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The School for Good and Evil
Soman Chainani
Palace of Stone  - Shannon Hale This one is more of a 4.5 to me. Not quite a five star, but very close.

Having already read Princess Academy before it even got nominated for the Newberry, I knew I was reading a special piece written by an incredibly intelligent author. So when I learned that there was going to be a sequel, I was overjoyed.

As a fan of the first book, I was not disappointed with this follow-up. In this new adventure, Miri is a year older and wiser and making here way to the city for the first time to help her friend Britta get ready for her upcoming wedding to Prince Stephen. However the trials and tribulations that occur over Miri's year in the city test her resolve and spirit.

Without giving away to much, I will say that this is an incredibly intelligent and unpredictable story. The author brings up themes of class warfare, education, politics and ethics. In an age where there is such a backlash to the notion of "princess stories" and the insistence of many literary minded that all female main characters have to be plucky tomboy archetypes for them to have any merit, I find Palace of Stone to be an extraoridnary piece that beautifulifully captures my own ideals and sentiments that feminity, does not equal weakness - you can have sweet, feminine princess stories AND be incredibly empowering and intelligent.

Towards the middle of the book I started questioning character motivations and was concerned about some of their behaviors and reactions but was pleased when they were latter addressed and explained. Often times, these issues get glazed over and really sour the experience so it was great to see that Hale really took it all into consideration and didn't leave any loose threads. She answers the questions she throws out there and wraps the entire thing in a lovely package by the end. Highly reccomend this book!