If onlyIf only my eleven-year-old younger self had read this book. Miri and younger Lola mightve shared a stronger and more vivid level of connection and this latter probably wouldve eagerly pressed five stars as rating. (Well, it certainly isnt every day that I refer to myself in the 3rd person.) But Im not eleven anymore, and, even if I enjoy some middle grade and younger reads from time to time, I will never feel the same way when reading them as I feel toward Young Adult novels, my favorite genre. What I loved most about this book was the lyrical writing and relationship between Miri and Britta, whom she misjudged quite too quickly, and her own sister, Marda.
One day the simple life ends: the priests of their country have mystically divined that the prince is to marry a girl from their village. Most of the story follows Miri and the other village girls as they deal with a harsh, cold head mistress of the academy, and the competition between them to be the head of the class (which earns you the best dress at the princess ball, plus some other perks).
--- MAY 2007: So the latest books Ive read I havent exactly enjoyed. I loved the themes of this book: education as a key to opportunity, diplomacy to work through problems, kindness to all (even when they dont seem to deserve it) which leads to empathy and understanding. One of my favorite books Ive read this year, hands down.
I will definitely read more of Shannon Hale's books when I am in a mood for a nice fairy tale.
Overall, the book was well written and appropriate for a young adolescent audience. 3) What culture was discussed permeated the story. Things like 'quarry-singing', holding hands, and twirling the miri flowers (to name a few) were present throughout the story, lending the culture a consistancy.
One day, it's announced that the prince will choose his next princess from Miri's village, and all of the girls are sent to an academy to be educated.
The linder quarries on Mount Eskel make for hard labour, but the villagers who mine it wouldn't trade their life for anything. Fourteen year old Miri wants nothing so much as to join her father and older sister in the quarry. But she's small, and her father has forbidden her to set foot in the quarry. Most of the girls don't want to become princess, and their families need them back in the village and quarry, but even so, competition sparks amongst them. (And what about Peder?) Yet when a threat comes to the Academy, curtseys and platitudes won't save them - only wits, mountain strength and Miri's determination. I also loved the small role economics plays in the story, not to mention the power an education gives you - Miri uses her hard-won knowledge from the Academy to improve her village's ability to trade, thus improving the quality of life on the mountain as well as their bargaining power.
It was never very surprising to this old reader; I could see the plot turns coming a few chapters before they did, but the true pleasure is in the relationships of the families in the mountain village where Miri lives, and of course the relationships of the girls as they develop.
I love to read middle-grade books. And when one loves to read middle-grade books, certain stories crop up over and over in your recommendations from various sources. And was reminded why I love middle-grade books so much. It reminded me of books I loved as a kid, and I understand now why it's such a staple of middle-grade for so many people. - Miri's relationship with her Pa by the end *all the heart eyes* My only issue was with Olana and the way the Academy was run. So that still bothers me about this book, but I loved the rest of it enough to still give it five stars.