“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.
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.” (from Goodreads)
Confession: I waited too long to read this book by Shannon Hale. The little snatches of writing style I had seen didn’t look that good, and the description gave me the suspicion that it would be The Same Old Story. I was happily wrong and discovered one of the best fantasies I’ve ever read. 😉 The worldbuilding was really good and not too bizarre. It felt almost like somewhere straight out of Alps with hardworking, friendly (if slightly quarrelsome) neighbors. I loved the descriptions of the desolately beautiful quarry, the persistent miri flowers (which are actually real!), and the linder rocks. Miri was a likable heroine–not too strong-willed, smart, or timid. Just a regular, interesting girl. 😉 The academy was a unique idea, and I loved how the girls used what they had learned to help their community without becoming the leaders of it. Britta was so sweet after she loosened up a little, and I liked what ended up happening with Katar. The encouragement to reach out to people despite their unfriendliness and band together was really excellent. I nearly laughed when they used the rules of diplomacy together on Olana, and the way they helped each other through the test was pretty awesome. 😉 Spring holiday sounds like a ton of fun and is just another glimpse of the close-knit community portrayed in this book. SPOILER ALERT! Peder is just darling! I love how their friendship developed naturally into deep care for each other, and the linder hawk was a pretty sweet gift. ❤ END OF SPOILER! One character who was immensely complicated and challenged my initial opinion of him was Miri’s father. I grew to love him. The ending was really unexpected and for a split second I felt cheated. SPOILER ALERT! What was the academy for anyway? END OF SPOILER! But once I thought about it, I loved it. 😀 Love, love, loved it. That’s really how it should have turned out, and the lasting effects of the academy were their own reward. SPOILER ALERT! And Miri and Peder!!! *squeals* END OF SPOILER! Not recommended for younger readers because of a slight element of romance; SPOILER ALERT! quarry speech, an awesome element of the story, but it’s basically telepathy END OF SPOILER; and extreme danger to MAJOR SPOILER ALERT! young girls at the hands of bandits although everything turns out fine with no damage END OF SPOILER. Also, the view of God in this book subtly reflects the false Mormon religion even though it is in a fantasy setting.
Best quote: SPOILER ALERT! “Yes, I suppose so,” she said with an exaggerated sigh. “But it will cost you something–one linder hawk.”
Peder nodded as if impressed. “An interesting choice of payment. What ever made you think of such a thing?”
“I had one before, and it was the most… Well, actually, the most precious thing I own is the week right after I was born when my mother held me and never put me down. But the hawk was the second most precious thing. I was sorry to lose it, and if you make me another one, I promise not to get taken captive by bandits and have to use it to save my life.” END OF SPOILER!
Altogether, I very much enjoyed this sweet and satisfying read! I can’t wait to read the other books in this series. 😉