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The original cover of Princess Academy
|June 16, 2005|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.H13824 Pr 2005|
Princess Academy is a fantasy novel exploring themes of families, relationships, and education by Shannon Hale published on June 16, 2005 by Bloomsbury. It tells the story of fourteen-year-old Miri who attends a princess academy which will determine who wins the hand of the prince. The book was named a 2006 Newbery Honor winner as well as a winner of several other awards.
Miri is a fourteen-year-old girl from Mount Eskel, an isolated territory of Danland, who has never been allowed to work with the rest of the villagers in the quarry that keeps the community alive. The quarry workers cut linder (a fictional type of expensive stone), which they sell to the lowlander traders. Because of this, she feels like an outcast in the community and cut off from the culture focused around a shared working life in the quarry. As the quarry can barely cut enough linder to feed the villagers, Miri keeps on trying to help. In spite of her feelings of isolation, Miri is very close to her father and her sister, Marda, and she shares a close friendship with a boy named Peder.
Unexpectedly, a messenger from the king arrives along with the usual traders from the lowlands. The messenger announces that the nation's priests have informed the nation that, despite the lack of education provided for the villagers and the prejudice that exists between the mountain villagers and the lowlanders, the crown prince's future bride will come from Mount Eskel.
A "princess academy" is established near the village to train the potential princesses, with compulsory attendance for every girl aged from twelve to eighteen. At the end of the year, the prince will visit the academy and choose the girl to be the next princess.
Miri and the other girls attend the academy, and although they struggle to appease the strict teacher, Tutor Olana, Miri excels at learning and commerce. All the girls are eager to please the prince and win a comfortable life for themselves and their families, and Miri's new knowledge of commerce helps the village prosper in trading with the lowlanders. After a disagreement, the girls use their knowledge of diplomacy to negotiate a more bearable living arrangement with Tutor Olana, including weekly visits home. Miri also begins to explore the mechanics of quarry-speech, a form of unspoken communication used only in the quarry, and makes friends with some of the other girls, including Britta, a lowlander who had recently moved to Mount Eskel.
Miri's excellence in her studies and her willingness to help her peers despite bitter competition eventually earn her the title of academy princess and the privilege of having the first dance with the prince. At the academy ball, the prince dances with every girl except Britta, who is ill, and generally acts very distant. Later in the evening, he takes a walk with Miri and shows a more human side. However, he leaves without choosing a bride. Once the prince has left, promising to return in the spring to announce his choice, bandits attack the academy hoping to hold the new princess hostage. Miri must use her new knowledge of quarry speech to call for help from the village. At first no one seems to hear her, but eventually she is able to contact Peder. The villagers come to the academy through the blizzard, and the girls escape from the bandits and spend the whole winter at home with their families. In the spring, the prince returns and chooses to marry Britta - whom he has known since childhood - and names Mount Eskel an official province. The book ends with Peder and Miri admitting their feelings toward each other.
- Miri is a fourteen-year-old girl and a resident of Mount Eskel, where she lives with her father Laren and her older sister Marda. As a child, her father forbade her from setting foot in the quarries where the villagers work daily. As a result, she feels unwanted and assumes her small stature prevents her from being useful to her community. When the chief delegate of Danland announces that Mount Eskel would be the home of the future princess, Miri is chosen, along with other eligible girls, to attend the princess academy. At the academy, she discovers a passion for reading and manages to stand out among her peers due to her intelligence, critical thinking and leadership skills, and willingness to help her classmates despite bitter competition. Her exam scores eventually earn her the title of academy princess. In the end, she returns to her home with dreams of starting a village school. She is the main character.
- A lowlander by birth, Britta is initially presented as an orphan who moved to Mount Eskel to live with her only remaining relatives. She has a difficult time fitting into the local culture, and her silence is often misinterpreted by her peers as typical lowlander arrogance. At the princess academy, she befriends Miri and several other girls, although she never manages to hear the unique "quarry-speech" that unites all residents of the mountain. Britta starts out as the only girl who could read, although she tries to hide the fact in the hopes of blending in. It is later revealed that Prince Steffan had been Britta's childhood playmate and later love interest. Her father is a nobleman and has deliberately sent her to Mount Eskel under a false pretense so that she could wed the prince. In the end, Britta is selected by Steffan as his chosen princess and leaves to prepare for a future with the man of her dreams.
- A brusque older girl at the Princess Academy, Katar becomes Miri's rival as the top student and is determined to be chosen as the future princess. Deliberately setting herself apart from other girls, Katar comes across as snobbish and does not hesitate to demonstrate the extent of her learning as much as possible to the academy tutor, Olana Mansdaughter. However, she reluctantly joins the other girls when they oppose Olana's unfair treatment, though she points out how they have broken the rules of the academy and the resulting consequences. It is eventually revealed that Katar had lost her mother shortly after she was born, but unlike Miri, she felt unloved by her father. As a result, she wishes to leave Mount Eskel no matter what, even if it means marrying the prince despite her lack of interest in him. When Miri turns down Britta's offer to become the delegate for the newly designated province of Mount Eskel, Miri suggests Katar instead, believing her qualifications as the highest scoring graduate of the Princess Academy and her wish to leave Mount Eskel make her the most suitable candidate for the position.
- Peder is a fifteen-year-old boy and a resident of Mount Eskel who works in the quarries with the rest of the villagers. He is described as tall and lean with a head of tawny curls. Peder and Miri grew up as childhood playmates, and as they hit puberty, their affection for each other blossomed into romantic love, a fact that they both feared to reveal. Whereas Miri considers herself scrawny, useless, and undesirable compared to other village girls, Peder is discouraged by his belief that Miri desires to marry the prince. Throughout the novel, Peder seems to have a special connection to Miri, as he is able to hear her pleas for help (when bandits held the academy girls) when even her own father could not. In addition, Peder has considerable artistic talent and finds a passion in carving linder, a hobby that is discouraged due to the need for extra hands to help with mining. However, as conditions improve due to Miri's skills in commerce, Peder is able to spend time on his hobby and looks forward to the day when he can formally study from a skilled artisan.
A sequel, Princess Academy: Palace of Stone, was published in August 2012. The story follows Miri and her princess academy friends going to Asland to help the future princess, Britta, prepare for her wedding. Miri is also allowed to attend school at the Queen's Castle and befriends a number of students, whose apparent sophistication and exciting lives fascinate her until she learns of their frightening plans to overthrow the monarchy. Torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city, Miri looks to find her own way in this new place.
Subsequently, a third book was published in February 2015, titled Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters. After spending a year in Asland, Miri is looking forward to returning to Mount Eskel and reuniting with her family, but is unexpectedly ordered by the king to become the tutor at a princess academy for three royal sisters: Astrid, Felissa, and Susanna. When Miri learns that her beloved Mount Eskel could be lost in an impending war against a neighbouring nation of Stora and that the successful marriage of one of sisters to Stora's king may save Asland, she reluctantly agrees to journey to Lesser Alva, a swampy and remote territory where the sisters are residing. Miri forced to endure the challenge of educating the three independent-minded girls against suspicious locals who cannot be trusted and the natural dangers of the swamp land, while discovering that there is a greater mystery regarding the true identities of the three girls and the war is looming closer than she realizes.
Awards and nominations
- Newbery Honor Book
- New York Times, Book Sense, and PW Best Seller
- A Book Sense Pick for Fall 2005
- An ALA Notable Children's Book
- 2007 Beehive Award winner
- A New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
- A New England Booksellers Association Top 10 Titles for Fall
- A Book for the Teen Age by The New York Public Library
- Honorable Mention for "Favorite Novel of the Year," PW's 2005 Cuffie Awards
- Winner of the 2006 Utah Children's Book Award
- A Bank Street College Best Children's Books of the Year, starred entry
- Nominated for the 2008 Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award
- Nominated for the 2008 Colorado Children's Book Award
- Nominated for the 2008 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award
- Nominated for the 2008 Young Reader's Choice Award, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association
- Nominated for the Illinois 2008 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award
- Nominated for the 2010 Maud Hart Lovelace award (Minnesota)
- A 2007 DCF Voting Top Ten (Vermont)
- A Salt Lake Tribune Best Book of 2005
- Recommended Reads for Kids 2005 (Dover Community News) 
- Books: Princess Academy on the author's official website