Palace of Lies, by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon and Schuster, April 2015, middle grade), is my first completed book for this year's 48 Hour Reading Challenge! It was a good one to kick off with--a fast and entertaining story of a princess in danger, both politically and physically....
The book picks up where Palace of Mirrors left off (though Haddix does an excellent job making this one that can stand alone), with the 12 girls who had all been raised separately, each believing she was the one true heir to the throne, having come together to agree to rule the kingdom jointly. Desmia is the only one who was actually raised in the palace, and so, having grown up in constant intrigue and danger, she is much more suspicious and wary than the other girls. But when fire sweeps through the palace, destroying it and possibly killing her sister-princess, and Desmia is captured by an old enemy, she has to learn that suspicion and familiarity with plots isn't going to be enough to get her to the neighboring kingdom for help.
Fortunatly there is help much closer to hand. A family of poor city folk has been looking out for her all along (for reasons), and though they have no money, and no clean clothes to offer, they do have the will to help, and the strength of purpose to get her out of the country. During their journey together, Desmia learns to set aside her snobbish preconceptions of peoples' intrinsic worth, and (provided she makes it back to her throne) has become determined to be much more concerned with issues of social justice.
Gradually mysteries are unfolded, twists in her enemies plots revealed, and in the court of Prince Charming (of Haddix's earlier book, Just Ella) the tension builds to a head, and then falls gently to a satisfying ending.
It was a good page turner, though not exactly subtle, and stretching credulity at times. But heck, these days any book that both entertains and promotes social justice is one I am all in favor of!!!
Note on age of reader--romance is a minor sub-plot here, but not enough to push it into true YA territory. It's spot on, I think, for an eleven or twelve year old. Desmia herself is 14, so not quite old enough to be a YA heroine...
Note on fantasy--there's no actual magic; it's your "set in other world, with a few vague fairy tale references" type fantasy. So don't expect spells and enchantments!
(challenge update: 1 hour and 35 minutes read, 15 minutes social media).