Princess Academy Summary

Shannon Hale

Princess Academy

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Princess Academy Summary

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Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is a fantasy novel about relationships, family, and education. Published in 2005, it follows the protagonist Miri, a fourteen-year-old girl who goes to princess academy. The purpose of the education she receives there is to win her the hand of the prince. Miri is from Mount Eskel, which is located in an isolated area of Danland. She’s never been permitted to quarry with the other villagers. The quarry produces a mineral known in Danland as linder, which the villagers cut and sell to lowlanders. Unable to participate in this process, Miri feels like a misfit, outcast from an already isolated society. Despite this, she continues to do what she can to ensure the villagers have the means to survive. Miri is close with both her father and her sister, Marda. She also has a dear friend—a boy named Peder.

When a messenger from the king arrives and announces that the priests of Danland have declared that the prince’s future bride will come from Mount Eskel, the villagers are shocked. Because they are not well educated and because they are deeply suspicious of the lowlanders, they did not expect that a princess would be chosen from their midst. The village forms a princess academy in order to educate those girls who have the potential to wed the prince. Every girl in the village from age twelve to eighteen is required to attend, and the prince will make his choice at the close of the year.

Miri attends the academy with the other village girls. Their teacher, Tutor Olana, is strict and difficult to please, but Miri does exceptionally well. The stakes are high—each girl wants to please the prince and gain comfort for their families. One of Miri’s top subjects is commerce, and she uses what she learns to improve the village’s trading endeavors with the lowlanders. The girls all work together to negotiate with Tutor Olana to allow them to go home once a week to visit their families. Miri befriends a lowlander named Britta whose family has recently moved to Mount Eskel.

The competition at the princess academy is bitter, but Miri continues to help her peers. This attitude earns her the title of “Academy Princess.” With that title comes the chance to have the first dance with the prince, when he comes at the end of the year to choose his bride. When that opportunity arrives, the prince dances with all of the girls at the princess academy, except Britta, who is ill. After the dancing, the prince and Miri go for a walk together, and she feels like she’s able to get to know him as a person, beyond his title and role in the kingdom. However, he leaves the academy without selecting a future princess.

Before leaving Mount Eskel, the prince promises to return in the spring and declare who he will marry. However, after he leaves, bandits attack the academy. They want to hold the new princess hostage in order to extort the prince and the kingdom. During her time at the princess academy, Miri has become fluent in quarry speech, a type of nonverbal communication unique to Mount Eskel. She uses this language to call for help. Initially, no one answers her call, but Miri is persistent, and eventually she reaches Peder.

Even though a blizzard has struck the area, Peder summons the villagers and they travel to the academy to save the young women. The girls are able to escape the bandits and the academy, and they all spend the winter months at home with their families. When springtime rolls around, the prince keeps his promise and returns to announce his bride. He decides to marry Britta. They’ve known one another since childhood. Additionally, he declares Mount Eskel an official province of the kingdom. At the end of the book, Peder confesses his love for Miri and she admits that she loves him too.

Princess Academy was adapted for stage by Lisa Hall Hagan. The play premiered on May 29, 2015 at Pardoe Theatre, part of Brigham Young University. The play received an AML Award nomination for drama.

The novel received a number of awards and honors. It was named a Newbery Honor Book, an ALA Notable Children’s Book, and a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book. Princess Academy found its way onto several bestseller lists: New York Times, Book Sense, and PW. The New York Public Library honored the novel with inclusion on its 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing and A Book for the Teen Age lists. In 2005, it was a Book Sense Pick for Fall, a Salt Lake Tribune Best Book, and a Dover Community News Recommended Reads for Kids book. It was included in the New England Booksellers Association top 10 Titles for Fall. In 2006, Princess Academy won the Utah Children’s Book Award. In 2007, it won the Beehive Award and a top ten spot on the Vermont DCF list.

Princess Academy received an Honorable Mention for PW’s 2005 Cuffie Awards for “Favorite Novel of the Year.” Its 2008 nominations include the Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award, the Colorado Children’s Book Award, the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award, and the Pacific Northwest Library Association’s Young Reader’s Choice Award. The novel was also nominated for the Maud Hart Lovelace Award in 2010.