Book Review: The False Prince By Jennifer A. Nielsen
Summary The False Prince is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end. In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant 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. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together. An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
The False Prince embodies a plot of mistaken identities. Opportunistic men search for the right false prince to take control of the throne through a puppet. Even though I liked the plot, I loved the characters. Masterfully drawn characters are irresistible and stay with us. Sage is a plucky orphan, who doesn’t know how to control his tongue. He is discovered and is similar enough looking to Prince Jaron that he has the opportunity to become the missing prince to save the kingdom. One big difference is that Sage is left-handed and must learn to use his right hand to be considered. Sage and the other orphans are faced with the machinations of court politics even before they know which one will be chosen to be Jaron. Sage could have become an annoying jerk, but he has a humane side and continues to work through his personal flaws. I like characters who are aware of their shortcomings and are multi-dimensional. There is a poignant moment when Sage must decide if he will become Jaron or allow the other orphan to become the prince. Before him lies the difficult road or the easy path. His decision is made for the right reason and highlights his code of ethics. I hope to see more of Imogen in the future, she seems like she has more to her than we might realize.
Even the evil characters are multidimensional. It’s hard to completely hate someone when you know whats motivating their actions. I think it is hard to write the bad guys for YA because they can become a parody too easily. As an example, is Roden – one of the orphan boys – really being opportunistic or just hoping to survive in the decisions he makes.
In addition to the characters, I enjoyed the twists in the plot. The False Prince has been written for the younger audience within the young adult category, and they will love it. It is not burdened with a heavy romance which is refreshing. The adventure and pacing is fast which will keep boys reading, and full of clever writing for the girls (though I maintain girls like a good adventure too).
I have seen Nielsen’s novel compared to Megan Whalen Turner’s book The Thief. I DO NOT feel like Nielsen rewrote Turner’s books, though they share an audience. Turner’s series focus on the gods who direct mortals’ lives while saving a kingdom and peninsula from an invading force. Nielsen’s series focuses more on the politics, psychology of motivation and securing a nation from potential threats within and outside of the country. Both the main characters, Gen and Sage, are orphans, too clever for their own good and have power within their countries at a young age. I don’t feel like that is enough to trash Nielsen’s book. If you remember Harry Potter, Sarah Crew, Oliver Twist and many other protagonists are orphans and even clever. Sometimes I felt like The False Prince was a modern twist on The Prince and The Pauper. It was a thoroughly delightful read.
I highly recommend this series. There is some violence, very little innuendo, and it’s completely appropriate for a tween audience.
I will keep an eye out for future novels written by Jennifer Nielsen.
5 out of 5 stars
- the Mother
If you liked this one try reading Cast of Stones by Patrick W, Carr and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.