Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale

“History was as hard to hold as a wet fish.”

– Palace of Stone, pg. 279

Princess Academy‘s Miri suffers from poverty, feeling misplaced, and feeling unloved in a fierce quarry environment. The limited omniscient narrator unfolds a discretely magical world where history is communicated and absorbed into the stone that has chiseled away at the lives of the small neglected mountain village, Mount Eskel. Friendship, familial understanding, nature, and home are beautifully portrayed in this novel; as well as the liberation of education and knowledge.

Palace of Stone, book 2, is my personal favorite, as we follow Miri continuing to mature and develop away from her beloved mountain. There is a love triangle that made my kids hide their heads; however, Miri is brave, honest, and loyal to all the boys involved. This is refreshing and I read louder to make sure all the hidden ears heard how to face situations, especially situations that are uncomfortable. I love the political idealism in this second book and the focus on not who is right and who is wrong, but who is kind and informed.

The Forgotten Sisters, book 3, was another fun change in scene as Miri enters a dangerous and wild swamp as a tutor. Hale allows her characters to change and evolve; however, some characters who fail and hurt others are left without punishment. This literary aspect is unique in junior fiction and I think closer to real-life than our internal rigid justice system feels comfortable with. Thanks Shannon.

My kids (aged 13, 11, 9, 7) and I adore this series. The kids graciously ignored my occasional emotionally tight throat when I read out loud to them. We agree that these novels have a beautiful balance of tension, heart, excitement, family, and friendship with a sprinkling of humor and romance.