This book landed on desk for review almost a year ago. I looked at the pink cover and saw the word “princess” in the title and placed it at the bottom of the pile.
What a mistake that was. This is a wonderful fantasy, and yes there are princesses, but nothing like I could ever imagine. Two pages in and I realised this book was something special. A little internet research revealed a New York Times best-selling Newbery Honour Medal winner. I’m not surprised.
When the priests announce the prince will choose his bride from a small remote mountain village, Miri and the other girls her age are sent to the Princess Academy for training. Their teacher is a harsh taskmaster, the girls become competitive and squabble and even their lives are in danger.
But Princess Academy is more than this. It is beautifully written and Miri’s home Mount on Eskel where linder rock is quarried and workers use silent quarry-speak to communicate seems almost real.
The workers used this way of talking without speaking aloud so they could be heard despite the clay plugs they wore in their ears and the deafening blows of mallets. The voice of quarry-speech only worked in the quarry itself, but Miri could sometimes sense echoes when she sat nearby. She did not understand how it worked exactly, but had heard a quarry worker say that all their pounding and singing stored up rhythm in the mountain. Then when they needed to speak to another person, the mountain used the rhythm to carry the message for them.
There are social and political undertones. Miri struggles to find her place among her peers. The village is oblivious to the value of the stone it mines but Miri is quick to learn the ways of the outside world. A little knowledge is a catalyst for great change.
I loved this book so much I immediately moved on to Shannon Hale’s latest release, Dangerous. Next I need to read the Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy. I recently discovered Princess Academy was originally published in 2005 and the sequel is already waiting for me.
Reviewed by Sandy Fussell
Title: Princess Academy
Author: Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PB RRP $9.99
Publication Date: July 2013
Type: Young Adult Fantasy