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Review: The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer Nielsen

shadow throneOne war.
Too many deadly battles.
Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely?

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?

Rousing and affecting, Jaron’s adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion with The Shadow Throne.

There’s always an underlying fear within a reader when she reaches that final book in the series. Will the author keep the characters consistent with what you have grown to love (and hate) about them? Will all the major plotlines be resolved? Will the ending be something you can be happy to live with (ahem, *Allegiant* ahem)?? Never fear, Jennifer Nielsen brings all the threads together in a spectacular finish to the Ascendance Trilogy.

Over the past two books we have watched Jaron face his past and come to terms with the loss of his family, as well as accepting who he needs to be as a ruler. What we haven’t seen is how he will assume the role of leader to his people, and at the start of this book, that is exactly what he’s trying to figure out. Jaron quickly comes to realize that being named king is only one step in the journey; you must have the support of your military and of your people before you can truly reign. Avenia is at Carthya’s doorstep, with King Vargan determined to take over Jaron’s country and get his revenge, and it’s time for Jaron to step up in order to save his people.

It’s fun to catch up on the comings and goings of familiar characters, and Nielsen does a great job of gently bringing you back into the world of Jaron and company without overdoing it. Pretty soon in, however, you realize that all is not golden, and that our young regent is restless and preparing for war. This is a much darker book than the other two, and for good reason. Jaron is that much older and that much more aware of the seriousness surrounding the issues of his country. He must figure out what to do with his relationship with Amarinda, and just exactly how he feels about Imogen. His friendships are tested and for once, he is having to rely on others to complete tasks he would rather do himself. He’s learned some hard lessons in the first two books, some of which almost cost him his life or the lives of people he cared about, so he’s trying hard to take the counsel of those around him in order to be better informed before making decisions. This isn’t easy for anyone to do, let alone our stubborn Jaron.

I liked that the secondary characters were also allowed to grow and evolve over the course of the trilogy, and it was great to see them standing up to Jaron and challenging him when they felt he was wrong. It was also very cool to see how they have learned to trust and respect him, and how they stood behind him during a time of war – something Jaron himself had not thought possible. Neilsen writes the climatic scenes much like a movie transcript, and it’s easy to picture the events unfurling in front of you as they might on-screen. Oh, and for those who needed to know? Of COURSE there are pirates!

Ultimately, though, this is a story about growing up and about facing your future as much as it is an adventure tale. Hard lessons are learned, and there’s even a few surprise deaths to keep Jaron and the reader off-kilter. Never fear, though, the trademark humour and fast-paced storytelling is still present, and you will find yourself racing through the story to find out what happens. Long-time fans won’t be disappointed as The Shadow Throne is a thrilling and twisty conclusion to a fabulous middle grade trilogy.

An ARC of the Shadow Throne was provided by Scholastic Canada in exchange for an honest review. It will be published on February 25th, and will be available for purchase from Indigo, Kobo and your friendly indie bookstore. ISBN: 9780545284172, 336 pages.

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