“A bold plot leads to an orphan on a terrible journey... to the brink of treason.” In the medieval land of Carthya, civil war is brewing. To keep the kingdom united, three orphans are bought to train to become an impostor of the king’s long-lost son. A Nobleman, Conner, devised an intelligent, yet devious, plan to install one of the fake princes on the royal throne. The orphans were judged on their bravery, strength, cleverness, and most importantly, their willingness to lie. At the end of the training, the one orphan that would be suited best to be the prince would be chosen, and the other orphans would be killed. Jennifer Nielsen cleverly intertwines lies, secrets, and deception into the story of three boys and the terrible journey to the brink of treason.
The False Prince is told by Sage’s point of view as an orphaned trouble maker. Sage lived in a rickety orphanage and was from Avenia, a land inside the kingdom of Carthya, that is known for its pirates, thieves, and disrespect for the king. Sage, along with other orphans Roden and Tobias, is bought by Master Conner and taken to Farthenwood, Conner’s lavish estate. There, for two weeks the boys are trained with everything they need to know to play the charade of Prince Jaron. They learn to read, write, to ride horseback, to sword fight, they learn Carthya history, and the names of all the important nobles, regents, and ancestors of the royal family. A boy is chosen to be the prince, a boy who carries an important secret of his own.
Sage is the kind of character you want to hate, but can’t. He’s disrespectful, thieving, plotting, and plain rude. Despite all his character flaws, from the beginning of the book I liked him and wanted him to succeed.
I thought The False Prince was a great story. It was fantasy, with made-up places and kings and queens. But for fantasy, the book was realistic. There was no magic, no nonsense creatures, just the normal evil you would expect to come by in a kingdom. I thought that the absence of the magic was refreshing.
What I really liked about this book was the huge surprise in the end. Throughout the whole book Nielsen foreshadowed the big secret that didn’t unfold until the end of the story. Looking back, lines in the story I paid no special attention to I now know hint at the ending secret. The first line of the book even foretells the future by saying, “If I had to do it all over again, I would have not chosen this life. Then again, I’m not sure I ever had a choice.” This was said as a character was almost caught steeling a chunk of meat, a roast. When I first read this line, I just thought the character was just wishing he hadn’t stolen the roast, but boy was I wrong.
I would recommend this book to middle/ high school age students, and even younger kids if their reading level permits it. This book wasn’t inappropriate. The main character, Sage, does get into trouble many times and his punishment is often brutal, but the author doesn’t go into too much detail about his many injuries. There is no profanity, just lines like, “He cursed under his breath,” letting you know the character muttered a bad word.
The story of The False Prince continues in The Ascendence Trilogy. To read more and even watch a book trailer, visit http://www.jennielsen.com/index.php.