Review + Giveaway: Palace of Stone

Review + Giveaway: Palace of StonePalace of Stone by Shannon Hale
Series: Princess Academy #2
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on August 21, 2012
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 323
Format: ARC
Source: Won

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.

First Sentence: “Miri woke to the insistent bleat of a goat.”

Last week, I reread Princess Academy in preparation for finally getting to the long-awaited sequel. Since Princess Academy ranks amongst my favorite books and since I always thought Princess Academy was a standalone, I embarked on Palace of Stone with trepidation. Often, much-belated, perhaps unintended, sequels disappoint, coming nowhere near the power of the original book, which would have been much better off left as a single, complete unit. Admittedly, Palace of Stone does not rise to the heights of its predecessor, I am still glad to have it and am excited that at least one more book of Miri’s adventures will be coming.

As ever, Shannon Hale’s writing is a treat. Writing style, of course, is such a subjective qualification. Hale’s writing has a sort of weighted simplicity that I really admire. I can sort of sense how much thought she put into her word choices, into the compositions of the snatches of song, to make them just right. While most of the sentences are not especially complex, they are not at all haphazardly thrown together.

Shannon said that this book can be read independently of Princess Academy. That’s true, I suppose, but I really would recommend that course of action. For one thing, Princess Academy is amazing, and why would you read the slightly less awesome second book in the series and not the book that started it at all. That would be silly, and not just because reading books out of series order offends my sensibilities.

Based on this statement that Palace of Stone can stand alone, I really expected this book to follow a different Mount Eskel girl, though I didn’t really have a plan in mind as to which of them it would be (obviously, I didn’t read the description at all). However, that is not the case at all. Miri is again our intrepid heroine. She remains clever, determined and full of good humor, and the best choice for a heroine. She spends more time in Palace of Stone downhearted, though, less sure of herself than she was in Princess Academy.

In this book, Shannon introduces a love triangle, which serves as a metaphor for Miri’s concerns about her future. Peder represents Mount Eskel, solid, reliable and comfortable; Timon, a fellow student, represents a possible future in Asland, studying and adventuring. I saw the love triangle less as being about the boys themselves than about her indecision about what she wants her life to be. Does she want to stay in the city or to return to Mount Eskel? Hale handled this rather deftly, although I thought the final conclusion of it a bit oversimplified and too black and white.

What I found frustrating about Palace of Stone that lowered my rating was that I felt that Hale got a bit too lecture-y. As she mentions in the book, rhetoric dictates that it is better to tell a story to teach than to lecture. That, obviously, is what she’s trying to do, but the lesson underneath is too apparent. The plot of Palace of Stone deals with the impending revolution. As such, there are many discussions of ethics and monarchy and such. They all just seemed a bit over the top and forced. They could have been worked in more naturally, shown more rather than told.

Part of that stems from the fact that the driving force of the plot is Katar’s request that Miri help her figure out which side Mount Eskel should back in this political minefield. Should they side with King Bjorn and the nobles or with the ‘shoeless,’ the commoners? Katar presents this as something crucial that needs to be resolved immediately. Miri duly agrees to go sniff around and learn what she can, and gets involved with a revolutionary group. Through all of this, she never reports back with anything at all substantial to Katar. Thought it was imperative that Mount Eskel choose a side posthaste, Miri doesn’t give Katar a plan until almost a year later. Hale’s attempt to establish a sense of urgency and Miri’s reaction made me seriously frustrated, and that diminished my liking for Miri a bit.

I realize that got a bit ranty. I still quite enjoyed Palace of Stone, but I just didn’t feel like it lived up to Princess Academy. If you enjoyed PA, though, I recommend reading this one anyway. If you haven’t read PA, go do that.

Favorite Quote:

“If you receive these letters along with a note advising you of my execution, please do not be too sad. Someday you might even laugh about it! ‘Oh that Miri. She would go off to Asland and stir up trouble. Remember when she forgot to tie up the billy goat, and he ate two shoes and a blanket? Such a prankster!'”

Giveaway: Hey you guys! I have a signed ARC to give away to one of you lovely people! US only since I’m footing the bill for shipping. Otherwise, there’s nothing complicated. Just leave your email below. Giveaway ends 9/27. Tweeting is always appreciated.

21 responses to “Review + Giveaway: Palace of Stone”

  1. Adriane says:

    I read the first one and have been anxious to read the follow up! But haven’t felt the urge to run out and grab it either.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    adriane dot marshall at gmail dot com

  2. Lisa Cox says:

    Thank you for being so generous with your giveaways.

  3. I have never heard of this series before, so this is completely new to me. It’s too bad it didn’t quite live up to how you felt about the first but happy to hear that you still enjoyed it!

  4. Do you know that whilst I’ve heard of her, I’ve never read a Shannon Hale book. Am going to look up Princess Academy!

  5. Kayla Beck says:

    I THINK that I read Princess Academy when I was working at the bookstore, but that was also the time period that I lost while pregnant. I think it’s time for me to read it again – and I own it!

    Also, I’m throwing my name in the hat! *tosses it wildly* 😀

  6. Casey says:

    I read Goose Girl a long time ago but remember adoring it wholeheartedly. Princess Academy is now on my list and I have no doubt I’ll like it. *goes to check the library*

    I’m in for this giveaway, please, thanks. Man, I really need to do something with my blog *eyes it*

  7. It’s been so long since I read Princess Academy that I’m going to have to reread it too — I remember loving it though, and have been very curious about how this sequel will work. Great review, and thanks for the giveaway! :o)


  8. aLilLacey says:

    Sounds like a great series! Thanks for reviewing, the giveaway and being you ! Laceysvette at hotmail dot com

  9. Nori says:

    You didn’t like it as much as I was hoping you would. But, I still really need to read this one! I loved book 1. Thanks for the giveaway! norimorganstein at gmail dot com.

  10. Lilian says:

    I am obligated to enter this giveaway being the book hoarder I am (hough I was hoping you’d give this one a higher rating), and because read any of Shannon Hale’s books yet. Somehow I keep mixing her up with Gail Carson Levine’s books…princesses and such. SHAME ON ME.

    *goes back to listening to Insurgent*
    I can’t believe people said this was better than Divergent. Or is it just the narrator that is ruining it for me?

    • Christina says:

      Ugh, I am not a Gail Carson Levine fan.

      I do hate that about audiobooks. Is it that the book isn’t good or is the narrator’s fault? AHHHH.

    • Casey says:

      I dunno about other people but I liked Divergent better than Insurgent, although I enjoyed reading Insurgent (but part of that might have been that I had an extremely boring day flying across the US to devour it in)

  11. Anita Yancey says:

    Sounds really good, I’d love to read the book. Thanks for having the giveaway.


  12. mckaykelly says:

    Sounds really interesting, thanks for the giveaway!

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