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Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Monday, February 4, 2013
4 Stars: A Great Read
Series: Ascendance #1
Hardback: 342 Pages
Publication: April 1, 2012 by Scholastic

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

You have to read this from start to finish to fully appreciate the true extent of the plot. I appreciate this, as it keeps us guessing about the great secret behind all this, and I understand why we don't get to learn about these things until the time that we do. It's cool to learn what Sage has been up to all this time right before the climax (also because we can't be sure who is his enemy for much of the plot). At the same time, I had been looking forward to learning about Conner's plans along with Sage. The way that the plot unfolds leaves us with a simplified, predictable version of what could have been a deep, complex plot. The elegant simplicity with which the story is told makes it good for the intended audience of middle-grade readers, but older readers may find this lacking in depth. For me, I still loved this book, though I can easily imagine how this could be tweaked to target an older audience.

Sage is a crazy, obstinate, clever boy. I couldn't have asked for a better protagonist. I admire how he's not afraid to antagonize Conner and how he'll hold onto his beliefs even if it gets him into trouble. Within the bundle of mischief that he is, Sage has a kind heart and strong beliefs. He knows what he needs to do, and he'll do what's best for the people around him, even if it means sacrificing his own needs. And these people are worth it. In spite of the dire situation he finds himself in, Sage manages to liven the situation and make good friends. I especially love Roden and and Mott.

I do feel that this book is lacking in character development. While we get to know the boys and their respective circumstances, I don't feel as though they really matured and grew as characters. The character that I feel grew the most is Tobias. He starts off as an arrogant brat who sucks up to Conner, but he learns to humble himself (after being put in his place, but still) and becomes a decent kid. There is change in Sage; however, I feel as though it's more because he reverted back into who he was supposed to be but was suppressing all this time.

This book seems to be more of a setup for larger events to take place, and I hope to see more development of Sage's character and those of the friends he makes over the course of this novel. I am looking forward to reading The Runaway King, book two in The Ascendance Trilogy!

An copy was provided by Scholastic for review.

2 comments on "Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen"
  1. I loved Sage and his voice. I thought Jennifer did a great job with that. For me, this is one of those books I really fell in love with. Sorry you didn't. I do agree it's for a younger reader.

    I'm interviewing Miriam Forster and giving away an ARC of City of a Thousand Dolls if you're interested in it.

    1. The False Prince is still an amazing book. I was wowed by how the plot clicked together at the end. With such a delicate plot structure, it takes skill to do what she does. The only reason I didn't give this five stars is because, with all the secrecy and tip-toeing behind the scenes, there weren't many wow moments or enough of the suspense that I expect from a high-stake plot like the one in this book.


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