Shannon Hale,
Princess Academy
(Bloomsbury, 2007)

Mount Eskel is probably the remotest portion of the kingdom. Nobody goes there save to purchase linden stone, which everyone knows is the best material to build castles with.

It comes as quite a shock when the prophets declare that the next queen will come from Mount Eskel. Even the natives do not believe the kingdom will put a crown on one of their daughters' heads.

Since there is no nobility, the country opens a "Princess Academy," a place where Mount Eskel girls of marriageable age are brought for basic education and training in the finer graces.

I admit right now if anyone but Shannon Hale had written the book, I probably would not have purchased it. Princess Academy as a title doesn't serve the volume as well as it could. But Hale manages to give new life to an old theme.

The interrelationship between the cultures, highlanders of Mount Eskel and the downlanders of the rest of the kingdom, is well-developed and, in my mind, very similar to Scottish culture. Reading the book, you can almost hear the songlike poetry developed by Mount Eskel people who have "linden stone in their blood."

It's fascinating also to see the effect education has on the whole community -- not just from learning about commerce, but to see who desires literacy in addition to the girls forced to learn.

Hale's writing has a poetry and simplicity that both young adults and older readers can enjoy without it being tired. Her voice as a writer is grace itself.

Even so, I didn't care that much for part of the story resolution. Of the two Hale books I've read, Book of a Thousand Days was far more powerful and deserved the full measure this reviewer could offer. Still, I would highly recommend this book for everyone from young girls to their great-grandmothers. It's an enjoyable read.

review by
Becky Kyle

29 March 2008

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