To start off the new column on book reviews, I’d like to introduce one of my favorite books of all time, a really sweet fantasy classic: Princess Academy. Let me know your thoughts on the book in the comments!
Author: Shannon Hale
Stars: 5 of 5
• 5 = an amazing book that delivers a punch. Read this!
Teaser: High on the slopes of Mount Eskel, Miri’s family has lived forever, pounding a meager living from the stone of the mountain itself. Miri dreams of working alongside the others in the quarry, but she has never been allowed to work there—perhaps, she thinks, because she is so small.
Then word comes from the lowlands: the prince of the
lowlands must choose a bride from Mount Eskel. In preparation for this unheard-of
event, Miri and the other rustic Mount Eskel village girls attend a makeshift
academy to prepare for royal lowlander life. At the academy, Miri must
challenge her mind—and discover her heart—before danger overwhelms the school.
Age level: Preteens and up
Violence: 2 of 5
• 2 = PG-level violence that's a minor theme in the book
Romance: 2 of 5
• 2 = romance is minor but present (for instance, one kiss at the end of the story)
Language: 0 of 5
• 0 = none
Christian worldview: There’s mention of the king’s priests who divine the location of the princess-to-be. However, nothing more is said of these priests than a brief reference to explain the reason for the prince selecting a wife from Mount Eskel.
On the positive side, this story heartily affirms traditional biblical values of courage and sacrifice and family and friendship and love and even obedience (quite the rarity these days).
Princess Academy is an incredibly sweet coming-of-age story that shows the
courage and strength of one small but determined girl. Miri’s not perfect—her
character is crafted with such flaws and strengths, such victories and
embarrassments, that she feels utterly realistic. The other characters in the
story are similarly vivid and believable.
Also, the twists and turns in the story caught me totally by surprise. The plot had enough danger that it felt meaningful, but it wasn’t just action—there was a lot of character conflict spurring the story, too.
In terms of fantasy, the book was really light on any actual magic, which I really appreciated. The one semi-magical element felt perfect within that world.
The hint of romance in the story (inevitable in any tale of prince and princess) was really well-done. It was subtle and not cliché—which, for a semi-fairytale like this one, is saying a lot.
Over the years and over the course of countless re-readings, Princess Academy has truly become one of my favorite books. I recommend it to everyone—especially young ladies—without hesitation. Read and enjoy!
Have you read Princess Academy? Do you have any thoughts about the book after reading my review?