I remember reading The Goose Girl for the first time and being entirely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The cover of the book was delightful (I miss the earlier unique illustrations that have been replaced by stock photos that all look the same) and the story was engaging. From that moment on, I have been a fan of Shannon Hale. Her books are always well written and interesting and I never have any worries about questionable content for a younger audience. I always eagerly look forward to her next story.
Because of this, I pre-ordered Palace of Stone (Princess Academy 2) without any hesitation. It has been a while since I read the first Princess Academy and could not remember much about the story. I was afraid I would be lost reading the sequel, but I wasn’t at all. She did a good job of naturally incorporating some of the recap into the story as she goes along and because of this, I would recommend this as a stand-alone novel as well as a sequel.
The story begins with Miri traveling down her mountain to spend the year in Asland with her friend Britta, who is preparing to marry Prince Steffan. Miri is also excited to be studying at a special academy while she is there. What she does not expect, however, is the unrest in the kingdom between the royals and the starving commoners. She is torn between a group fighting for revolution and loyalty to her friend – who is the soon-to-be princess. She also has to sort out her feelings for her childhood love and the possible romance with an intriguing boy she just met.
My favorite part about this book is the throwback to Jane Austen with Miri writing letters to her sister. She signs the letters with phrases like “Your dull and bewildered sister” or “Your immensely entertaining sister,” perfectly finishing letters that are full of events of the day mixed with a healthy amount of self-reflection. Once while she is questioning her cleverness she refers back to her time tending goats on her mountain: “Perhaps I should assure them that our goats enjoyed listening to me for hours on end. I am certain their bleats meant “Do go on, Miri, darling. You are immensely entertaining.” As a closet self-conversationalist, I can relate to having conversations with myself and I found her reflections charming.
In the end, she discovers the magic of knowledge, the importance of words and the pain of bearing the consequences of your actions. She also has to figure out who she really wants to be and where her heart lies.
Boring cover aside, this is another great story from Shannon Hale and I will watch for more from her in the future.
Palace of Stone: Princess Academy 2
by Shannon Hale
published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Recommended for ages 10 and up