Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The False Prince
by Jennifer A. Nielsen

ISBN-13: 9-780545-284134
Publication: April 2012 from Scholastic Press
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!

In a faraway land, civil war is brewing. To unify his kingdom’s divided people, a nobleman named Conner devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him on the throne. Four orphans are forced to compete for the role, including a defiant and clever 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. His rivals will be devising their own plots as well, so Sage must trust no one and keep his thoughts hidden.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of deceit unfolds, until finally, a truth is revealed that may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen has reminded me how much I love straight-up fantasy, and that I should read more of it. I enjoy nothing more than a brand-new world to explore, and maps are such a plus.

Sage is a thief, a trouble maker, and an orphan. He and three other orphans have been purchased by Bevin Conner, a regent to the King of the country of Carthya, for a plan that Sage fears may more than just border on treason. With the knowledge that he will be killed if he tries to run away or tell anyone that Conner plans to put an imposter on the throne, Sage stays at the manor and participates in Conner’s attempts to make the boys as much like the long-lost Prince Jaron as possible. Lies run rampant in the manor, and Sage’s defiant attitude may just ruin everything he’s planning to outwit Conner.

I devoured The False Prince from page one. A map? You know I’m hooked right away. And then to be introduced to Sage while he’s running back to the orphanage with a stolen roast and all he can think of is to get it wrapped next time before he steals it? Love. Sage’s voice is absolutely enthralling. He’s straightforward, mouthy, sarcastic, defiant and yet cares so much. He’s sneaky, a thief and a protector. He’s generous and strong and just very real. You can tell that even though Sage is often flippant and seems not to take the situation seriously, that everything is weighing heavy on his mind and that he is definitely keeping his own secrets. Secrets that even though you’re pretty sure you know, you still have a wriggle of doubt in your mind until everything hits the big reveal at the end. All the little hints that were dropped throughout the book suddenly make sense – everything plays out in a very natural progression and those hints and seemingly random things/moments all add up in the end to a huge sighing “ah-ha!” moment.

Although Sage and the characters in The False Prince were the driving point for me, the backstory we get into Carthya and the fantasy world the country is part of is very well presented. This whole plot to place an imposter of the king’s long-lost son on the throne is all part of a larger political battle that would have huge repercussions on not only Carthya, but the neighbouring countries of Avenia and Gelyn. Indeed, the events surrounding Prince Jaron being long-lost (approx. 4 years since he presumably died) all feed in to this political situation. The roots of Conner’s plan extend far and wide throughout Carthya and Sage has a huge part to play, whether he wants to or not.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen has everything I enjoy in a fantasy – great characters, wonderful world-building, intrigue, murder, treason, storming the castle, loyalty, a pissed-off princess. It’s great! Over the course of the story you’ll find yourself biting your nails in anxiety, wincing, cheering, urging the good guys to win and really feel for Sage by the end. Seriously, he completely makes this story as good as it is. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Hardcover copy provided by Scholastic Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!