Years ago, I asked one of my friends what her favorite book was. She said, “The Princess Academy”. At first, I thought that it sounded kind of dumb. Later she showed me the cover of girls in dresses walking on a long winding road in the mountains. A little house on the left and a mansion of sorts on the right. The cover gave the story a kind of ancient, mysterious feel to the book. It did make me wonder what the story was really about. Unfortunately, after that day I returned to my Gail Carson Levine books, and forgot about the book with the mountain cover. And yet, for years, it pestered me every once in a while, like a pebble in my shoe that I couldn’t get out. So, I finally asked, “why not?”. I read it. And I liked it.
Why you should read it:
The life lessons. I like the messages about friends it sends. We learn that people are much more than they seem. Like how Katar really wasn’t all mean, she just was lonely. When you have feelings bottled up for so long, sometimes you can’t help but be something you’re not. I like that it shows that in order to really love someone, you have to know them. I like how it shows that in order to know someone you have to talk with them. It even teaches how to have a conversation. That’s something that we lack nowadays. The questions and answers. The looking in their eyes. The listening. There was a lot in that book that I wish I would have read earlier, to have benefited from the lessons then.
The mountains. I’d really love to see those mountains. There’s something about sheep and miri flowers and mountain air that pulls me in. My dream is to be a shepherdess on the Irish cliffs, watching as the sun falls below the cold sea that lies where the land ends. The Princess Academy made me feel like I was there for a little bit. I loved the Scandinavian-Viking feel the village had to it. How the villagers had those rough edges, but soft hearts. Like the mountain itself. Shannon Hale is an expert with world-building, that’s the plain old truth.
Quarry speech. Reading about a thing like quarry speech made me think about how I communicate. It left me thinking what memories I would share with people if I had to convey a message. I thought that if I needed to tell my sister to run, that I’d show her that memory of when we bolted out of Johnny Rockets because we decided we really didn’t want to eat there anymore, even though we’d already sat down with our waters and everything. I wondered if some people would remember the memories that I do. If I tried to speak with quarry speech, who would understand? Quarry speech left me wondering what people remember.
The poems. Putting one before each chapter added a rhythmic element to the story. They made me wonder what I was about to read. It’s like that page before some mystery stories begin, where it tells a few words of dialogue or one paragraph of the climax. Or I love in the Inkheart series, where an excerpt from literature is placed before each chapter. The poems also tied in well with the quarry speech. Some quarry speech was the same words as a poem that was earlier in the story. This made the book feel like a quilt, woven together with different forms of writing.
Why you might not want to read it:
It’s a little cheesy. Granted it’s aimed at tween girls, so it’s got to have a little bit of cheesiness.
The reading level. If you’re used to reading adult novels, it can be bothersome at first. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about the vocabulary, character interaction, or narration that didn’t flow right.
So should you read it?
Overall, it’s a very good book. I found it enjoyable, even though I wasn’t Hale’s target reader. The pros most definitely outweigh the cons, so if you want a fun, cozy read, pick up The Princess Academy.
Let me know…
- What did you think of The Princess Academy?
- Do you enjoy reading children’s books?