Series: Princess Academy #3
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on March 3, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, MG Books, YA (Young Adult)
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
Also in this series: Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
Also by this author: Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
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.
Fans of Shannon Hale won’t want to miss this gorgeously woven return to this best-selling, award-winning series.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters brings the series to a satisfying conclusion, but not before a whole raft of challenges for Miri and the other characters. All three books follow a similar story arc: Miri is thrown into an unfamiliar milieu where she feels uncomfortable and out of her element, and must learn to cope and eventually overcome the challenges she faces. There’s usually some danger to herself and others along the way, and the danger escalates with each book – especially this one. Miri and her students face one deadly situation after another, and it’s not always clear how or even if they’re going to get through it, making this book more suspenseful than the previous ones.
I was surprised (though not at all unhappy) at where Shannon Hale went with this book. Not in terms of the tone; it’s still solidly upper MG/early YA, like Palace of Stone before it. But in the choices of some of the characters and the consequences of those choices. There is more heartbreak in this one than in either of the previous books, even if it does end well overall. (I don’t think that’s a spoiler, quite, since good endings are more-or-less expected of children’s fantasy.)
I loved having the chance to spend a little more time with Miri and to explore another part of Danland. Miri is a wonderful character: honorable, empathetic, ethical, intelligent, and inclined to “speak truth to power,” but often homesick, and not always sure of herself or her path. Hale does a good job of putting us in Miri’s heart and mind, making skilled use of a third-person limited point of view. She’s also excellent at description; some of the swamp scenes made my skin crawl. And while I thought we weren’t going to see anything of Peder in this book, he makes more than a token appearance, which made me happy (but not as happy as Miri!) Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are welcome additions to the cast of characters, though Sus is unusually mature for an 8-year-old.
If I have any complaint, it’s that the book occasionally felt slightly choppy – but only slightly. Many younger readers probably won’t notice. The Forgotten Sisters tells both a personal story and a larger one involving the whole country; the two are inextricably entwined, but the latter could have used a bit more development, especially in the second half of the book and most particularly in the denouement. Also, one of the most interesting aspects of this trilogy is linder stone and the property it has of enabling wordless “quarry-speech.” I had a little difficulty with one of the new twists on quarry-speech introduced in this book – it was useful, but didn’t quite ring true for me.
Nonetheless, I really enjoyed The Forgotten Sisters, and fans of all ages are likely to agree. I’m sorry to see the series come to a close, but delighted by how Hale wrapped it up. And the epilogue made me smile: the series may be over, but somewhere in fantasyland, the history of Danland continues.
A final note: I wish that Bloomsbury hadn’t redesigned the covers yet again. It’s nice to have them all match, I guess, but the Disneyfied girls on the cover don’t convey Miri’s strength or depth of character at all. And what’s with the “come-hither” pose on the cover of The Forgotten Sisters?
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Winter 2014-2015