At last, Shannon Hale's "Princess Academy: Palace of Stone," the long-awaited sequel to "Princess Academy," was released in August.
Hale has written several young adult books which received nationwide acclaim. "Princess Academy" received the Newbery Honor and her first novel, "Goose Girl," received the Josette Frank Award. An alumna of the University of Utah, Hale is the only Utah author to receive the Newbery Honor, which is awarded to notable children's literature. Other well-known books that have received this award include "Charlotte's Web" and "Because of Winn-Dixie."
"Palace of Stone" (Bloomsbury, $16.99) picks up where the "Princess Academy" leaves off. Miri and her fellow princess academy friends are invited to join their friend, the future princess Britta, in the capital city. After arriving, Miri begins studying at the Queen's Castle and learns from her friend Katar, a delegate to the king from their hometown, that a revolt against the monarchy is beginning.
Readers new to the series may be pretty confused if they pick up "Palace of Stone" without knowing much about the first "Princess Academy" book. Some background is given but most of the plot relies on the assumption that the reader already knows what's going on. To a new reader like myself, this could be frustrating at times, but fans who have been anticipating the sequel and are familiar with the book will most likely be pleased with the book.
In the first novel, a princess academy is established in Miri's town after it is prophesied that this is where the prince will find his wife. To prepare for this, the young girls of the town are trained in the new academy for a life in the court.
"Palace of Stone" is described as being directed toward middle school readers, but older teens and young adults can definitely still enjoy the novel. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of the politics in the book actually resemble those of the French Revolution. The "shoeless," poor peasant workers in the capital begin to rebel against the monarchy when taxes, or "tributes" in the novel, become too high. There are also whispers of a revolt that took place outside of Danland, Miri's home country, where the shoeless rebelled against the crown and killed the monarch and nobles. I love history, so I enjoyed seeing these parallels.
While I enjoyed "Palace of Stone," my biggest complaint would have to be that the girls who accompany Miri to the capital -- Gerti, Esa, Frid, Liana and Bena -- don't show much character growth. As I read the book, it felt like they all dissolved into one person. None of their characters played a very important role in the plot until the very end, which came as quite a surprise because it wasn't set up well. Readers familiar with "Princess Academy" may not feel this is a problem, but as a reader new to the series I would have liked to learn more about the other girls.
I enjoyed seeing the novel through Miri's eyes, but I also would have preferred to see more growth from her. When the book begins, Miri's friends already have a very high opinion of her based on events that happened in the last novel that are never fully explained. Because of this, the girls who travel with her to Danland have a lot of respect for her and this is never questioned. I would have liked to see this trust questioned more, or at least find out more about how it was established.
Although I enjoy young adult fiction, the novel felt like it was probably written for teens younger than me. Overall, however, I enjoyed "Palace of Stone." I would definitely recommend the book to fans of "Princess Academy" as well as any middle school or young high school girls looking for a fun read.
Katie Byrd is a recent graduate of DaVinci Academy and a student at Weber State University. Email her at email@example.com.