Readers enchanted by Hale's Goose Girl are in for an experience that's a bit more earthbound in this latest fantasy-cum-tribute to girl-power. Cheerful and witty 14-year-old Miri loves her life on Mount Eskel, home to the quarries filled with the most precious linder stone in the land, though she longs to be big and strong enough to do quarry work like her sister and father. But Miri experiences big changes when the king announces that the prince will choose a potential wife from among the village's eligible girls-and that said girls must attend a new Princess Academy in preparation. Princess training is not all it's cracked up to be for spunky Miri in the isolated school overseen by cruel Tutor Olana. But through education-and the realization that she has the common mountain power to communicate wordlessly via magical "quarry-speech"-Miri and the girls eventually gain confidence and knowledge that helps transform their village. Unfortunately, Hale's lighthearted premise and underlying romantic plot bog down in overlong passages about commerce and class, a surprise hostage situation and the specifics of "quarry-speech." The prince's final princess selection hastily and patly wraps things up. Ages 9-up. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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, Ages 9 to 12.
Children's Literature - Jeanne K. Pettenati J.D.
Fourteen-year-old Miri lives on Mount Eskel with her beloved father and sister Marta. When their king issues an edict that the prince's bride-to-be must come from Mount Eskel, Miri leaves home with the other young girls to attend a Princess Academy. Olana, the harsh woman who oversees the academy, never lets the girls forget that they are peasants from a rough land. The Mount Eskel girls do not know how to read and write. Miri and the others have never seen a city. And they certainly have never fantasized about being a princess. Until now. Miri is conflicted about leaving her home and attending the academy. Her friendship with young Peter has become more complicated, as feelings she doesn't understand seep into her consciousness. The idea of becoming a princess is alluring, but what is the prince like as a person? Personalities emerge and grudges intensify as the girls spend more and more time holed up in the academy. Olana is unforgiving and cruel at times. She locks Miri in a closet for hours after the girl speaks out of turn. A rat torments Miri during her time in the closet. She is saved when she uses "quarry speak" and one of the other girls named Gertie hears her. Quarry speak is how the miners on Mount Eskel communicate with each other when they are working in the quarry and cannot be heard over their loud tools. This audio book contains eight CDs, which run for one hour each. Miri is a compelling protagonist, clever, sweet-natured and bighearted, but insecure. The other girls and characters are unique individuals who come to life as their words are voiced by the excellent voice actors. This recording is based on the novel of the same name, which was a 2006 Newbery Honor Book.Highly recommend for long car trips and family listening, this unabridged audio book never fails. The plot, characters, and writing are first-rate. Readers will identify with Miri and be pulled along as they navigate the engaging story line. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.
Children's Literature - Mandy Nicoletta
Miri, a girl from the town of Mount Eskel, is one of many girls chosen to take part in a special academy to teach them how to be "Ladies." One of the girls will be chosen by the prince of the kingdom of Danland for his future wife. While at the academy for the required year of training, in addition to learning what it takes to become a Lady, Miri discovers the secret of her town's special communication ability and the connection to their livelihood of quarrying a rare stone called linder. After weeks away from their families, the girls break the unfair academy rules and return home for the spring festival. Upon their return to the academy, they identify a set of terms to which their teacher must agree: they want to be treated as if they are of ‘noble' birth and not commoners. Their teacher agrees to their terms, and her whole attitude instantly changes as she compliments them on learning the lesson of diplomacy and making agreements so well. When the prince finally arrives that winter, the ball goes well, but he does not choose a bride. He leaves to return in the spring, promising to make his choice known then. During his absence, bandits attack the academy and Miri must save the girls from harm using the village's special ability. In the end, will the prince choose Miri or one of the other lovely girls for his bride? Shannon Hale paints a picture of the tale through her superb descriptions of places and people, making the reader "see" everything that happens to Miri and her friends. This is a delightful tale for everyone who loves the fantasy that even a common girl can become a princess.
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., Ages 11 to 15.
Rebecca Moreland, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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. (Fantasy. 9-14)
From the Publisher
“Shannon Hale's books reignite my love of reading--that joy of having the time of my life with a great story.” Stephenie Meyer, author of Twilight
“This is not a fluffy, predictable fairy tale . . . . Instead Hale weaves an intricate, multilayered story about families, relationships, education, and the place we call home.” School Library Journal, starred review
“The book is a fresh approach to the traditional princess story with unexpected plot twists and great emotional resonance.” 2006 Newbery Committee
“Palace of Stone . . . proves once again that with quick wit and brave words, one person really can change the world.” School Library Journal on Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
“Powerful and deeply engaging.” Kirkus Reviews on Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
“This is not a fluffy, predictable fairy tale....Instead Hale weaves an intricate, multilayered story about families, relationships, education, and the place we call home.” SLJ, starred review for PRINCESS ACADEMY
“Palace of Stone . . . proves once again that with quick wit and brave words, one person really can change the world.” SLJ on Palace of Stone