The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy Book 3), by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury, middle grade, Feb 2015).
It was a cold, snowy night yesterday (as is so often the case), and so it was a great pleasure to escape to a warm, fetid swamp of heat and high humidity, home to three forgotten princesses who habitually wrestle alligators (and win). For Miri, the heroine of Shannon Hale's Princess Academy series, journeying to the swamp was not quite as welcome; she was looking forward to going home to the mountains, and did not welcome the royal command to go run a Princess Academy for the three girls. But she wasn't given a choice.
Miri had plenty of doubts from the beginning, mainly about her qualifications for the job, and about the reason for it--one of the sisters is going to be married off in a political alliance to prevent a war. But things are even more difficult than she'd imagined...the princess have been living alone, engaged in a hardscrabble struggle to hunt and forage for their food (including the above-referenced caimans), as the funds sent to sustain them are being intercepted along the way (one of the many problems Miri must deal with), and they are not at all eager to be educated.
But Miri, as strong willed, determined, and sincere as ever, perseveres....and her efforts pay off beautifully as the mystery of the princess' identity is unraveled and war is averted. Fans of the first two books will be pleased to see Miri's story continue to a happy and satisfying ending; it's nice to see old friends, but the new characters introduced here are also pleasing additions in their own right!
There's magic--the powers of linder stone to transmit thought and feeling, and to hold memories, are and essential part of the story that adds a pleasing fantastical-ness, and there's adventure that goes beyond simple alligator-wrestling into the tunnels beneath a besieged castle, but mostly what I enjoyed about the book was the people in it--figuring out who they are, and understanding those around them.