Advertisements searching for those who wish to become Witch-fighting Princesses and Dragon-slaying Knights at Pennyroyal Academy have been spread far and wide. The war with Witches and Dragons has so consumed the current royal-blood population that Pennyroyal is now willing to accept anyone, even those born “common.”
For a young girl who does not remember her own name, the journey to Pennyroyal is not an easy one. After fighting her way through an enchanted forest where the trees try to kill her (especially the Beech trees), she finds herself in a witches cottage. When the witch returns with the handsome Remington in tow, the girl discovers the courage to rescue the boy and herself from being made into candy.
Once safe, she and Remington discover they are headed in the same direction, Pennyroyal Academy. Remington is the object of much attention from the other Pennyroyal Princess candidates, whereas the girl attracts an entirely different kind of attention, possibly because she is clad only in spiderwebs.
The girl enlists at Pennyroyal but is promptly shunted to the infirmary for a course of medicine designed to restore memories of her name and the name of her mother. However, she insists she is not under a spell. She has reasons for not wanting to share her history, such as being raised by Dragons. Until she can recall her true name, the girl is dubbed, “Cadet Eleven,” by the staff of Pennyroyal, which her newly found friends quickly change to Evie.
The Fairy Drillsergeant in charge of Evie’s training is tough, though tiny. She warns the girls in her charge there is very little chance they will make it through their training to attempt the culminating Helpless Maiden challenge, the only way to gain an invitation back for Year Two of the Academy.
Complicating matters is Malora, another Princess Cadet who does not seem to have any of the virtues of a true Pennyroyal Princess: Courage, Kindness, Compassion, and Discipline. Her animosity toward Evie escalates as the story and the relationship between Evie and Remington progresses.
This middle-grade story is an enchanting mix of fairytales reimagined and message that love is the only thing that can truly conquer evil. The story is thankfully not telegraphed and there are quite a few twists and plot turns along the way, keeping things lively.
If you like fairytales and magic, add Mark Twain Award nominee, “Pennyroyal Academy,” to your summer reading list.