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*Princess Academy: Palace of Stone* by Shannon Hale - middle grades book review
Also by Shannon Hale:

Book of a Thousand Days

River Secrets
Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
by Shannon Hale
Ages 10+ 336 pages Bloomsbury USA August 2012 Hardcover    

Readers will eagerly welcome the sequel to Shannon Hale’s 2005 Newbery Honor book, Princess Academy.

Palace of Stone is a continuation of the Miri’s story. Her good friend from the princess academy, Britta, is betrothed to the prince. Miri, Peter and several girls from Mount Eskel have been invited to live at the palace with Britta. Miri will attend a school of higher learning and the others are learning trades.

From the beginning, the reader knows there is tension in the air. Some people are refusing to pay the king his tributes. Small groups are rebelling.

At school, Miri meets a smart young man, Timon, who is concerned about the rights of the people and the disparity of wealth in the kingdom. At the same time, Miri is learning about ethics and rhetoric at school—how best to make decisions and communicate with others.

Timon invites Miri to meetings where they discuss what to do next. Miri listens and understands the commoners’ point of view. At the same time, she also knows the goodness in the royal family and is loyal to Britta. Periodically, she writes home to her sister about her situation and her conflicting feelings.

Miri is an exceptionally strong young woman. Her feelings of conflict are understandable as she wants to make the right decision—not only about the royal family, but also about her feelings for Peter and Timon and her decision to stay in the city or return to Mount Eskel.

In her careful studies and observations, she learns that the royal palace, made from the magical linder from Mount Eskel, enables the royal family to sense the thoughts/feelings of others; not as strong as the memories that the girls from Mount Eskel are able to share, but there is something magical about the linder stone in the palace.

As the initiative for change keeps growing, rebellion becomes inevitable. Miri leads the people to a compromise which will benefit everyone. In the end, she still must make her own decisions about her true love and the place where she will call home.

Miri’s ability to bring people together, use sound reason and judgment and stay true to her values is admirable. Palace of Stone is a strong sequel best read after the first book, but it may still be read independently.

Shannon Hale weaves a story with intriguing characters and a plot which is predictable based on world history, but includes some twists and turns. Highly recommended for everyone who loved Princess Academy.
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