Thursday, May 30, 2013

The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen

I'm not big on fantasy, and not big on trilogies, though there are certain exceptions. This is one of them. Sometimes I don't even get the next book in a trilogy, but in this case I've already got it on hold.

The False Prince isn't high fantasy; rather, it reads like historical fiction set in an indefinite era on what could be Earth if we had countries named things like Carthya, Avenia, and Gelyn.

The premise: The king, queen, and crown prince of Carthya have been murdered, but, despite rumors, the news hasn't been confirmed yet. Also believed to be dead, several years prior in a separate incident, is the younger prince, Jaron. A nobleman named Conner concocts a scheme to seize the throne. He kidnaps four orphans and forces them to compete for a chance to impersonate the prince, serving as Conner's puppet and living out the lie for life -- and the losers, because they will know too much, will have no lives to live out.

The characters here are wonderful. Sage, the protagonist, has on the surface the least chance of being chosen as prince. He's not as smart as Tobias, nor as strong as Roden, and when it comes to cutting classes in princely training or causing general trouble, Sage is always the one. All the boys are believable and fully developed, with their own arcs and changes. Conner, too, is a well-rounded antagonist.

The book quickly grabbed me and didn't let go, the plot contains plenty of twists and turns, the pace is neither too fast nor too slow, and the balance between plot strength and character strength is a rare pleasure. And while there's obviously room for more books as the story closes, this book does have a conclusive ending.

And while I was not completely, completely surprised by a certain development, and while I thought a certain aspect was maybe a hair too coincidental (I really don't want to issue any spoilers here), the conceals and reveals are still beautifully done. Upper MG; highly recommended.

15 comments:

Faith E. Hough said...

I really enjoyed this one, too--the sequel is also very good. I agree that some major elements were predictable (I kept thinking, "Is this just because I'm a writer, or does everyone notice this?") and I wish it hadn't felt so much like Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief. Yet...it was so well-paced and well-written, that I ended up not caring!

Marcia said...

Faith -- I love books that can do that: have flaws or at least things that niggle at us, yet the story and the writing make us, even if we're writers, not care.

Mirka Breen said...

I love having this happen: a genre I don't usually read encountering a particular book that reminds me there is more out there than I should prematurely write-off. Great recommendation, Marcia.

Marcia said...

Mirka -- Yes, we have to keep our eyes open to genres that aren't our go-to. :)

Christina Farley said...

I have to say I'm a big fan of fantasies and I have this book. But I still haven't read it! Now I'm really wanting to get my hands on it.

Marcia said...

Christina, I bet you'll love it.

Janet, said...

Sounds interesting, even though I'm not a fantasy fan, either.

Andrea Mack said...

I really enjoyed this one and bought the sequel when it came out. Since then, I've been recommending it to all the kids I meet! My 13-yr-old loved it too. It shows that if the voice and some elements of the story are compelling, sneaking in a little coincidence can work.

Marcia said...

Janet -- A great story will out even if the genre's not a favorite. :)

Andrea -- Plus, I love the rightness of that coincidence. I actually think that's what makes it not only plausible but almost necessary. So important to our feelings about Sage in the end.

Medeia Sharif said...

I don't think I've seen this one. Thanks for pointing it out. I enjoy tales set in indefinite eras.

Nora MacFarlane said...

The False Prince sounds like a good summer read. I'll put it on my list!

Marcia said...

Medeia -- So many books, so little time! Hope you love it.

Nora -- Yes, isn't there something about summer that just opens up reading? Of course, there are all those cozy winter evenings with tea, too. :)

Gina Gao said...

I enjoyed reading this book very much! Thanks for sharing.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Marcia said...

Gina -- Glad you liked it, and thanks for visiting!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

What a fabulous review, Marcia. It makes me want to read The False Prince as soon as possible. Thank you.