Monday, December 31, 2012

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

Author: Shannon Hale
Author's Website:
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: August 21, 2012
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Princess Academy #2
Source: Library
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 loyalty to the princess and her belief in her new friends' daring ideas, Miri must test the strength and skills she gained in the princess academy.

When I first read Princess Academy, I thought it was a classic like The Secret Garden or A Little Princess. This was before I started paying attention to publication information like dates, and I honestly thought it belonged in that category.

Well, it does. It may not have been written at that time, but I love the way it has the same "feel" and atmosphere. And Palace of Stone has that same quality. Palace of Stone reads like a more contemporary fantasy, where the heroine has a clear choice to make between two impossible situations. But it still captures that undefinable magical quality that, in my opinion, will make it last for a long time as a favorite book.

Miri, as we already know, is a strong, opinionated character. It's great to see her falter in her opinions, to really have to stop and grapple with things. She has that same can-do attitude as in the first book, but nothing is as clear-cut as it was back then. And she realizes more and more that her actions can have devastating or liberating effects - sometimes both, and she has to know which one is more important.

I love the way everything is resolved. The solution is classic Miri, when she finally sees things clearly and knows which side to be on. The way all the characters get in on it (well, almost all..) adds to the sweeping quality of the resolution, but we're still kept breathless until it really all succeeds, with many twists along the way to pose obstacles to the girls' plans.

That's something I love about this book, also. It's not a clear rise and fall, things get worse and then they get better. It's a roller-coaster. Things appear to be starting to move forward, and then suddenly they're all back to square one and have to start over, or they come across new information that changes the way they see things and they try desperately to turn back the tide of what their actions started. It's a great journey to be on!

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