Title: Princess Academy
Author: Shannon Hale
What it's about: The village of Mt. Eskel is a secluded one where the people live a simple life mining linder stones to sell to traders. Miri, a young village girl who doesn't work in the quarry, has never thought about life outside of her mountain. Then one day the traders are accompanied by an emissary from the king. The priests of the kingdom have divined that the prince's bride will be a girl from Mt. Eskel, so all the eligible girls must attend an academy to recieve polish so that the prince can choose his bride from among them. Now Miri and the other girls have to adapt to learning an overwhelming amount of new things, all taught by a strict tutor. But despite the hardships, Miri learns many important things, including more about who she is as a person.
What I thought: This was the first of Shannon Hale's books that I read, and I thought it was great. As with The Goose Girl, the world of the story is well-developed, with plenty of little touches of culture that make the story and its inhabitants seem more real. Quarry-speaking was an interesting invention, and I liked the imagery that ran through this. Miri was a good protagonist, someone relatable and clever. In regards to the ending, I don't believe I was able to predict it when first I read this, so I think that also says something good for this book.
Overall: A very nice stand-alone read, good for getting into Hale's books.