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.
An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.
Please note: I am reviewing Book One in anticipation of my review of The Runaway King tomorrow – be aware that there may be spoilers about this first book in my review. I’ve loved this book for a while, and have recommended it to many – if you are one of them, then I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
There’s nothing I love more than a story filled with well-crafted red herrings. It doesn’t matter how old you are – there’s something special about being drawn into a book that constantly keeps you guessing. Jennifer Nielsen’s first book in her Ascendance Trilogy does an admirable job of doing just that, allowing the middle grade reader to sink into the story and be drawn along on an exciting journey.
When we first meet Sage, he is an orphan, kidnapped and taken along with a group of others to a mysterious location. Soon, the kidnapper’s plan becomes clear: they are looking for a suitable boy to take on the role of the lost prince and heir to the throne of Carthya. Lost at sea and presumed killed by pirates, his body was never found, allowing for the plan of a miraculous discovery of the forgotten prince – and for him to assume the throne, with his rescuers as his advisers. There’ s only one problem: there can only be one false prince, and Sage must live by his wits if he is to survive.
The best part of this book lies in the twists and turns built into the narrative. I honestly thought I knew what was going one at least a half a dozen times, only to have the rug pulled out from under me each time. It’s action heavy, with lots of sword fighting and swashbuckling going on, and I especially liked that when people were hurt, they actually stayed hurt! No miraculous cures here – if you had an injury, you had dealt with it and moved on. The author also isn’t afraid of killing off characters – slightly shocking, but ultimately necessary as it lends the story some gravitas. You never know who you can trust in this book – including the narrator – so there’s loads of suspense and surprises along the way.
Sage is an enigma who slowly reveals his true nature as the book progresses. I found myself really rooting for him, especially at the end when things come to a head. Sage is wry and sarcastic and funny; he is under no illusions as to his true worth, and you do feel for him at times for being so alone in his life. However, there’s also a core of survival skills that have kept him going; not only is he an accomplished thief, but he’s also quick on his feet with a witty response and a clever comeback. His relationship with Imogen develops slowly and naturally, although you can see the foreshadowing of the romantic complications with the arrival of Princess Amarinda, betrothed to the heir to the throne as part of a previously made alliance. However, in this book the story stays firmly in the realm of PG, making this an ideal reading choice for both middle grade and teen readers.
The False Prince is the perfect action-packed read for any middle grade or teen reader who is looking for adventure, humour and a story filled with twists and turns. I can’t wait to share this with my students!
The False Prince is published by Scholastic Canada, and is available from Indigo, Amazon and your friendly independent bookseller. 342 pages, ISBN: 9780545284134