickly, and her own sister, Marda. Incidentally, it was good to see original names for the characters.