June 13, 2015

Review | Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Palace of Mirrors

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Palace of MirrorsSeries: The Palace Chronicles #2
Release Date: September 30, 2008
Pages: 297
Review by: Tessa

Despite her rough clothes covered in dirt, one-room hut that would not even satisfy a royal servant, and old "grandmother" who is definitely not royalty, Cecilia is the true princess. 
Or at least that is what she has been took since she was born. 
She was also told that the disguise was necessary to hide from the evil that her parents, the king and queen, could not escape. 
For the time being, Desmia, a simple commoner, was put on the throne as a decoy to protect the throne in Cecilia's absence. 
But, Cecilia is becoming a bit impatient with waiting for the darkness to disappear before she can claim the life of luxury that is meant to be hers. 
Finally fed up with the secrets and lies, Cecilia decides to go to the Palace of Mirrors, her rightful palace, and set things straight. Until she discovers that Desmia believes that she is the true princess. 

Palace of Mirrors has a serious case of second book syndrome.

I absolutely loved Just Ella, the first novel in the series. It followed Cinderella after her "happily ever after." It showed that not every story ends the way it is supposed to, but that does not make it worse than you expected. The characters were complex and interesting, along with the plot and the story. Unfortunately, this is not the same with Palace of Mirrors.

First off, all of the characters besides Cecilia were one-dimensional, cookie cutter versions of common stereotypes. There was a boy-next-door with amazing musical talent, a wise old sage who always gave advice, and twelve prissy teenage girls who only cared about themselves. These stereotypical profiles defined the characters. They were nothing more and nothing less, just sitting in the plot as placeholders that should have been filled with more interesting (or at least less cliche) people.

On the other hand, Cecilia had an impressive transformation throughout the novel. She started as a self-entitled brat who only cared about claiming a throne that may or may not be rightfully hers. Honestly, she reminds me of the little girls who are so obsessed with Disney princesses (who I have not against). They own all of the princess movies, costumes, toys, and everything else that Disney has made to exploit little girls' dreams. They play princess so much that they begin to believe that they are entitled to everything, like Cecilia. So, like the spoiled brat she was, she ran away to "her" palace to claim the throne. And (surprisingly, at least to her) it does not go as planned. During her quest to claim the throne, she goes through tremendous development and turns into a character I would be honored to call a princess. 

Another downside to this fairytale retelling, was that I could not tell which fairytale was being retold. And believe me, I know my fairytales. At first, I thought it was The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but there is not any dancing in the book and there are not twelve princesses. 

I was also frustrated that this part of the series leaned more toward middle grade than young adult. Do not get me wrong, I love middle grade books (have you heard about my obsession with Percy Jackson) but Palace of Mirrors bordered on childish for me. The language was simple and the plot was not as complicated as it could have been. Also, Just Ella was strongly young adult, so you would think that Palace of Mirrors would follow suit.

On the bright side, the ending was nice, if predictable. Everything was tied up pretty well, but enough was left open to leave me wondering about the next book. Which, I have decided to give another shot. I loved Just Ella and I think that the series can only go up from her (at least I hope so). 

Overall, I am disappointed in this installment of the series. Just Ella was amazing and Palace of Mirrors just did not live up to it. 
I would recommend it to anyone who likes middle grade fairytales, just do not expect anything that is consistent with a well-known tale.

I would not recommend it if you dislike whiny, entitled characters, even if they grow up during the course of the story. Or, if you need your retellings to strictly follow a specific fairytale. 

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