Like "The Rent Collector" it is amazing to surmise what a bit of intelligence and education can do to improve the life of an entire community. Mt. Escol (I'm only guessing on spellings here) is a hard, mountain life. Most people work in the quarry and have developed a sort of non-verbal communication through contact with the Linder Rock. Miri is really small for her age and has never been allowed to work in the quarry. She feels this makes her useless, though she doesn't learn the true reason her father forbids it until late through the story. She lives with her father and sister. Her mother died shortly after her birth.
One day, a man comes to Mt. Escol and announces that the country's priests have divined that the future bride of the prince resides there. Because they are so far removed from the main territory of Danlund, they have sent a tutor (Olana) to train the girls in proper everything and it's called the Princess Academy and every elegible girl goes. Ages 11 or 12 up to younger than the prince, since he's not allowed to marry anyone older than he-even if it's only a few months.
At first things are horrible, and of course, Miri is a natural leader when it has nothing to do with quarry work, eventually she is able to use the things Olana is teaching in order to broker better conditions. When she learns about commerce and just how much Linder is worth-and compares that to her knowledge of what the traders have been SAYING it's worth, they are able to then improve their trade conditions, which in return improve conditions in the community all around.
The ending was.......interesting......there is a major plot twist (although I had suspected some things along the way). And the possible plot hole was filled in, but it still left me feeling a little off. I guess it's a series so we'll see how things go if I read more.
I would definitely recommend this to my daughter, it teaches diplomacy, quick thinking, how to get along, how to give people a chance, the value of studying hard, the pay offs of hard work, and all sorts of other good traits. It was very enjoyable and I think it is great for middle readers. Solid 4 stars.