Thursday, August 22, 2013

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Genre: Fantasy...ish. We get fictional kingdoms and princes, but aside from an offhand mention of elves, there's no magic here.
Rating: *****
Series: First of a trilogy
Pages: 342
Life as an orphan isn't easy for Sage, but he's learned to deal with it. Then he meets a scheming nobleman named Conner. Three orphan boys have been selected for his plot: Impersonate the long lost Prince Jaron and save the kingdom of Cartyha from civil war. After two weeks, one boy will be chosen. The rest will be killed.
But Sage doesn't want to be a prince. He has his own agenda, one that remains a mystery even to the reader. First, he needs to escape Conner's manor alive. That's no easy feat when Sage's sharp tongue keeps landing him in trouble. Can he trust his opponents? Will they murder him in the night? What is Imogen, the quiet kitchen maid, hiding from them all?
And what really happened to Prince Jaron?
The first thing that drew me to this book was the title. The False Prince. Usually when you read about fantasy royalty, it's all queens and princesses. The guys are lowly warriors or adventurers. I wanted to see what boys would do if they got a chance at the crown.
From the very first page, I cared about Sage and wanted to see what happened next. Who's going to win? Who's going to die? Who's going to cheat? Who else is hiding a secret? The writing isn't brilliant, but it is filled with Sage's snarky comebacks. The characters surprise you just as you think you've figured them out. Especially Sage, who happens to be an unreliable narrator. Usually I don't like those. They lead you in the wrong direction for hundreds of pages, then, BAM, twist ending. Sage isn't like that. He drops hints and skips over blocks of time, leaving you to speculate on what he's really up to. I did predict the twist, but I also predicted several other twists. Sage, you've made me paranoid!
The False Prince is Nielsen's YA debut.