Shannon Hale delivers another delightful story, taking Miri and readers outside of Mount Eskel and into Asland, the capital of Danland where a rebellion is brewing. This tumultuous town tests Miri more than ever before, and she must decide where her loyalties lie and how she truly feels about Peder.
Palace of Stone takes place shortly after the events of Princess Academy. Britta has invited Miri and the other girls to visit the castle in Asland for the wedding between herself and Prince Steffan. Peder joins the on their journey to the city, as he is beginning an apprenticeship for stone carving. Miri is excited about the prospect of traveling outside of Mount Eskel with Peder and hopes that the journey will give them a chance to get closer to one another.
Miri expects her visit with Britta to be pleasant, but upon arriving in Asland, there’s an assassination attempt on the King’s life, and Miri learns that the kingdom is on the verge of revolt. Katar, the newly appointed ambassador for the people of Mount Eskel, is unsure what to do. She’s seen firsthand how harsh the King’s taxes are, but if she support the rebels and they lose, then Mount Eskel will be worse off than they were before. She enlists Miri to gather information among the rebels to help her make the right decision.
When Miri starts classes at the Queen’s Castle—the academy Britta enrolled her in—she meets just the person who can help her. Miri’s classmate Timon invites her into the heart of the rebellion, but as she gets closer to him, she starts questioning everything—her alliances, what’s right and wrong, her abilities and place in the world, and above all, her relationship with Peder.
Reviewing a great book is often a difficult task. Palace of Stone isn’t filled with shocking plot twists or great feats of magic (though magic isn’t altogether absent from the story). Rather, Miri lives her life and faces obstacles and is forced to make decisions in a way that mimics reality. The decisions she makes won’t result in the end of the world—but they do make a difference.
Don’t get me wrong—some of my favorite books require the heroes to make end-of-the-world decisions, so I’m not saying that this is always a bad thing. It is refreshing, though, to read about an average girl who is not altogether confident in herself and is still trying to figure out who she is in the world, who decides to use her talents, no matter how small she may think they be, to help those around her and as a result changes the course of her kingdom. I think it’s good for kids to read books where they learn that they don’t have to be a prince or princess or possess some great power to make a difference. They can change the world just by being who they are.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough to children and young adults; I wish that I could go back in time and give myself this book to read as a child. I’ve only read the Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale, but with both books, I’ve been immensely impressed by the genuine character growth in the story. If you don’t yet have the series on your to-read list, you should definitely add it. I know I’ll be impatiently awaiting the next book and will check out some of Hale’s other books in the meantime.