Princess Academy

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Princess Academy Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Would-be princesses show grit, wisdom in empowering tale.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 56 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about resourcefulness, open-mindedness, diplomacy, kindness, fairness, reconsidering bias, and the value of education.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Miri is smart, kind, curious, positive, and anxious to solve problems with humor and intelligence. Her father's a tough but loving presence; her sister's a kind and supportive influence. The mountain folk are portrayed as incredibly reliable, loving community members. The majority of the girls in training are well-intentioned, though some are depicted as competitive and jealous.


A man falls off a cliff to his death; a girl falls off a cliff but survives; a man threatens to slit the girls' throats or kill them; a man's arm is broken; bandits capture and take hostages, hitting or intimidating them and dragging a girl by her braids; references to girls whose parents have died, either mothers in childbirth or in accidents; girls are smacked on the palm for talking out of turn in class or locked in closets for hours without food. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shannon Hale's Newbery Honor book Princess Academy is a moving fantasy about girls who are ordered to leave their families to train for a year to become suitable for the local prince, who aims to marry a girl from their village. There are some intense scenes where girls are held hostage by bandits, threatened with violence or death. Some injury and death occurs. Loss looms large in the story; several of the girls have lost parents in accidents or their mothers in childbirth. These elements offer a sometimes bleak setting for what is an otherwise tremendous coming-of-age story that transcends the princess genre in its understanding of family, gender, thirst for knowledge, and sense of community. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLollipop4508 June 17, 2011

The book is full of negative messages that are disguised as positive ones.

I know its a weird thing to say about a book, but its very true. This book is like a how-to for bad judgement. The hero, Mirri, just having learned to read that... Continue reading
Parent of a 7 and 8-year-old Written byWe3ChinaC June 15, 2010

Not what I expected from the title (a good thing)

In an age where "princess" almost always equals a Disney-esque rendering of royalty, I was at first hesitant about selecting this book for my two girl... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byKorakas April 7, 2021

Classic! Should Read It!!

I love this series. I read it a year ago and this is the first book of a three book trilogy. It has great messages for girls everywhere and is a cool book with... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAlexandraFierro April 5, 2021

Great book, reread the whole series

I love this book! The only reason I say 11 and up is because there are some large words. I also think it has a bit of violence because closer to the end when th... Continue reading

What's the story?

Miri and her family and community are happy with their lives on Mount Eskel harvesting quarry. But then word arrives that the king's priests have seen the future bride of their prince, and she hails from Mount Eskel. All girls age 12 to 18 are ordered to attend the nearby academy, where they'll transform from commoners into ladies and prepare for a possible life as a princess -- and compete to be chosen by the prince himself. As they separate from their families and begin to learn to read, curtsy, and converse like royalty, Miri and the girls must face life away from their families for the first time, enduring competition among themselves, cruelty from the academy mistress, and figuring out whether it's all worth taking the hand of a boy they've never even met.

Is it any good?

PRINCESS ACADEMY excels at blending the elements of a simple princess story with larger, more complicated truths about the world. What begins as a story about a town of girls training to one day be princesses, with the plucky and thoughtful Miri at the center, unfolds as a tale about community and friendship, as well as the power of education to transform communities and the power of confidence to help women reach their full potential. Along the way, there are subtle messages about the dangers of prejudice, the importance of being open-minded, and how fairness and respect are essential to good governance.

But mostly this is just a well-conceived adventure about leaving home, growing up, learning about the world, and returning to make your community better. For young girls interested in princess themes, it may be hard to return to lighter fare when presented with such compelling and complex storytelling that weaves together so many characters and concerns. It's hard to imagine a better use of the genre.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Princess Academy transcends the princess genre. How do Miri and the girls shift their thinking from about what the prince can do for them and their families to what they can do for their communities?

  • Why do princess stories remain so popular, even with modern readers? 

  • How does Princess Academy portray education in the lives of these girls? Does learning ever feel to you the way it does to Miri?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love princesses and strong female characters

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