I was trying to wait to write my next post until after I spoke to my middle school students about my Girl Power books but, after finishing Shannon Hale’s new Princess Academy: Palace of Stone, I just couldn’t wait! I just LOVE all things Shannon Hale…my one gripe? The cover picture…it’s very, I don’t know, 70s? I would have thought that her publishers would have used what most of the others are using…real, beautiful models. Oh well, judge not a book by it’s cover, right?
The Mt. Eskel girls are heading to Asland to be with Britta as she prepares to be married to Prince Steffan. The girls are excited, anxious, or thrilled to be living in the big city for a year. Miri will be attending the Queen’s Castle, a place of learning and great wisdom. Here she delves deeper into the subjects she loves; history, mathematics and learns new ones like ethics, a topic with which she will soon become intimately acquainted. For, all is not well in the kingdom of Asland. There is unrest brewing between the “shoeless”, the nobles and the Royal family. The people are starving yet the king raises the amount of his tributes so he can create a larger army to protect himself. Most alarming are the rumors that the rebels are targeting Britta because of something that Miri wrote for an assignment. These politics are almost more than Miri can handle but she must hone the skills she learned at the Princess Academy if she is to save her kingdom, her home in Mt. Eskel and her friends.
All hail Shannon Hale! The master storyteller brings to life, once again, Mt. Eskel and it’s people. The volatile political climate mirrors, in many ways, our own and the characters inspire hope that people who care enough can make a difference. Miri is a strong girl who makes mistakes but rights her wrongs as best she can. She is logical and thinks situations and actions through to their end to try to see the best way forward. The very stones of the castle and the mountain she and her friends call home are an important part of the story. The flaws of the king and queen are believable as is their change of heart. The story ends on a hopeful note but with an air of finality which might indicate that the Princess Academy girls are, alas for us, settled.