“Palace of Stone,” by Shannon Hale, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Aug. 21, 2012, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 10 and up)
I came a little late to the “Princess Academy” party, but instantly fell in love with it upon first reading. Since then, I’ve read the book two more times. Upon completion, I felt satisfied and wanted nothing more. Normally, when I hear of sequels to well-loved stand-alone novels, I feel trepidation. But author Shannon Hale has successfully followed this path before, with “The Goose Girl” and the following Books of Bayern, so instead there was a feeling of excitement.
I wasn’t let down.
Miri has lived her whole life surrounded by mountains, but now she has the chance to see other parts of the land, to not only see the city, but to live in it.
Miri and some of her friends from the Princess Academy are about to set out for Asland, the royal city. Once there, they will help the future Princess Britta prepare for her wedding. Peter will travel with them and work as a stone carver’s apprentice and Miri will attend school at the Queen’s Castle.
School. Miri loves learning, and since studying at the Princess Academy, that love has only grown. Miri thinks she’s prepared, but her simple upbringing puts her at a disadvantage. Everyone seems so sophisticated, so knowledgeable. As Miri stars to adapt to her new life, she learns of frightening plans that could hurt those she loves most. In this confusing new world Miri must choose between her simple ideals and new ideas for a bold new existence.
“Palace of Stone” complements “Princess Academy” so well, you’d think it was planned from the start, not written seven years later. Yes, there is a different feel to it, but with the same spunky lead, it does indeed feel like a companion.
The change in feeling comes from the setting rather than the characters. In “Princess Academy” the girls spend most of their time isolated. In “Palace of Stone” they are transported to a land teaming with all kinds and classes of people. What ties them together is the linder buildings in which the girls reside. The linder — a rare and expensive kind of stone — is almost another character in and of itself. Without giving too much away, look for it to play an important role in this latest tale.
Perhaps the biggest change reader will notice is within Miri herself. She’s not the same girl that anxiously arrived at the Princess Academy. She’s grown. She’s become a leader. And she makes some mistakes. But the things that made you fall in love with Miri still remain — determination, heart, loyalty and the ability to think on her feet.
“Palace of Stone” doesn’t have quite the same magic to it as its predecessor. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s got a different kind of magic to it that’s all its own.
Read Cracking the Cover’s interview with Shannon Hale.