The False Prince Book Review

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen
Scholastic Press
Release Date: April 1, 2012

Carthys is on the verge of civil war. In order to unify the people, a nobleman and courtier named Conner has devised a plot to install an impersonator of the king's long-lost and dead son. Travelling the country, Conner takes in four orphans, all who have traits similar to the long missing prince, but only one will be chosen. Sage, by far the cleverest of the orphans but not at all trustworthy, knows that this is one contest he must win or be killed. As Sage competes against the other orphans he has to consider what is worse, death or living his life as a puppet King?

Recommended to me because of my love for The Thief by Meagan Whalen Turner, I was perhaps twenty pages in when I looked up and said aloud, "My friends know me so well." Full of political intrigue in a fantasy world where there is no magic, it felt very much along the same lines as The Thief, although a little simpler in plot.

The true hook of the story is in the gem character of Sage. Astoundingly clever with enough wit and spunk to keep you smiling throughout most of the book, you will find that even the most serious situations do little to curb Sage's cynicism and wry sense of humor. Being a thief, Sage doesn't seem like the most heroic of characters, but as the book progresses Sage proves himself to be caring and protective of others and desperately works to save not only his life but those of the other boys.

The plot itself is quick, taking place within a two week period. This was perhaps the least believable to me as I didn't see how Conner actually thought he could teach these orphans all the things they would need to learn in only two weeks, no matter how clever they were, however I also understood that any longer and Conner's plan may very well have been found out and all their lives forfeit.

As was the case in The Thief there is a quite lovely twist ending. I think the author could have held out a little longer, not revealing the truth for a couple more chapters, but it did not diminish the grand reveals impact, only took away some of the angst that the reader was feeling in regards to the situation.

Although touted as Young Adult, I would venture to say The False Prince is for a younger readership, or at least a little younger than Turner's books. The best part, both girls and guys will love Sage and this charming romp that will make you very glad that it is only the first in a trilogy.