Princess Academy by Shannon Hale tells the story of a 14 year old girl named Miri Larendaughter. Miri lives in the village of Mount Eskel with her father Laren and her sister Marda. There, she struggles to fit in and feels isolated, because she has never been allowed to work in the quarry like the rest of the villagers due to an accident that left her motherless.
The only person who actually sees Miri for what she’s worth is Pedar Doterson, her childhood playmate and best friend. Pedar and Miri both share a secret affection for each other but it is not allowed to flourish because one day, a messenger from the king arrives and announces that the prince is to choose a bride from Mount Eskel. A “princess academy,” is created and the girls from the village are taken away for princess training.
At the academy, Miri outshines all the other girls and receives the title of academy princess. She is allowed the first dance with the prince and from that point onward, Miri experiences many changes and is faced with trying to figure out where her heart lies… Does she want a prince, or is she in love with Pedar? Can she leave her family behind? Even scarier, can she be a princess?
Princess Academy is a wonderful coming of age story, and it really calls attention to the themes of community, gender, and education. It’s empowering. It’s thrilling. And more importantly, it breathes hope and life into the hearts of anyone who reads the tale.
Gaby Orendain comments, “I remember really liking the book! To me, Miri was a strong but relatable character who did great things despite her ‘humble’ mountain origins. I liked how she started off as being small and shy, and then grew to be not only one of the best in the academy, but also someone who helped save the day!”
It’s hard to say why Miri Larendaughter is the great protagonist that she is without spoiling the story, but one things for sure: Miri breaks the norm. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty,etc. are damsels in distress and they needed a prince to come save them. And sure, Miri may start off as a damsel in distress, but she evolves so much throughout the story. However, in the end, she provides the saving. She saves the prince, she saves the village, and she grows up to be a real woman with strength, power, humility and big big heart.