Happy St Patrick’s Day! Today we’re featuring Shannon Hale, author of the Palace of Stone YA series.
I came across the Palace of Stone at the library again quite by accident while wandering the shelves. Palace is the sequel to Princess Academy the story of the girls in a small mountain village being taken away to be a part of the Princess Academy. Their little village on Mount Eskel is part of the country of Danland. Future kings of Danland do not simply get to pick their own wives, the nation’s priests determine what area of the country the wife is going to come from and then an academy is set up to teach all of the girls aged 12 – 17 what they need to know to become princess and then queen. I remember pulling the book out of my classroom library to read. I tried to read as many of the books as I could for two reasons: 1) so that I knew exactly what was on my shelves and I wouldn’t be surprised if a parent raised an issue with a book, then I could respond intelligently about the book and 2) it’s much easier to recommend books to students when you’ve read them. Anyway, I really enjoyed the story, I enjoyed the growth of the girls, their awakening to the larger world they are a part of, especially Miri.
Palace picks up not too long after the end of Princess. Miri and girls of Mount Eskel, now ladies of the princess are headed to spend a year in the capital city of Asland helping the princess prepare for her wedding. Miri will be attending the Queen’s Castle school while there, and Peder her close friend and she hopes betrothed will also be going along to learn to carve the linder they villagers dig out of the quarry on the mountain.
I’ll be honest, after reading the book I read the reviews and while I agree that I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of description of Asland the city, there was much more going on and it just didn’t stick with me as a problem. Others were also bothered by the “love triangle” one reviewer saying Miri and Peder’s relationship just doesn’t seem to develop slowly rather it undergoes a sudden change. I don’t see that. Miri clearly feels deeply for Peder but as she has been raised says nothing to him, it’s supposed to be the boy who expresses interest and yet when he doesn’t and another boy does it is no surprise she responds while remaining conflicted.
The politics in the book are what really caught my attention though. The nobels are required to pay tribute to the king this means they are taking money and other things from the commoners on their lands. The commoners, known as the “shoeless” are becoming poorer and poorer with each passing year. A revolution is on the way, Miri who believed that all lowlanders had life better than the Eskelites has her eyes opened and ends up smack in the middle of the fight. It does move rapidly, there are transitions that seem almost too fast like something is missing. Over all I really liked this book, I found Miri to be a totally believable character. Some complaints in reviews were that she was such a strong person in Academy and now is unsure of herself, well DUH, someone particularly and adolescent to a dramatically different environment than the one she is used to will often lead to what seems to be a change in personality. Given time however that fades as the person becomes accustomed to their new place. This is exactly what happens with Miri.
This is a great read for those wanting to show how history may or may not repeat itself, how revolutions begin, and how even unknowingly you can play a role in something as large as an uprising. I will be adding it to my classroom collection when I get a classroom again!