April 23, 2012 by Heidi
Title: Princess Academy [Academy|GoodReads]
Author: Shannon Hale [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published: November 1st, 2007 by Full Cast Audio (First published January 1st, 2005 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books).
Format: Audio; 7 hrs, 30 mins. Read by Laura Credidio
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: Award Winning Reads Challenge
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.
Unfortunately, Princess Academy is one of those books for which my enjoyment suffered because of the format I chose. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy Princess Academy, I most certainly did, but I would also almost certainly have enjoyed it more had I read it. The audiobook of Princess Academy was produced by Full Cast Audio, and like their name, they use a full cast to read their books. Instead of a book narrated from different perspectives using various narrators (which I am fine with), Princess Academy had a main narrator for the text, and then each character had a different cast member voicing them. The main narrator, Laura Credidio was fine, but I was uncomfortable with the structure of the dialog. I’ve never listened to a book like this, and was trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t terrible, but I’m happy to retreat back to what I know I like.
I think where the full cast structure hit me most, was in my ability to like Miri. The girl doing her dialog made her come across as very whiny. As such, I wasn’t really able to root for her the way I normally would such a character. I did think that most of the other voice actors did a good job, this was just clearly not the format for me.
Princess Academywas a very cute and touching non-traditional fairy tale type story. It was funny, when I picked it up, I was actually thinking that the premise sounded a bit like the forthcoming book The Selection. However, Princess Academy panned out nothing like The Bachelor, for which I was quite grateful. I loved that the academy gave these girls a chance to come into their own, and find meaning and purpose in their lives beyond what they had expected or what was planned out for the girl selected for marriage by the prince. In fact, the prince was such a menial part of this story, it was very little romance and a lot of girl power!
The girls, Miri in particular, show their ingenuity by applying the facts and information they learn at the academy to better the lives of their townspeople, and their own lives in learning. The magical element in Princess Academy, quarry speak, is so unique and wonderful I absolutely loved it. The concept was that workers in the quarry had this method of communicating non-verbally with one another to invoke memories that elicited messages or warnings. Miri, who has never worked in the quarry, has felt as if she were lacking and not really a part of her community. With determination and perseverance she is able to better understand and manipulate quarry speak, allowing it to play an important roll throughout the girls’ story.
Princess Academy was a charming story about finding one’s place, following one’s heart, and the power of relationships. Certainly a recommended read, and surely an enjoyable audiobook for those who don’t mind this unique narrative structure. Maybe it’s better for kids who might otherwise have a difficult time keeping the characters strait by voice? I’m not sure.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: I did like Princess Academy, but I didn’t love it. I’m planning for my next Shannon Hale read to be The Goose Girl, as that is the book that gets talked about the most highly about the blogosphere.
Recommended for: People who like this narrative style, anyone who enjoys non-traditional fairy tales and a focus on female relationships, friendship, and family.