The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy #3)

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The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy #3)
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March 03, 2015
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After a year at the king's palace, Miri has learned all about being a proper princess. But the tables turn when the student must become the teacher! Instead of returning to her beloved Mount Eskel, Miri is ordered to journey to a distant swamp and start a princess academy for three sisters, cousins of the royal family. Unfortunately, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than becoming princesses. As Miri spends more time with the sisters, she realizes the king and queen's interest in them hides a long-buried secret. She must rely on her own strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the girls, complete her assignment, and finally make her way home.

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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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Princess Power in a Swamp
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In this sequel to Palace of Stone (2012), Miri is all set to go back to her home and family with Peder and the other girls from the academy when the king sends for her. There is war brewing, and the way he has decided to avert it is to send Miri to a far flung swamp to teach three distant cousins of the royal family to be princesses so that the king can marry one of them and not go to war with Miri's country. Reluctant to do this, Miri realizes that she can secure the future of her town in Mt. Eskel by striking a deal with the king to get the land under her village given to her if she is successful. Once she gets to the princess' home, she finds that Astrid, Felissa, and Sus have no parents, spend their entire day in pursuit of food, and are barely eking out an existence in their bare house of linder stone. Not only that, but the traders are stealing their money from the king. It's difficult to train the girls to read and write when so much time is spent on survival, but eventually she gets them to learn via stories and connecting the lessons to their every day life. When the swamp is attacked by the warring faction, the girls manage to escape, meet up with Peder (who had left Mt. Eskel and was trying to make his way to Miri), and try to get to Steffan and Britta to warn them. Family secrets are revealed, and an apt and amusing (if a little surprising) conclusion is drawn.
N.B. I read this on my Nook, which I don't have in front of me, and I can't for the life of me remember some of the names. That's the thing with e ARCs-- I don't really want to scroll back through them for details.

This is my favorite book of the series. Hale excels at world building, and Miri's adventures in the swamp, from wrestling caiman to highjacking the princess' money back by becoming bandits, are quite fun. She maintains her connection to home through letters that are quoted but not received, and the romance with Peder is nice. Lots of good girl power in this series! Definitely check out the first two books if you haven't read them!
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