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Lady Power!
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Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy remains one of my favorite books. There’s nothing like classic Shannon Hale novels, if I can call novels from the early 2000s classics. Well, they are to me, so I will. In more recent years, though, I haven’t been quite as entranced by Hale’s fiction. Despite that, I couldn’t just walk away from this series. Hopes spring eternal for me, as it does for the unassailable goodwill of Miri Larendaughter. My hope was excellently rewarded with The Forgotten Sisters, which hearkens more closely to Princess Academy.

The Forgotten Sisters isn’t The Princess Academy for me, but it was much closer to what I’d been expecting from a sequel than Palace of Stone was. For one thing, in a very different fashion, the princess academy is back. More accurately, there’s a new princess academy. Just as Miri was finally going to head home to Mount Eskel after celebrating Britta’s wedding to Prince Steffan, the King called her to him with a new request: that she tutor three royal cousins as potential brides in an alliance with the nation of Stora.

Every part of me wishes that I could get all the people reading The Selection to read this series instead. For one thing, this series came almost ten years prior. For another, it’s better written. Finally, it’s full of feminism. The premises really aren’t that different, in that, at least in books one and three, they center around the selection of a future queen from a group being properly trained and auditioned.

The reason that the royal cousins need training is that they’d been, as the title indicates, largely forgotten. The royal cousins actually don’t even remember they’re royal, since they’ve spent their childhoods hunting caimans, fishing, and surviving by their own devices. They live in a swampy region that’s difficult to get to, as Miri discovers, fainting upon arriving at their door.

Miri’s the heroine of the series, not because she’s the most politically important figure, but because she’s the motivating force. Miri’s kind, optimistic, clever, and focused on justice. Just because she’s nice does not mean that she ever lets anyone take advantage of her. She’ll resort to whatever means she must in order to take on underhanded foes.

Even better, though, The Forgotten Sisters isn’t the Miri show. Though she’s the uniting figure and central to the plot, it’s not all about Miri. She very much could not have done this alone. Astrid, Felissa, and Susanna, the girls she’s been sent to tutor, may be rough about the edges, but they’re all very strong, both because of the life they’ve lived and their natures. Indeed, they’re strong in different ways. Felissa, for example, has strong emotions and compassion, which benefit her and the others.

Perhaps most touching for me was the story of Queen Sabet. She hasn’t played a huge role up until now, and The Forgotten Sisters doesn’t always show her in the best light. Ultimately, though, she gets a strong character arc. In fact, look at any female character in this book and you’ll see that she gets an empowering character arc. It’s really wonderful.

Romance isn’t so strongly an aspect in The Forgotten Sisters. I do like Peder and Miri’s slowly deepening relationship throughout the books. Their love is a steady undercurrent to the novel. I do also like the ship that develops at the end View Spoiler », at least with the proviso of taking it slowly. It all plays out really well.

From the epilogue, I’m not sure if there will be another book in the series, but I rather hope so. If not, this has been a delightful conclusion to the series.
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