Title: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Genre: YA Fantasy Adventure
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication Date: April 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
ISBN-10: 0545284139 (Scholastic)
ISBN-13: 978-0545284134 (Scholastic)
Reviewed by: Macie
The False Prince is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.
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.
Quick & Dirty: The outcome of a treacherous plot to crown an imposter left me tense until the very end.
Opening Sentence: If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life. Then again, I’m not sure I ever had a choice.
Sage’s life changes forever when a stranger named Conner buys him from the orphanage where he lives. Sage is a fighter and initiates confrontation at every chance possible. For someone who is so self-preserving, Sage has knack for getting himself hurt for his outspoken nature. Though Sage is intentionally difficult to deal with, Connor has a plan for him and three other orphans the same age that probably will end in death for the boys that do not pass Connor’s tests.
Sage lies and steals as if it was second nature to him, and when we find out why, his character makes a lot more sense. Connor, one of the twenty regents to King Eckbert of Carthya, also lies, murders, and steals, but for very different reasons. He is wealthy and influential, though not in the innermost circle of the King’s trusted advisers. He claims his goal is patriotic because he wants to help Carthya prosper; though, because of his treachery and lies, I felt that he really wanted the power for himself to influence how the country was ran.
Connor spends two weeks grooming the boys he picked to be able to pass for the prince and take the throne in light of the recent, and mysterious deaths of the king, queen, and crown prince. The boys are competing to win the title, and know that the losers will most likely be killed. Sage, Roden, and Tobias are the three that remain to be instructed by Connor and his crew in reading, history, deportment, horsemanship, and swordplay. Tobias is the most studious of the three, but the weakest physically. Roden is the opposite. He is illiterate initially, but is talented with swords. Sage describes himself as being between both Roden and Tobias in skills, but he is also the most defiant, which Connor tries to beat out of him. There is obviously tension between the boys as they are forced to live together and compete for their lives that eventually spills over.
One thing that really kept me reading was the uncertainty of which boy would be picked for Connor’s plan. The fact that this is part of a trilogy partially gives it away, but the story is still well done. There are times where you really fear for a character’s life, which I think is important to have since it is closer to reality, even though the novel is set in a fictional land. The world of the novel is very close to what we would think of medieval Europe. There is a common religious organization and royal power structure that readers will be familiar with, even though there is no such place called Carthya. I really enjoyed these moments that reminded me that I was still reading about a fictional land, but that it felt so real.
I don’t want to give away any more of the plot since it would spoil the book for readers, but I would recommend this for anyone who likes adventure, strong willed protagonists, and looming uncertainty about the future of the characters. This is worth reading to the end to see what really is going on.
“Let me make it easier on you,” I said to Roden. “Untie me and I’ll be on my way. That’s one less boy to contend with.”
“I’ll do no such thing,” Roden said. “Do you think I want to be punished for your escape?”
“Fine. But the knots are really tight. Could you just loosen them?”
Roden shook his head. “If they’re tight, it’s because you irritated Connor’s vigils, and you probably deserve it.”
“Connor wouldn’t want him to be hurt.” Latamer crept toward me and said, “Turn around.”
“I can’t maneuver with my arms behind me. Just reach back there. Latamer stretched an arm across my back, which I caught with my hand and twisted behind him. Roden jumped up to one knee, startled, but with my other hand I slipped a noose over Latamer’s neck and pulled it so it was nearly tightened. Rode froze, waiting to see what I’d do next.
Getting the rope off of my wrists had been an easy matter. Knotting it into a noose was a bit trickier, although now was not the time to admire my handiwork. Roden didn’t look impressed with my behind-the-back knot tying. Clearly, he’d never attempted something like that before, or he would have been. Or maybe he just didn’t want me to strangle Latamer in front of him.
“Not an inch closer to me,” I warned Roden.”Or else I’ll dump him over the side of the cart and you can describe to Connor the sound of his snapping neck.”
“Please don’t do that,” Latamer breathed.
Roden sat back down. “I don’t care if you kill him and I don’t care if you run away. Leave if you want, and pray Connor’s vigils don’t find you.”
I stood, and apologized to Latamer for threatening to kill him, then gave a ceremonial bow to Roden. The bow might’ve been a mistake. Midway through standing up straight, Cregan whacked me in the back with the flat end of his sword. I fell forward, all air knocked from my lungs.
“You know what’d happen to me if I let you get away, boy?” Cregan snarled.
I knew, and I wasn’t entirely opposed to it.
The Ascendance Trilogy:
FTC Advisory: Scholastic provided me with a copy of The False Prince. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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