Book Review: A False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
A False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published April 1st 2012 by Scholastic
Length: 342 pages; hardcover
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Reading Level: 13 & up
ISBN 0545284139 (ISBN 13: 9780545284134)
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The kingdom of Carthya stands at the brink of war. A cunning nobleman named Conner devises a plan that is nothing more than treason, but if it works would unify the kingdom and, perhaps more importantly, leave him in power. He wants to put an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son on the throne. Three orphan boys, one a clever boy by the name of Sage, compete for the role. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are questionable and that the two boys not chosen for the role of the false prince will most likely be killed. But Sage holds a secret that threatens Conner’s plot and yet could also save Carthya from a devastating war.
I heard good things about The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I’ll be straight with you; this story is a fantasy cliché. This is a classic fantasy tale and we all know how it ends. Spoiler alert! (As if you couldn’t see it coming from a mile away.) Sage really is the long-lost prince! Ta-da! To tell you the truth? I was hoping for another twist. Nielsen does a good job on convincing us that Sage could not be the lost prince because he speaks about a family from his childhood that is not the king or queen. Just a failed musician and a barmaid. Of course, these turn out to have a double meaning. I was hoping something different would happen and was a touch disappointed when it was confirmed that Sage was really Jaron, the rightful heir to the throne. Even though the ‘twist’ really wasn’t a surprise, The False Prince is still a well-written and entertaining story.
The three boys are vastly different from each other and their personalities crack and change by the end of the story. Roden seems like a good guy at first but by the end he takes one last desperate swipe at being the prince while Tobias comes off as almost cruel during the first portion of the story but ends up not being able to follow through. Sage appears to be just a difficult child but in reality is a cunning and resourceful boy. A bit too much for his perceived age in the book. I doubt a ten year old child would have the presence of mind to do half the things Jaron is said to have done (escaped off the ship, challenge a king to a duel, etc.). As a fourteen year old Sage, I can perhaps accept that every action he took was planned but I have to suspend my sense of belief to do it. But, this is a fantasy, where every child is clever and every orphan a prince in disguise. Belief is not needed.
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a good book, if perhaps not in possession of an original over all plot. Don’t let that stop you from reading it. Sometimes the classic tales are the most fun and I certainly enjoyed reading it. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy and I’m hoping for something amazing in book two with Jaron on the throne and having to deal with the mess his father left him. It will be quite a feat for him to untangle that rats’ nest. I hope to see Roden and Conner return to make trouble and for Imogen and Tobias to play big roles in court life. I look forward to it.