From School Library Journal
Grade 5-9–The thought of being a princess never occurred to the girls living on Mount Eskel. Most plan to work in the quarry like the generations before them. When it is announced that the prince will choose a bride from their village, 14-year-old Miri, who thinks she is being kept from working in the quarry because of her small stature, believes that this is her opportunity to prove her worth to her father. All eligible females are sent off to attend a special academy where they face many challenges and hardships as they are forced to adapt to the cultured life of a lowlander. First, strict Tutor Olana denies a visit home. Then, they are cut off from their village by heavy winter snowstorms. As their isolation increases, competition builds among them. The story is much like the mountains, with plenty of suspenseful moments that peak and fall, building into the next intense event. Miri discovers much about herself, including a special talent called quarry speak, a silent way to communicate. She uses this ability in many ways, most importantly to save herself and the other girls from harm. Each girl's story is brought to a satisfying conclusion, but this is not a fluffy, predictable fairy tale, even though it has wonderful moments of humor. Instead, Hale weaves an intricate, multilayered story about families, relationships, education, and the place we call home.–Linda L. Plevak, Saint Mary's Hall, San Antonio, TX
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Gr. 6-9. Miri would love to join her father and older sister as a miner in Mount Eskel's quarry. Not a glamorous aspiration for a 14-year-old, perhaps, but the miners produce the humble village's prize stone, linder, and mining is a respected occupation that drives the local economy. When the local girls are rounded up to compete for the hand of the kingdom's prince, Miri, the prize student in the Princess Academy, gets her chance to shine. In addition to her natural intelligence and spunk, she discovers an intuitive, and at times unspoken, language that grew out of work songs in the mines and uses linder as a medium. With this "quarry-speech" giving a boost to her courage and intelligence, Miri leads her classmates in the fight against being treated as social inferiors in the academy, at the same time educating herself in ways that will better the village. Hale nicely interweaves feminist sensibilities in this quest-for-a-prince-charming, historical-fantasy tale. Strong suspense and plot drive the action as the girls outwit would-be kidnappers and explore the boundaries of leadership, competition, and friendship. Anne O'MalleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved