Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting . . . until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she "should" help them. Soon Miri finds herself 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. Picking up where "Princess Academy" left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom. Quoted from Goodreads
When I heard there was a sequel to Princess Academy, I was ecstatic . . . mostly. Here's the thing, I didn't think that Princess Academy needed a sequel, and I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations. Case in point, Goose Girl, also by Shannon Hale. I loved this book, but while I did enjoy the sequels, I didn't like them as much as the first. Plus, Princess Academy is my favorite Shannon Hale book, so I was a tiny bit leery when I heard about the sequel.
I shouldn't have been.
Shannon Hale did an absolutely amazing job of matching this one to the first. This is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. And yes, it does deserve the triple wonderful.
Miri is her same outgoing, cheerful, adventurous self, but she does grow up a bit. She is exposed to the big city, the ocean, and thousands of people she has never known. There is a bit of a love triangle but with none of the angst that generally accompanies it. And just as Miri's world has expanded, so do the problems in the book. Before it was other girls and bandits and traders and ignorance that she was battling. This one is about revolution, and Miri has to figure out where she stands and who she will stand with.
I really liked the concept because everything wasn't straight forward and simple. Miri learns about ethics in her class and has to wade the murky waters between what is right and what is wrong. There were good people on both sides with goals and agendas that clashed and there were less good people on both sides that were rigid, greedy, and manipulative. It reminded me of the French Revolution vs. England's less turbulent struggle for rights and royal accountability. From the beginning, Miri is thrust in the middle of the debate with everyone she loves threatened by one group or the other. She wasn't perfect, but she tried her best and she relied on her friends.
Ah, Miri's friends. I really enjoyed the distinctiveness of each character. Shannon Hale always does a great job of keeping characters real and deliciously flawed. I love Peder, Timon, Britta, and everyone else, new and old.
As if that weren't enough, Shannon Hale is the master of words. Everything she writes is simple, well crafted, and beautiful. The book started of a tad slow, maybe (I'm still debating that one. It set the scene beautifully, introducing new characters, etc.), but the second half of the book was fast paced and breathless. It was one in the morning when I finished it, and I had to go to work the next day, but it absolutely refused to let me put it down until it was over.
And now, drum roll please, though the result may be obvious, I bestow upon this book the coveted 5 star rating! Yes, this book has earned 5 stars, so you should all run out and read it as soon as possible. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. You should probably read Princess Academy first, because while the story is distinct from the first, the it would be a bit confusing without the world building and character establishment.