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83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the Year
Let's face it. The princess-in-training plot is a little overused, and as a result, it's sort of tired reading for most people who've read a lot of children's lit.

And that is precisely why Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is essential reading. If a novel that's written in a seemingly tired subgenre manages to win a major award as this one did, something new...
Published on April 24, 2006 by Oddsfish

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Thought It Would Be So Much Better
It's an award winning book. I thought it would be so much better. When I finished it, I just felt like, Is that it? Very disappointing.
Published 13 months ago by garenkay


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83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the Year, April 24, 2006
By 
Oddsfish (United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
Let's face it. The princess-in-training plot is a little overused, and as a result, it's sort of tired reading for most people who've read a lot of children's lit.

And that is precisely why Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is essential reading. If a novel that's written in a seemingly tired subgenre manages to win a major award as this one did, something new and amazing must have happened there so as to overcome the reading audience's prejudice.

And Princess Academy was an original and amazing read. It was entirely worthy of being named a Newbery Honor award; in fact, it should have won the top award.

The main character, Miri, is fascinating. Bold, courageous, smart, funny. She's an utter joy to read about. As is the culture that Hale has created for the novel.

And there's nothing tired about this plot. Hale echoes some of the princess fairy tale conventions, but she's really remade this fairy tale story quite successfully. Just when you think you've got the plot pegged, there's a twist that throws you. A relationship develops as you didn't think it would, or a surprising enemy arises. It's an entirely involving story.

The story contains surprising layers of meaning, too. The relationships have depth, and there are valuable social messages here.

It's a really strong novel, definitely the best book I've read this year (regardless of genre).
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201 of 221 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bonjourno possible principessas!, January 26, 2006
This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
"So what won the Newbery this year?"

"Criss Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins".

"Uh-huh. Is it any good?"

"Yep. It's nice".

"So what else got awards?"

"Well, there was something called Whittington by Alan Armstrong, Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and of course The Princess Academy..."

"The PRINCESS Academy? Oh, ick, yuck, puke!"

"...by Shannon Hale. You've read it?"

"Well...no, not exactly. But how good could anything called The Princess Academy be?"

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a rough equivalent of several conversations I've had with various people in regards to Shannon Hale's latest little nugget of gold. Say the words "Princess Academy" to the well-read and instantly their faces scrunch up and either the word "ew" or the word "ugh" emits from their lips. Ask them if they've read the book themselves and you'll undoubtedly get a quick shake of the head. It isn't the actual book they don't like. It's the title. I imagine there must have been some long conversations over at Bloomsbury Children's Books when this title was proposed. On the one hand, if you put the word "Princess" in a title you can link it the oh-so profitable "Princess Diaries", Disney "Princess" line, and even the "Royal Diaries" line of books. On the other hand, you're going to lose numerous parents, educators, librarians, masculine readers, and other members of society who take one look at the title and brush it off. I gave the book a long hard look before I plunged into it. This I admit freely. And while I wouldn't go handing it silver medals just for existing, it's certainly an intelligent and well-written little story that's bound to be adored by fans of Hale's previous "The Goose Girl", not to mention Gail Carson Levine's, "Ella Enchanted".

It is a well-known fact that Mira is useless. That is to say, it's well-known to Mira. Every day she wants to go off and work in the quarry with all the other village girls so that she can contribute something to her little mountain village. And every day her father refuses to let her set even one toe near the quarry lines. Short for her age with little to do but speak to her sister Mara and her old childhood friend Peder, fourteen-year-old Mira is mired in her own shame when who should appear in the village but a representative from the king himself. It seems that the prince is in need of a bride. Sounds simple. Unfortunately the royal priests have declared that the woman chosen will have to be from Mira's tiny mining village. Which means, of course, that an academy must be set up for the ladies ASAP. Before any of the girls know it, they've been whisked off to study under the harsh tutelage of one Olana Mansdaughter. Far from her home and her previous assumptions, Mira thrives in an atmosphere of entirely new knowledge. Yet as she grows more self-aware, it becomes perfectly clear to all of the girls that only one of them will earn the prince's favor. And Mira does not entirely want it to fall onto her.

I just read the bookflap of my copy to figure out whether or not the bookflap writer (oh most unrewarding of jobs) had a better grasp on showing you some of the book's subtleties. No such luck. Rereading my own summary, the book sounds kind of cutesy. I despise the term "girl power" to the marrow of my bones, but this is certainly a tale of empowerment, no question. And telepathy. Empowerment and telepathy. We're in fairy tale country here, but aside from the occasional I-can-speak-to-you-through-the-rocks moment, the story is straightforward and sensible. Hale keeps her characters and emotions on a tight reign, never giving away too much or allowing too little. Attentive readers will probably guess at the prince's choice long before Mira does, but for others it will come as a pleasant and well-crafted little surprise. As a heroine, Mira herself undergoes the necessary growth and changes required of her. At the same time, she has a sense of humor. The book doesn't go in for many laugh out loud moments, but at least we're not watching a humorless EARNEST hero in the making.

I'm just waiting for the review of this book that decries it to be a Communist screed (which, obviously, it isn't but Amazon.com reviewers love making that accusation). You see, the girls often work as a whole to beat their enemies when they can't do it singly. They form a kind of insipient princess union so that their professor will lay off the harsh punishments and give them their basic human rights. It works like gangbusters (due in no little way to some fancy negotiating) and is a lovely little lesson in sticking together against a common enemy. The book also shows how a village that is seemingly doing well for itself can still benefit from a good education. In some ways, "The Princess Academy" is so practical in its system of checks and balances that you forget that the places mentioned in this tale don't actually exist. Hale excels at selling you an entirely new reality.

Chalk this book up to a nice little surprise. If you were to grab me by my lapels and demand whether this book should have gotten a Newbery Honor or "Each Little Bird That Sings", I would of course indicate the latter. But since "Little Bird" did NOT win and "Princess Academy" did, don't go scoffing at this book sight unseen. Bad titles aside, Hale has conjured up a nice little story and a worthy addition to any and all library systems.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Girl is a Princess, July 2, 2005
This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
This is a delightful tale for all ages, full of hope, exploring our hearts' desires, daily struggles, human relationships, and finding our way in this world. Soul searching, while attempting to discover meaning in life, is very much a part of this age-old story retold so beautifully by Ms. Hale. The girls' hope to be chosen by the prince as his princess is something we can all relate to.

While the story recognizes deeper and larger issues such as how society views differing classes and the often overwhelming and almost hopeless struggle to achieve success (or what we believe to be success), the fairy tale nature of this book makes it charming and engaging, presenting only gentle and subtle messages.

Though this story likely will appeal mainly to girls, it is an entertaining tale for all ages and peoples. Even boys and men should be encouraged to read this book, if only to gain a greater understanding of girls and women - their hopes, dreams, reasoning, and challenges.

Ms. Hale tells a timeless tale which proves that girls never really change. Times change, and surroundings change, but girls never really change. I truly believe that "a fairy lives in every girl's heart." Having read The Princess Academy, I now also believe that every girl is a princess, even grown up girls.

J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Story; Questionable Title, March 21, 2006
This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
This coming of age story is appealing for the characters and for the connection in their lives to the mountain. I am always fascinated by books about schools and children, as I find it very interesting to see what adults consider important to teach children and how. Nevertheless, the important thing here isn't really the school, but is rather the lure of the fancy "lowlander" life vs. the more simple life of the people on the mountain, whose main source of income is the rock quarry.

The only thing I didn't particularly care for was the resolution of the life of the character Britt. The explanation of her circumstances was a bit too facile and abrupt.

This is not a glitzy book with modern royalty obsession, though it does cover some of the same territory: learning manners, etiquette, and how to behave at a ball. The emphasis here, though, is on empowering rural mountain people through reading and education in commerce to make their lives better. Mira, the main character, and the other girls learn to read and ultimately improve the lives of their entire community.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed this book. Some books I feel I SHOULD enjoy and struggle to finish, but this one I read straight through, putting aside all other distractions. That has to say something about the book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Be Chewed and Digested, April 24, 2007
This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
I'm in loooooooove. That's all I can figure. Why else would I have stayed up until 2am to finish this book, tossed and turned, unable to sleep, feverish thoughts of "if only I had enough money to buy the school 10 copies and give one to everyone I know!" in my over-tired head? Why else would I have dreamed (when I was finally able to sleep) of the different characters in this book, longing to be the main character, Miri? I am dopey-eyed, slack-jawed, gimme more gimme more gimme more in loooooooove with this book!

Princess Academy can most easily be described as a take on the "princess tale," wherein it is possible for a common young woman to marry the prince. But it's so much more than that. Young Miri is the diminutive heroine of the story, living a small, quiet life with her family and villagers atop Mount Eskel. The village mines the mountain quarries for blocks of linder, a valuable commodity for building in their country of Danland. A representative from the royal court - located in the "lowlands" - comes to tell the village that it has been determined the prince's bride shall come from their tiny village. Since none of the young women can read or write or engage in things like Conversation, Poise, and Diplomacy, the court creates a Princess Academy, where the girls can study for one year and potentially catch the eye (and hand) of the Prince at the year-end ball.

The year at the Academy changes everyone, especially Miri (named after the miri flower that grows in the linder-filled mountains). She comes to the academy with fear and hope lodged in her heart. She has always felt useless in her village - too small to work the quarry, too small to be of any consequence. Could the Academy offer her a chance to be important? What if she were chosen as the princess? Ultimately Miri discovers in herself hidden talents and abilities, and with a generous spirit goes about helping others to do the same. Throughout the year at the school, all the girls grow strong, intelligent, independent. They examine their relationships with each other, with their families, with the mountain itself.

Author Hale leans on Scandinavian roots to create her community in the book. The look, the feel of the village is Scandinavian, even down to the use of names like Doter and Peder and Britta. There are some incredibly poignant scenes, one which made me tear up. There is humor and action and suspense. There is a sweet love story, with touches of passion and fluttering hearts. The mountain is a character as real as any human in this story. This isn't really just a "princess tale." It's a tale of friendship and love, loyalty, courage, individual gifts, the value of education. I'd hate for anyone to look at the title and dismiss it as a fairy tale. I was thinking if I had chosen the title, it might be "Miri Blooms." This book has certainly planted something very warm and whole in my own heart. Yes, I think I'm in love!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My kind of princess candidates, August 24, 2005
By 
Tamora Pierce (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
When I heard the title of Shannon Hale's new book, I was deathly curious to see what she'd do with such an idea. I should have known she would give the concept of a school for princess candidates such an unusual spin. When their prince must choose a bride from the girls of Mount Eskel, their government sets up a school where they will learn a lady's skills from a noble tutor, Olana, who punishes the girls for the smallest infraction of her rules. Miri, the smallest of the girls, comes to the school feeling unworthy already--her mother died giving birth to her; her father doesn't allow her to work in the quarry like the other girls, so she feels she doesn't contribute. The main story is hers, as she is first the academy outcast. She finds the way to teach herself the quarry speech, the silent conversation used by those who mine Eskal's linder rock, then discovers the miners are being cheated in the sale of linder. As Miri grows bolder in her discoveries, so do the other girls. They change the aspect of the school and what it means to the people of the mountain and to the girls it is preparing to be princess candidates. These are not wimploid girls to begin with, and what they learn is never what the reader expects. I recommend this book to anyone who likes girls who stand up for themselves and for the people they care about!
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful school for thought, June 27, 2005
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This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
I think Princess Academy is my favorite of Shannon Hale's three wonderful books. When the priests in the capital of Asland determine that Danland's prince will marry a girl from Mount Eskel's marble mining village, an academy is established for all eligible village girls so that they may gain the proper knowledge and skills to be choosen. Miri, with 19 other girls, is sent to the academy for a year. Along with Poise and Conversation, Miri finds information to help her village and discovers within herself what it truly means to be a princess, and not just in title.

Also recommended: Goose Girl, Enna Burning (both by Hale), the Charlie Bone series
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, November 14, 2005
This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
With a richly imagined world, a strong message about the power of education, an enchanting heroine, and a cause to root for. Seriously, I read at least four books a week for my job at a chidlren's bookstore, and this is probably one of the best I've read all year.

Miri grows up in a remote mountain village, feeling useless to her family because she can't help mine the linder that is the village's source of income. But when an envoy from the King comes to tell the villagers that they must send their daughters to a school to learn how to be princesses, for it has been decreed that the next princess will come from their village, she thinks she might finally prove useful. Don't be fooled by the title, this is no fluffy princess book a la Meg Cabot, really this book is about the power of education and what happens when women are given the gift of reading and writing. Miri discovers and develops her own intellectual strength, as well as great strength of character, and the things she discovers about linder, her village's place in the greater world, and herself will surprise and delight the readers. Gentle subplots about a father's love and the love of a childhood friend complete the well-rounded feel of this novel. Highly, highly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars refreshingly new "princess" story, January 25, 2006
By 
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This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
I was surprised and pleased by _Princess Academy_. The title sounded familiar and perhaps a little hackneyed, but the story--and the characters--are refreshingly different.

Mount Eskel, where the heroine lives and the entire story takes place, is a surprising combination of real-world Scandanavia, the Brothers Grimm and Chinese fairy tales--a harmonious but imperfect place where no one knows how to read or write but women (like men) are valued for their strength as well as their goodness. We never really see the world beyond the mountain (perhaps, someday, a sequel--or another book set somewhere else in the kingdom?)--the entire story deals with the interactions of the village girls and the strangers who occasionally visit. I would have liked to see more about the other villagers (especially Miri's family; her interaction with her father is mostly limited to him calling her "his flower," but is important in the story), but the portrayal of a small group of girls and the dynamics of friendship and non-friendship between them is surprisingly realistic, without being too bitter or cynical.

This book is a good choice for girls who really like princess stories, but it's not set in a castle by the sea (or in a castle at all), and the girls are realistic characters with interesting lives. It is NOT a sword-and-dragon adventure novel (nor is it high fantasy), so don't be confused, but it's a well-written, enjoyable read with some definite moments of excitement. The more quietly romantic type of girl will enjoy this. A nice new twist on both the fairy-tale princess genre and the school story tradition.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming story of one girl's determination, August 17, 2005
By 
KidsReads (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Princess Academy (Hardcover)
For as long as fourteen-year-old Miri can remember, her family and friends have always lived on Mount Eskel, an isolated territory in the Danland kingdom. The villagers, including her Pa and older sister Marda, make a living on the stone they quarry themselves from the mountain. The work is difficult and their living modest, but Miri still hopes to work in the quarry someday. Her Pa, however, doesn't like the idea and refuses to let his younger daughter work in the quarry. Miri --- named after a small blue mountain flower --- believes the reason is because she's smaller than most girls her age.

Then one day, the traders arrive with a royal delegate from the lowlands. The delegate announces that the prince is searching for a bride, and that the priests have divined that the next princess will come from Mount Eskel. The prince himself will travel to the village to choose his bride. In the meantime, all the eligible girls must attend an academy to learn the skills needed to be a princess. The village is a little wary of the surprising news, but reluctantly agree to have the girls attend the academy.

The girls enter the makeshift academy and are immediately set to a strict schedule, with an equally demanding tutor named Olana. The academy soon becomes unbearable for Miri, who realizes that she is an outcast and is considered to be strong competition by some of the older girls. The only thing that keeps Miri going is the desire to learn the mysterious language of quarry-speech and to be the Academy Princess --- a title that proves to be more valuable than being a potential bride. Just when things begin turning around for Miri, the prince makes a startling decision and the academy is put in a dangerous situation from which only Miri can rescue them.

PRINCESS ACADEMY is the strong, well-written story of one girl's determination to show that even a small mountain flower can be as valuable as a gold crown.

--- Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle ([...])
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Princess Academy
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (Hardcover - July 6, 2005)
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