Title: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy YA
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.