Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale, was published in 2012 by Bloomsbury. It is the sequel to The Princess Academy.
When Miri and a few of the girls from Mount Eskel’s princess academy travel to the capital to help the princess-to-be get ready for her wedding, they have no idea what to expect. Some are worried about leaving their beloved mountain for the first time, others are thrilled about going to the big city, and Miri is mostly just happy to see her best friend. But not everything in Asland is as perfect as the mountain girls hoped. As Miri learns more about her new home, she finds herself deep in the middle of an upheaval that affects everyone she loves. Torn between her loyalty to the princess and her belief in her new friends’ daring ideas, and between an old love and a new crush, Miri must test the strengths and skills she gained in the princess academy.
I didn’t like Palace of Stone as much as I liked Princess Academy, if only because the “commoners rebel against the government” plot is overdone to the point of tediousness, but I still enjoyed many aspects of it. Miri is a good protagonist; when she makes mistakes, she tries to fix them, and she is loyal to her friends regardless of the different ideas they hold. I appreciate it when a protagonist doesn’t have to ruin friendships because of differing beliefs, but rather respects them.
I’m also glad that the love triangle aspect wasn’t so much of a love triangle as a “country girl is dazzled by city life and city boys” and it fit very nicely with Miri being torn between Asland and Mount Eskel. I buy the quick, “new boy” romantic bedazzlement that fizzles in the face of reality more than the drawn out, prolonged love triangles prevalent in YA lit.
Palace of Stone lost some of the things that made Princess Academy special, and isn’t exactly a necessary sequel, but it does have some good things in it and the overdone plot is handled mostly well, if a trifle melodramatically at times. Miri’s inner turmoil and feelings of being torn between two worlds were the best thing about the book, in my opinion. I don’t know if the book did enough for me to pick up the next one, but it’s a solid follow-up, if a slightly weaker one.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Miri shook her head. “Whenever our academy tutor or the traders talked of the lowlands, they made it sound so perfect.”
“Nothing’s perfect,” said Katar. She picked up an orange pillow and tucked it under her arms. “I figured at the Queen’s castle you’re in the best position to meet people outside the palace and figure out the situation.”
“So it’s too dangerous for you to be a spy, but that’s exactly what you want me to do?”
“I’m a delegate,” Katar said. “The king’s officials would notice if I went slinking around commoners.”
“Fine, I’ll learn what I can.”