Get out of a reading rut, this book is different in wonderful ways. What would girls in a remote mining community need to learn if you knew the next princess would be one of these girls? This imaginary country set up a princess academy so that when the prince chooses a bride, whoever it is will have a background in the rudiments of diplomacy, economics, and arts. What would mining community girls DO with this knowledge, if they didn't just learn it to the level of "parroting" it back to the teacher, but really understood the power of these ideas?
The book has strong characters, intriguing plot twists, and touches of the supernatural handled in a way that brings up interpersonal issues. Shall we treat folks differently if they can't tune in to the supernatural? I typically prefer realistic settings, as the real world is really interesting enough, but hats off to the author for using it both for novelty and for theme. Shannon Hale's writing style is inviting and fluid. This book is irresitable.