Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city is a thrill to Miri. She and her princess academy friends have been brought to Asland to help the future princess Britta prepare for her wedding. There, Miri also has a chance to attend school - at the Queen's Castle. But as Miri befriends students who seem sophisticated and exciting she also learns that they have some frightening plans.
Torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city, Miri looks to find her own way in this new place.
Picking up where Princess Academy left off, and celebrating the joys of friendship, romance and the fate of fairy tale kingdoms, this new book delivers the completely delightful new story that fans have been waiting for.
©2012 Shannon Hale (P)2012 AudioGO
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
4.5 stars. Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
Palace of Stone is a sequel to Shannon Hale’s excellent Newbery Honor-winning Middle Grade novel Princess Academy. You’ll definitely want to read Princess Academy first, and to avoid spoilers, you should read it before you read this review. So, if you haven’t read Princess Academy yet, go away and read it now. (Then come back, please.)
In Princess Academy, we met the poor hard-working uneducated families of Mount Eskel who survive by mining and carving linder, a valuable type of stone that they export to lowlanders. Their culture was changed when it was determined by lowlander priests that the next princess should come from Mount Eskel. To get the girls up to snuff, a “Princess Academy” was formed and all eligible Mount Eskel girls were enrolled.
(Here’s where spoilers for Princes Academy start. I hope those of you who haven’t read it yet are gone!)
Miri was one of the candidates for princess, but she wasn’t chosen by Prince Steffan. However, she did learn to read and write, to do math, and she learned a lot about commerce. She used her knowledge to help her village negotiate better trading terms for their linder, and Mount Eskel has prospered.
In Palace of Stone, Miri is invited by her friend Britta (the girl who was chosen to be princess) to come to the capital city and attend school at the Queen’s Castle. Peder, the boy she hopes to marry, will also be going to the capital to begin an apprenticeship with a master stone carver. As Miri travels to the city, she realizes that she is ignorant and rustic, and she’s worried about how she’ll represent her community. When she arrives, she not only experiences culture shock, but she discovers right away that the city is in a state of unrest and there are rumors of revolution. Soon she meets a boy named Timon who is eager to enlist Miri in the rebels’ cause. Miri is torn because the princess is her dear friend, yet she sees that the King and his nobles have been unjust as they lord it over the commoners and demand taxes and tributes that leave the people destitute.
Fortunately, Miri is studying history and ethics at her new school and her position as a student and a friend to both the princess and the rebels will give her the perfect chance to practice what she is learning. The problem is that this is not just an academic exercise. Peoples’ lives are at stake. If Miri speaks up, she endangers herself, the princess, many friends, and her community back home in Mount Eskel. It’s a weighty challenge for a teenager.
There’s a touch of romance in Palace of Stone, too, including a love triangle for Miri. She always thought she’d marry Peder, the sweet solid boy who just wants to learn to be a master carver and go back home to live on the mountain. He represents home for Miri. But Timon, who is kind, educated, well-traveled, and wants to make the world a better place, is equally appealing. Miri is torn between these two boys just as she is torn between her love of her mountain home and her desire to see and change the world. Miri’s romantic struggle is sweet and realistic but, while it takes up a lot of Miri’s thoughts, it’s (fortunately) not the focus of the plot.
Palace of Stone is an excellent Middle Grade story that will be enjoyed by both boys and girls, and by adults, too. It features strong female characters who make good role models for teenage girls. As with the first book, the value of education is emphasized while the importance of the usual “princess” qualities — especially beauty and femininity — are down-played. Even the importance of intelligence and wit is de-emphasized. Miri asks knowledgeable adults for advice and she struggles to solve problems by applying the lessons she has learned in school, especially from her studies of history and ethics. She worries about the ramifications of her actions and is not always courageous. She realizes that her motives, ethical standards, and feelings of bravery change depending on whether it is strangers or the people she loves who are suffering. Miri spends her time thinking about all these things rather than worrying about how her hair looks or what she’s going to wear.
Palace of Stone is an exciting and thoughtful story which I’ll be passing on to my young daughters. I’m sure they’ll enjoy it as much as I did. I listened to the audio version produced by AudioGo and Full Cast Audio. It was narrated by Cynthia Bishop and a cast of performers. This was a wonderful 8-hour production and even included music and singing. I highly recommend it.
The Forgotten Sisters, the third PRINCESS ACADEMY book, comes out in a couple of weeks. You can be sure that I’ll be reviewing it soon.
I began with the first Princess Academy book and I loved it. Overall, Shannon Hale, with her other books (Enna Burning) is a great author.
The second book is a nice continuation of the first.
-I enjoyed the cute narration and musical quality that comes with Shannon Hale's audiobooks. The whole thing is a sensory experience and drew me into the story. I enjoy Full-Cast audio, multiple voices and sound effects. If you do too, then you will probably like this version.
-Cynthia Bishop, the narrator, emphasizes in the right places and shows that she really understands what she is reading.
-Teaches good morals for young girls (there is talk of muscles and dancing and kissing, so take that into consideration before letting young girls listen to this : ) *
-At times, the story felt boring. There is action, but it felt a little forced and I was left wanting more.
-Sometimes the music in the beginning was a little cheesy, even for me, because the songs at the beginning of some chapters sounded almost ridiculous (like someone imitating an Adam Sandler's Opera Man!)
-Many times when I thought the story would end, it kept going, as if the author couldn't decide on how to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion.
Overall, this was not Hale's best book (try Enna Burning), but it will not stop me from listening to her other titles. I enjoy the light-hearted purity of all of her stories. *It would be great for 6th graders to listen to.
Maybe a child wouldn't mind the terrible, stilted performances of the various voice actors...
I loved Miri, as always. She is smart and real.
Let one person, an actual actor or voice-over actor, do the reading!!!! The people doing the various voices were so wooden and bad that I finally had to stop listening and just check the book out at the library.
The book was great. Shannon Hale never disappoints. However, the reading performance made me more and more irritated, to the point that I couldn't stand to listen another minute.
I LOVE Shannon Hale and I love most audiobooks. But this recording was almost as bad as listening to Lemony Snicket read his own books--in other words, unpalatable!
I love clean books of all sorts. Love mysteries, fantasies epic to kids stories, fairy tales, romances, humor, and historical fiction
I really enjoyed this book. I've read all of Shannon Hale's books and have enjoyed almost all of them. I particularly like alternative forms of magic and quarry speech feels like one of those. Who would have thought that up? Not me. Anyway, I enjoyed the ethical and governmental questions as well as the love interests in this book. I thought it ended well and wonder if there will be another. I think this book could easily stand alone, but it would probably be best to read Princess Academy first. I also thought it was interesting how much power quarry speech had in the palace as well as other interesting effects on those who live there. Interesting and fun. All of Shannon Hale's books are clean. The children's books are very clean. That is a relief to those of us who worry about the books available to children everywhere. If you enjoy light fantasy written for the young and young at heart, you will probably enjoy this book.
Shannon Hale writes lyrically of the lives of young men and women as they are deciding who to be in the world. Palace of Stone continues the tale begun in Princess Academy, allowing us to watch Miri as she acclimates to life in the city and the poltical forces present there. We watch as she learns whom to trust and how to work her way through situations with no clear right or wrong answers. This is a novel for adults of allages, not just young adults.
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