Miri lives on top of the mountain, where everyone's trade is linder, a rare stone that lowlanders are always eager for. But unlike the other mountaineers, Miri is not allowed into the mine. True, she's incredibly tiny for her size, but there are plenty of people younger than her helping out. But instead, she stays at home, tending the goats and trading with the lowlander traders.
And then one day comes a new set of lowlanders, declaring that the royal priests have discovered that the future queen of the royal prince will be found on Mount Eskel. No one really knows what this means, but all the young ladies are rounded up and taken to a hastily made Princess Academy, miles away from the village. There, the girls will be educated and turned into princesses, and in the following year, the prince will come and choose his bride from among them.
But the princess academy has rules, and soon a fierce competition arises between Miri and one of the older girls, Katar. And don't forget the bandits...
Shannon Hale, master of fairy tales. That should be her new title. I don't think Princess Academy is actually based on anything, but it has the feel of a fairy tale retelling. I wouldn't call this her best (that would have to go to The Goose Girl), but I don't think Hale could ever be bad. I read this book in about one sitting (actually I read a lot of her books in one sitting), and not because it's short. It's about three hundred pages.
But anyway, Princess Academy is one of my favorites, and it should be one of your's too. Miri is likeable, as is the entire little world Hale has set up for the story. Every chapter is preceded by a little Mount Eskel song, which adds a lot of atmosphere to the novel. So if you like fantasy/fairy tales, definitely read this book. And if you don't like fantasy/fairy tales, just read this book. And make sure to also check out her Bayern series, which starts with The Goose Girl and is a retelling of the fairy tale by the same name.