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Search tags: Shannon-Hale
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review 2018-02-16 16:31
Gator wrestling princesses
Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters - Shannon Hale

Another excellent entry taking things in an entirely new direction. I praised book 2 for taking (necessary and deserved) revolution and pushing back at all that anger, putting the emphasis on finding connection points and persuading enemies, instead of trying to destroy them. But The Forgotten Sisters pivots to show that sometimes standing up to wrong does mean getting a little savage.

 

Miri comes full circle as the new royal tutor when she's sent to the swamplands days before her pending betrothal to run the next princess academy for three sisters who are too busy hunting caimans and frogs to learn to read. War is on the horizon, and a political marriage is needed. If Miri succeeds, she can buy back her village and the mine from the king before he sells it to finance the war. If she fails, all the gains her family and friends have made disappear and the country may be overrun. But the secrets on all sides have the potential to change the game entirely.

 

Entertaining and with surprising heart, as always. Good for middle-grade readers and up.

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review 2018-02-16 00:46
Smart fantasy knows revolution is the easy answer, not the right one
Palace of Stone - Shannon Hale

Another wonderful YA fantasy suitable for younger readers.

 

Miri and company leave the mountain to attend their friend's wedding in the capital and discover the country has some serious trouble brewing. The king is out of touch and careless, his nobles are abusing the commoners, and a bloody revolution is brewing in the background. But Miri's there to learn, and at the royal academy, she struggles with the study and true practice of how to determine, and how to act on, right and wrong.

 

The answer is complicated, and that's part of what makes this writing stand out. In 2018, we're all about fierce, take charge girls being savage and taking down the patriarchy and Nazis and whatever else is doing damage. And we need to call out the abuse of power and the suffering of the powerless and other evils. But, as the head scholar points out to Miri, history shows that revolutions generally involve a lot of murder, a lot of purposeless blood spilt, and much less progress toward their glorious ideals than they were meant to. Understanding, finding a connecting point, and persuading others to reassess their positions is much more effective in taking steps towards a more just outcome.

 

This story explores the emotions and thoughts of the characters as they confront difficult realities in a believable, relatable way. It's somewhat utopian - the crafted plot of a story allows for neat turns and unlikely defusing of volatile situations - but it reminds us to value people and choose the hardest path, the one where we don't just get to tear down what we hate, but rather have to find a way forward and build a better future for everyone. It's smart, considered, enjoyable, and inspiring writing.

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review 2018-02-14 04:29
Bandits, miner's daughters, a boring prince and a sentient mountain
Princess Academy - Shannon Hale

This is the type of excellent children's publishing that I craved as a preteen/young teen. It reads sort of like a middle grade, more accessible to younger readers than a lot of the YA MA books these days.

 

This wasn't at all what I was expecting from the title and cover; I thought it would be fluffy romantic school stories, but it's the type of smart, political historical fiction-inspired fantasy that I loved well before paranormal romance and urban fantasy took over YA.

 

Miri is a 14-year-old miner's daughter who mourns the fact that she's too small and can't go help out in the mines. Fantasy!politics decree that all daughters in the village between 12-18 or so must be removed to a training camp to be prepared as a potential princess pool. Handwavy explanation aside, it's a chance for Miri to start to see a wider world and her own home's context within that. She uses what she learns about economics, politics, reading and math to negotiate a better situation for her village, protect her classmates, understand her family, and fight oppression. There's some very mild romance (again, suitable for MG/young teen readers), but the story is more about personal growth, community and friendship, and helping others through learning and sharing knowledge. Beautiful, meaningful, engaging and fast-paced.

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review 2018-02-09 22:36
Dangerous - Shannon Hale

This was great. The setup is diverse science-geek kids become a Power-Rangers-style team of superheroes with mysterious alien-derived powers. Then it goes somewhere different.

 

Some cool things it included:


-caring parents that remain present and supportive
-kids with goals/girls w/ STEM goals they're pursuing
-decent representation across genders, races, abilities, nationalities & economic statuses
-everyone has a nuanced backstory
-it's not just another 'yay team' clone

-MC is homeschooled (but not a genius), multi-lingual & multi-racial, lost her hand at birth, designs her own prosthetics

 

There was a dizzying whirlwind of plot, and I think this could have been split into a duology given the amount of twists and developments. I inhaled it almost in a single sitting. Really entertaining and a lot of fresh takes on tropes while still checking all the boxes for thriller/SF/superhero story. So different than Hale's fairytale retellings, but just as excellent.

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review 2018-02-06 19:39
Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and Rapunzel save fantasy!New York
Calamity Jack - Dean Hale;Shannon Hale

This second entry keeps all the fun, humor, action, and social commentary of the first but shifts the setting east for an urban makeover. It's the late 19th century and giants are pulling the strings of the city in this revolutionary spin on Jack and the Beanstalk. Art continues to be appealing, funny and a little manic.

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