Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Library Copy
Palace of Mirrors is a sequel to a retelling of Cinderella called Just Ella, which I read at some point in either early high school or middle school. I remember loving Just Ella enough that I went through a serious "fairy tale retelling" phase for a while. That feels like another lifetime to me now, though of course I still love revisionist fairy tales.
I had a few very personal problems with this book from the get go. I remember Just Ella ending in a satisfying way, though I have very little memory of what actually happened in the book at all (it's been 13 years since I've read it at least). I feel like a sequel was completely unnecessary. Not only because the first book was fine alone, but the sequel is more enjoyable (though not crucial) if you read Just Ella first - as Ella has a cameo role that's actually somewhat important. Now the part that really chaffs me: Palace of Mirrors (2008) was published 9 years after Just Ella (1999). I was in the intended age bracket for Just Ella when it was published, and in college when Palace of Mirrors was published. That's not uncommon in the publishing world, I know, but I find it annoying. This makes me wonder who the intended audience for Palace of Mirrors would have been for. Of course there have to have been children in that almost-decade window of time who grew to love the first book - least we overlook the fact that when I read it I was on the latter end of the intended age group. But for the original fans and younger fans, I think the end result didn't leave much for us to meet in the middle over. I've found that even young reviewers were a little wise for the book - I saw some complaints that Cecilia was dumb for someone who was supposed to be so smart. The kids are wrong, of course, Cecilia is naive, not dumb - there's a difference.

Palace of Mirrors is about a young girl (named Cecilia, as I mentioned) who was raised in obscurity, but was trained to be a princess. When it becomes too dangerous keep herself hidden, she and her friend Harper (a harpist - get it?) flee to the capitol city so that Cecilia can take her rightful place as the princess. But as Cecilia well knows, that place isn't exactly vacant. And the current princess won't just give up her seat - to Cecilia's, uh, surprise. Right. You can see where the kids reading this book are ready to take to the streets and start a riot, right? But it's actually a bit more complicated than that. But I'm not going to give that away!

I didn't actually think the book it's self was terrible. I kind of liked it as an original work, and there is a third book that ties more closely to this one than this tied to Just Ella - so I may be reading that one at some point soon. Unfortunately, I think it was a bit too young for me. If you know someone young enough to devour the entire series without having to wait so long to do it, I recommend it.

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