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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Palace of Mirrors Convinces Me: No More Haddix Fairy Tales

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Before I begin bashing Palace of Mirrors, I have to make one thing clear: I love Margaret Peterson Haddix. I really do. She writes original, fast-paced adventures that are both entertaining and thought-provoking. Her forays into sci fi particularly appeal to me. So, why then, can't I manage to get into her fairy tales? I thought Just Ella was okay (in my review, I said, "It's good, but not so good that I have to shout it from the rooftops), but I found its companion, Palace of Mirrors to be merely so-so. Am I the only one who thinks it's a little ... generic?

The story begins Sleeping Beauty-style: An infant princess is whisked off to a remote village, hidden away from her kingdom's enemies. To protect her identity, she's raised in a rickety cottage without any worldly wealth. Her name is Cecilia Aurora Serindia Marie. Unlike the other Aurora, this one knows she's a princess. In fact, she's been secretly tutored in all things royal since she was a child. Now that she's 15, though, Cecilia's getting a little tired of studying to be a princess - she's ready to be a princess. Enough ragged clothes and callused hands, she longs for silk dresses, glittering balls and handsome princes.

When her enemies come sniffing around, Cecilia sees it as a blessing in disguise. Finally, she can come out of hiding, dismiss the orphan who's pretending to be the princess, and claim the throne that's rightfully hers. With her best friend - with whom things are suddenly awkward in a weird boy/girl way - she sets out for the capitol. Obviously, a couple of peasants can't just waltz into the palace; luckily, Cecilia has a plan. Only the plan backfires. Royally. Now, she's running for her life, questioning her identity, and trying to save her kingdom all at the same time. Can she stop her enemies in time, especially when she can't distinguish friend from foe? Will taking the throne mean losing what's most important to her? Is she even up for the job? What if she's more peasant than princess? And the most important question of all: Will she stay alive long enough to get her happily ever after?

I know, I know - it doesn't sound that bad. And it's not. It's a nice little story. It's also a familiar story. There are elements of Sleeping Beauty, The Goose Girl, Just Ella and more, but no trace of that good ole Haddix originality. If you're judging by Disney princess standards, I guess you could call Cecilia's character fresh, except that she's pretty much a carbon copy of Ella Brown (of Just Ella fame). Although the plot gets confusing, it's still pretty run-of-the-mill. Like the rest of the book. It's all just kind of blah, dull, so-so, not what I expect from Haddix. So, I'm going to swear off her fairy tales and stick with the sci fi thrillers I know and love. Lucky for me, the second installment in her The Missing series just came out ... and I've got a Scholastic book fair to attend tomorrow. Talk about happily ever after.

For the record, my 7-year-old daughter adored Palace of Mirrors.

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for some intense action/fighting sequences

To the FTC, with love: I got this book from my kids' school. The librarian barely has enough money to buy books, let alone compensate me for reading and reviewing them. I did it for free. Gladly.


  1. I tend to love Haddix's dystopia/sci-fi thrillers too. I read Just Ella a while ago - and don't remember anything about it. Which means unremarkable to me.

    And I love your FTC note :)

  2. Melissa - We think so much alike, it's scary :) When I realized PALACE OF MIRRORS was a sequel to JUST ELLA, I racked my brain to remember what the latter was about. I finally looked up the review I had written. Even after reading the plot summary, I could barely remember JUST ELLA. I agree with you - no memory of a book = unremarkable.

  3. Ok, I have no desire to read the book, but I LOVE your little "To the FTC, with love" addition. Brilliant! I've always stated if a book came from a publicist, but now I've also started stating if it's from the library or my personal collection, and it galls me that it's even an issue.

    I love, love, love the fact that you're just sticking it to the FTC with that little comment. Wish I'd thought of it!


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