Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Princess Academy: Forgotten Sisters Audio

Princess Academy: Forgotten Sisters Audio

Shannon Hale
For ages 12 and up
Unabridged audiobook (Digital)
Performed/read by: Mandi Lee
Audible, 2015 

A year ago Miri left her home on Mount Eskel, and since then she has been taught by some of the best scholars in Danland, she has helped avert a bloody revolution, and she has fallen in love. Now it is time for her to go home, and she cannot wait to be reunited with her family, friends, and the mountains that she loves so well.

Miri is about to get on a cart to begin the long journey home when King Bjorn summons her to his presence. Much as she’d like to refuse him, even Miri cannot say no to a king, and so she goes to see what her monarch wants. What she is told horrifies Miri. Apparently the kingdom of Stora has invaded Eris, Danland’s neighbor. The battle only lasted three days and the king fears that Stora will turn its eyes on Danland next. He wants Miri to travel to a settlement in Lesser Alva, which is where three of the king’s cousins live. The plan is to secure a relationship with the King Fader of Stora by offering him the hand of one of the cousins in marriage. The problem is that the girls are not “refined,” and so a princess academy has been called for to train the girls, and Miri is to be their tutor.

Though Miri has only studied at the Queen’s Academy for a year, instead of the four years a proper tutor requires, she is resourceful and tough, qualities that she is going to need in the remote and swampy outpost of the kingdom that she is being sent to. She is, in short, a good fit for the job. On the one hand Miri really wants to go home but on the other she understands that royals are not the only ones who have obligations. She too has an obligation to do what she can to ensure that a war does not break out between Stora and Danland. She has an obligation to protect the people in her village. She will do her duty but Miri also makes the king promise that if she completes the task she is given, the people in her village will “become the owners and caretakers of the village and quarry” on Mount Eskel. If she has to spend months teaching the royal cousins, she wants to get something out of the deal, something meaningful that will help her people.

Miri has expectations of what Lesser Alva will be like, but when she gets there the situation is much worse than she imaged. Most of the village houses are built out of reeds that rest on floating islands. Life there is primitive and hard. The three girls she has been sent to teach live in a house made of linder stone, as befits their royal status, but the house is devoid of any creature comforts and the sisters spend their days in the swamps hunting and looking for food. For some reason they never get the allowance that the king sends them, and so they are extremely poor, just like the other villagers.

Miri is shocked that the sisters are forced to hunt for fish and caiman to fill their bellies. She is appalled that they have neither the means nor the interest in becoming her students. After all, they have to spend their time surviving. After months dealing with life in the swamp, Miri decides that she has to do something to get the sisters the allowance that is rightfully theirs. She knows that a man called Jeffers is stealing the mail that the sisters are supposed to ge,t and so she decides to steal it back. Before Miri can teach the girls how to be princesses, she has to show them “how to be bandits,” and that is what she does.

Using their wits and their wiles, the girls get their allowance out of Jeffers’ grasp and finally Miri is able to spend time with her charges teaching them how to read and write, and how to behave in polite society. She also teaches them the history of Danland and Stora. Things are finally starting to look up when soldiers arrive. At first Miri thinks that they are guards that King Bjork sent to escort Miri and the cousins back to Asland, but then she learns that they are Storan soldiers. Asland has been attacked and the castle there is besieged. King Bjork and the rest of the royal family and their advisors are trapped.

In this final princess academy title Miri faces some of the biggest challenges of her life, and this time her whole country is in danger of invasion and being destroyed by a war. As the story unfolds, we see how obligations rip apart families and destroy lives, and at the same time we see that facing an obligation can also bring out the best in people.

With her beautifully emotive and lyrical style of writing, Shannon Hale takes us on an adventure like no other, and she gives us a powerful tale that will resonate with listeners long after the narrative has come to a close.