Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, 2005
Miri finds herself, a mountain girl, in a class with the more elite "lowlanders," learning royal ways. The other girls clash with her when she gets them in trouble with tutor Olana, whose policy to keep the girls in line consists of palm lashings and locking them in closets. They band together and threaten to leave Olana with no students and tell the prince of her tactics.
The potential princesses-to-be dance the dances of spring. They meet other boys who are wary of their girls being in the eye of the prince. Miri fears rejection as a princess will mean a life spent herding goats. Miri's sister does not attend the Princess Academy.
One girl will wear an ornately beaded silver gown with lots of bling and dance with the prince. One of them will pair up with Prince Steffan. The princess' family will have a house just a short carriage ride from the palace. The girls study subjects like Poise and Conversation. Their thoughts remain in the prospect of royal brilliance.
"Her dreams of becoming academy princess wrapped around her and eased the chill."
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Mir (plural miri) means a village commune of peasant farmers in prerevolutionary Russia. I thought it would have been helpful to have a more definite time period that the novel was set in to give it more historical context. The writing of this book is very lyrical. Hale definitely has a way with words. I also loved the careful thought and planning of the girls in this book. For the most part, they were sweet and pleasant to one another.
Olana the tutor was cruel to them, but she was overwhelmed with the enormity of her task. This is really a political novel for teens, since being a princess is a political vocation. The girls were able to band together and make demands that caused Olana to acquiesce to providing them with more humane treatment. I loved the way that Miri emerged as a leader, and she was ultimately named academy princess.
At first, the girls only craved becoming royalty, probably to escape more mundane lives as ordinary citizenry. They did not seem concerned with the prince's personality or whether they would actually like him, until they met him. The story had a charming end with Steffan and Britta, who were infatuated with each other, ending up together, as Miri ended up with Peder, whom she much preferred over the prince, who seemed very stiff and formal to her. The fierce protectiveness that the mountain men had for their daughters was awesome to see when they had a chance to express their love for their progeny.