Review: Pennyroyal Academy, MA Larson

April 8, 2015 Reviews 1 ★★★★

Review: Pennyroyal Academy, MA LarsonPennyroyal Academy by MA Larson
Series: Pennyroyal Academy #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on October 2014
Genres: Children's Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 320
Source: Library
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository

Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow's princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war.  She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academy masterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.


A young girl is lost in an enchanted forest, her only idea of where to go a flyer depicting a princess of the Pennyroyal Academy. The academy is taking in all sorts of boys and girls and training them to be princesses and knights, just like the famous Princess Cinderella and Princess Snow White. After they graduate, princesses must use their virtues of Courage, Compassion, Kindness and Discipline to fight the evil witches who are gradually taking over the land. Can Evie and her new friends make it through the first year without being eliminated and sent home?

A boarding school, princesses and dragons, set in a fairytale world? This book sounded awesome right from the start, plus it helped that the leading lady is called Evie, just like my daughter! While the premise and unique ideas in this story really are amazing, the storytelling was a little wobbly at times. I find that forgivable in a debut book though, so it didn’t put me off.

Pennyroyal Academy is located in a Grimm fairytale world. The school is surrounded by the witch-infested forests of the Dortchen Wild (who was the wife of Wilhelm Grimm) and German-sounding towns such as Marburg and Bremen. You can see the map of the world here.

Princesses in this story do not sit around and wait for handsome princes to rescue them. The academy is basically a combat training facility, training up girls and boys to battle dragons and witches. The teachers seem to enjoy plenty of life-threatening lessons for the kids, too – jumping out of towers, sending them off into the dangerous enchanted woods and so on. In short, I think I would have loved the hell out of this story as a kid!

I was a bit confused by Evie’s friends. They were introduced quickly at the start and I found it hard to keep track of who was who through the story.  I also thought Evie’s relationship with Remington a little off-putting. He wasn’t particularly nice to her after they got to the school, and I kept hoping she’d buddy up with one of the other boys instead (Basil! I’d totally ship them). The characters in general I found a little two-dimensional, but I felt like this first book had a lot more world-building than character development. Hopefully the characters will be better formed in future books.

I’d recommend Pennyroyal Academy to older middle-graders and up – there are a few horrifying images involving witches that may give younger ones nightmares (or older ones… *shudder*). There are a couple of kissing moments but nothing too inappropriate for a younger audience. Fans of Harry Potter should be right at home here.

four-stars – Princesses, Knights and Dragons – what more could you ask for? A fantastic debut that promises great things for the rest of the series.

Anni lives in Brisbane, Australia with her young family. She loves everything fantasy and science fiction and believes sleep is really very underrated.

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