Book Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

17 Jan

Book cover for The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Title: The False Prince

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #1

Genre: Fantasy YA

Amazon | Goodreads

Publisher: Scholastic

Release date: April 1, 2012

Challenge: TBR Challenge

Summary: 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.

I’m getting this TBR Challenge off to a good start, friends. I am DETERMINED to make a dent in the number of unread books on my shelves this year, and if THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen is any indicator of the gems I’ve got stashed, I’m in for some goodies. This book is the first in a fantasy series about a country on the verge of war, where secrets and danger  and political games may not only mean the fate of the country, but also hold the lives of three young boys in the balance. DUN DUN DUNNNNNN.

THE FALSE PRINCE begins with Sage, a defiant, too-clever-for-his-own-good orphan living on the streets of Carthya when he is taken from his home by a nobleman named Conner. He winds up in a cart with two other boys about the same age, and they all go off with Conner, who clearly has something planned for them but is cagey and mysterious to the max. Sage, being the snarky, sharp, trouble-maker that he is, doesn’t necessarily go easily, and seems determined to be a pain in the ass until Conner orders the murder of one of the boys right after announcing his plan to turn one of his orphans into the long-lost (and believed dead by most) Prince Jaron. From that moment on, THE FALSE PRINCE moves at a clip, and Sage is tossed from one intense, life-threatening drama to another.

Jennifer A. Nielsen really did a great job with Sage. He’s a really vibrant character, and she made sure that he was constantly walking a tight-rope: one false step, one mistake, say one wrong thing, and he would be another casualty of Conner’s pretty ballsy plan. There were times in THE FALSE PRINCE when Sage bothered me, though. Something about his attitude, I think. He always seemed determined to make trouble for himself just for the sake of being difficult and unruly. He is only 15 years old, but occasionally his flippancy got to me. For the most part, though, Sage is what makes the book work, and he’s certainly got spark.

Another thing that Sage has–and, well, everyone else in THE FALSE PRINCE, too–is secrets. He’s got some pretty big ones, too, that really weren’t surprising to me at all, and likely won’t be surprising to anyone else, either. Still exciting, though. Conner has secrets, too, and is an interesting villain. Sometimes he’s very obviously the bad guy, other times it’s not so clear.  It’s hard to know if Sage should trust him, and Jennifer A. Nielsen makes it easy to see why Sage both fears him and seeks to push his buttons.

I was pretty impressed, too, with the world-building in THE FALSE PRINCE. There’s so much drama that there is never a shortage of things going on, but there’s really great context, too. Carthya’s neighboring countries are frothing at the mouth to start a fight if there is even the slightest indication of uncertainty about the succession or the royal family, the remaining members of which have not been seen for some time, in addition to Prince Jaron being assumed dead. Jennifer A. Nielsen also gives us some interesting history with the royal family. I have a feeling that in the coming volumes, we’re going to get a bigger taste of the politics and life at court, too, which makes me happy. But the world-building here was good and not overwhelming. A good place for a reluctant fantasy reader to start, I think.

If I had any complaint about THE FALSE PRINCE, though, it would probably be this: For the most part, I thought the pace was great. Like, REALLY great. The story moved at break-neck clip, and I found myself unable to put it down unless I had no choice. But there were also times in the story where it seemed like things happened too fast, with little preamble. Occasionally things were a little jarring, almost like Jennifer A. Nielsen was trying to cram TOO much action in and she had to cut out some of the less dramatic filler bits that set the stage and flesh things out. I don’t know if that makes much sense unless you read THE FALSE PRINCE, which I totally recommend you do. I don’t know how truly terrible a complaint that “there was too much action and things moved too fast” really is. Especially as I usually find greater issue with books that are too slow and boring. I can promise you this: THE FALSE PRINCE is absolutely neither of those.

With as much drama as Jennifer A. Nielsen packed into THE FALSE PRINCE–even if some of it was predictable–there’s still lots of tension in the air at the conclusion, and LOTS of sticky wickets still remaining for Sage, not the least of which are two young ladies he’s got hanging around. THE FALSE PRINCE is a really promising start to a fantasy series that is great fun.

12 Responses to “Book Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen”

  1. Lisa [is busy nerding] January 17, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    AHH THIS BOOK!
    I need to read it.
    The male main character. The secrets. The action! FANTASY!

    • trippingbooks January 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      Oh you DO need to read it! I’m telling you: it’s FUN. And Sage is pretty awesome.

  2. Alexa Loves Books (@alexalovesbooks) January 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    This sounds BRILLIANT. You know I’m always looking for a new fantasy to read – sounds like I need to add this one to my list!

    • trippingbooks January 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      Definitely add this one! It’s got lots of things going on. Good, twisty political fantasy!

  3. Quinn January 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    I need to read The False Prince. It’s been on my TBR list since it was released last year! I want to read more MG books, too, so I need to get this ASAP.

    Thanks for the review.

    • trippingbooks January 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      This one was on my TBR for a long time, too. I’m so glad that I got to it. It wasn’t perfect, but I really enjoyed it!
      It definitely straddles that line between MG and YA. In my mind, MG is a little bit younger than the characters in this book (Sage is 15, and the other boys are about the same age or older), but there’s definitely a more MG vibe to the story and the plot–there’s definitely nothing inappropriate for, say, an 11 year old to read, you know?
      I hope you like it!

  4. Brittany January 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    This sounds really good! I’ve been eyeing this one for a while… Maybe I should get to it soon! :)

    • trippingbooks January 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      You should! It’s fast and fun and full of secrets and backstabbings and drama!

  5. Heidi January 19, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    You’re right, a series like this is a great place for a reluctant fantasy reader to start! So far, it’s almost more like a historical that just happens to be set in another world. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this one Amy, reading your review got me all excited for the next book again–I can’t wait!

    I’m curious, have you read The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner? If not, you should–it’s a good read alike for this but BETTER.

    • trippingbooks January 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      Agree. There’s nothing magical or creature-like that makes this much different from a historical fiction book. I love fantasies like that as much as I love fantasies about dragons and magicians and such. I’m looking forward to book 2 for sure!
      As far as The Queen’s Thief goes, I’ve read the first book and liked it, but I need to read the rest! I feel like I didn’t like the first book as much as other people did, but I’m still interested in reading more! I’ll check the next books out soon!

  6. Alyssa January 19, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I am so glad that you loved this because I also have it at home and have yet to read it!! I am always wary to start a new series. *sigh*

    • trippingbooks January 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      This poor book is languishing on everyone’s TBR! lol. Too many books, too little time! I think this is a good series to start, though. It moves quickly, and the second book is coming out shortly!

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