I picked this book up from another trip to Deseret Book after I heard rave reviews about Shannon Hale from Harmony and Ally. I had heard about her from others, but those are the two who get credit for me actually reading her books.
This book is about a mountain village where the people make their living off of harvesting stone from the mountainside and living a very rural, live off of the land, pastoral life. Then the soldiers come and tell them that their villiage was selected by the priests as the home of the next princess, all the girls within a certain age range MUST attend an academy to prepare them to meet the prince, who will choose one to be his bride.
I liked how the girls had to attain the knowledge before they even began to worry about their appearance, something that has always bugged me about other fairy tales - I think they put too much stock in the fairest one. I liked how all the girls weren't sure this was what they wanted, that the prince wasn't just head over heels amazing or enticing. I loved that the girls had to demonstrate their courage, maintain their own identities.
When Hale first started talking about the quarry speak, I couldn't understand how that could possibly be important to the story, but came to love how that element evolved and unlocked potential in all the girls, both in their abilities and how they came to evaluate their individual worth, not just as someone who can maybe marry a prince, but as someone who has something to contribute to their society and a gift they can share with others.
I'm so glad I read this book and can't wait to read it with my girls when they get a little older and slightly disillusioned by things that aren't as important as they may think. This was very enjoyable and I'm adding other of Hale's books to my to read list. You should too.