Cover of "Princess Academy: Palace of Stone" by Shannon Hale.

Cover of "Princess Academy: Palace of Stone" by Shannon Hale.

Princess Academy – Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale is a sequel to her 2005 young-adult novel Princess Academy. It continues the tale of Miri, Britta, Peder, and several other characters from Princess Academy while introducing several new characters.

Recently, fiction has become a luxury. I’m often too busy to read it. I read instructional books and nonfiction that I can use for work or hobbies. This book was a luxury that I couldn’t put down. I devoured the whole thing in one evening that ran a couple hours into the next morning. I thoroughly enjoyed Princess Academy – Palace of Stone, and it was worth it.

The characters are cleverly depicted and easily distinguishable from each other. All of the main characters have their own distinct traits and voices. It’s not easy to write that many separate voices, and Hale does it beautifully. I enjoyed how she captured the excitement and vulnerability of teen years. Moreover, the characters are interesting and sympathetic. I genuinely cared what would happen to them.

Well, most of them. One secondary character (Gummonth) stayed disappointingly two-dimensional, and another (Sisela) was a bit too predictable to be believable in the story role she filled, but those are exceptions to an otherwise enjoyable and well-developed cast of characters.

Hale is a master of lyrical descriptions, and this book highlights her skill nicely. The text practically sings, yet does so in a subtle symphony that does not detract from the story.

This brings us to the story in Princess Academy – Palace of Stone. For the most part, I loved it. It follows up on a couple of important points from the previous book, with some particularly clever bits involving linder stone. It’s part travel story, part coming-of-age story, part surprisingly thoughtful and well-developed political commentary (loved the parts developing that storyline!), and part romance.

That’s where my one main quibble with the book arises. It has so many great things going for it. Yet at its core, it’s the exact same “girl loves boy, girl meets another boy, other boy tries to romance girl but turns out to be a turkey, and girl goes back to the first boy” story that’s at the heart of pretty much every romance book I’ve ever read (which, admittedly, isn’t all that many). I could watch the pattern unfold and could predict, with complete accuracy, how it was going to unfold. I think this book, with all its other wonderful qualities, deserved a stronger, better-developed, less-predictable core.

That’s my only nitpick, though. Princess Academy – Palace of Stone is a delightful book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was worth sacrificing sleep and productivity. I expect I’ll read it again and am glad to have it in our collection.

Release Date: August 21, 2012 (USA)
ISBNs: 1599908735 (9781599908731)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 100%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 0
Language: 0
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 0
Violence: 1 (some mob activity, shootings, two deaths, all handled in very non-gory manner)