Series: Princess Academy #2
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's on August 21st 2012
Genres: Fantasy, MG Books, YA (Young Adult)
Source: the library
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Also in this series: Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters
Also by this author: Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters
Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting... until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she "should "help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city.
Picking up where Princess Academy left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom.
I love Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy, as much for it folk-tale feel as for its fresh and original story. There is something special about the book, a resonance which stayed with me long after I finished reading it. So I was both excited and apprehensive when I heard that Hale had finally, after seven years, returned to Danland for a sequel.
Both feelings were justified. Palace of Stone satisfies and disappoints at the same time. Satisfies, because it carries the story further, and in an unexpected direction, without violating the reader’s hopes and dreams for Miri, the main character. Disappoints, because Palace of Stone never quite captures the magic of its predecessor.
Part of that magic stemmed from the isolation and simplicity of life on Mt. Eskel, the setting of Princess Academy — a simplicity echoed in the clarity of the prose and the brevity of the songs which open each chapter. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Palace of Stone, set in Danland’s palace and capital city with their inevitable intrigues and politics, has a more complex, less innocent tone. In Princess Academy, the issues and questions are a bit clearer, the right path easier for Miri and eventually the other characters to discern. Palace of Stone finds Miri increasingly embroiled in a revolution which threatens not only the happiness and even the life of her friend Britta and Britta’s fiance Prince Steffan, but the peace of the whole kingdom. Right and wrong are much harder to disentangle, and there are no easy answers.
I did like Palace of Stone, particularly as it gathered momentum and moved more swiftly toward the climax. The solution contrived by Miri and Katar, her former antagonist turned reluctant friend, fits everything that has come before. It’s not a triumphant, fairy-tale ending; instead it offers a hopeful but precarious balance for the people of Danland and for Miri herself: an appropriate ending to a more complex and nuanced tale.
Where Princess Academy will appeal to young MG (middle grade) readers, Palace of Stone’s maturer wrestling with difficult themes — the rights of the many vs. those of the individual; loyalty to a friend vs. loyalty to a cause; the appeal of a new life vs. the pull of home — will resonate more with YA and older MG readers.