Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Princess Academy" by Shannon Hale

I have had my eye on books by this author for some time (she also wrote The Goose Girl, among other interesting-looking titles), but I have never seen fit to actually borrow one of them from the library until now. I think I originally intended to use her books for story time with my kids at night and we always had something else to read, but this week I gave up on that notion and decided to read it for myself.

I really like the author's style of writing. It is sweetly old-fashioned (in a good way). Do I contradict myself if I also say that it is timeless? Even though this book was published in 2005, it has the patina of an age-old fairy tale. Some of the new children's books have a sort of jarring quality to them, even if they are enjoyable, but this book avoids that pitfall. I slipped into it like a comfortable old fuzzy bath robe with matching slippers.

At times as I read I tried to decide what country Danland was modeled after. The mountains where Mount Eskel was situated made me think of Switzerland, but names like Peder (and their tradition with surnames) sounded more like Sweden.

I loved reading about the sweet relationship that develops between Miri and her childhood friend Peder. I was impressed with the character development throughout the book--even most of the minor characters seemed to have multiple facets rather than being two-dimensional. The Britta/Prince Steffan resolution seemed a little bit contrived in order to make a happy ending, and the bandit attack almost sounded like it was thrown in at the insistence of an editor hoping to add some action and excitement, but those are minor complaints as even these contributed to a most satisfying story that ended in the best way it could have. For once, I totally agree with a quote on the back of a book, this one reading, "Enchanting... In layer upon layer of detail a beautiful coming-of-age story emerges." I have only high praise for Hale's skill in crafting a story, and I am looking forward to reading more of her books.

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