Thursday, May 30, 2013
The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen
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.