Miri lives on a mountain where for generations her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.This is one of my middle grade picks, one that I still re-read even today! I've always loved princess stories, believe it or not, especially ones that involve unlikely princesses or other twists, and this book fit the bill perfectly. There are way too many good things about it to list! We got excellent writing, an intriguing plot, great characters, family conflict, sweet kiddie romance, etc., etc. What more could you possibly ask for?
Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.
I liked how Shannon Hale worked in bits from many genres. At times it seemed more like European-style fantasy a la Lord of the Rings, sometimes it seemed like Heidi, sometimes it had an almost Asian fantasy twist. I loved it. I am embarrassing myself right now, because I cannot find any words more eloquent to express the fact that I loved it than, well, I loved it. (The eloquence problem might also be because I'm drop-dead knackered. Which, to all of you people out there who don't speak British English, means VERY TIRED.)
Anyway, this book would make a fantastic read-aloud to middle graders, and even an entertaining read for the YA crowd. Can you believe I haven't read anything else by Shannon Hale yet? Time for another library run! But to stay on topic - this is a book to read, share, and most definitely enjoy!