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The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book: The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen (@NielsenWriter)
Pages: 352
Age Range: 9 and up

TheFalsePrinceThe False Prince is the first book in Jennifer A. Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy. 14-year-old orphan Sage is one of four boys purchased from orphanages around the kingdom of Carthya. Their buyer, Conner, is one of the king's regents. Aware of the secret news that the king and queen, together with their eldest son, are dead, Conner has a bold plan to bring one of the boys forward as the king's long-lost younger son, Prince Jaron. The boys find themselves in a high-stakes competition. The winner will become King of Carthya. The losers will almost surely be killed. Conner's plan is treason, and the ruthless noble will do anything to protect his secret. The False Prince is an enjoyable start to a promising new series. 

Sage is a strong protagonist. He's a liar and a thief. He's rough around the edges and ridiculously stubborn, but oh-so-clever. And (for a lying thief), quite moral, too. He stands up to Conner, even at a cost of great suffering. He also stands up for a mute serving girl, Imogen, who is apparently being mistreated. He is the bane of his captors' existence, and their greatest hope. 

I quite like Sage's voice, too. He's a bit cocky, of course, but with a delightfully dry sense of humor. Like this:

"The butcher gave me a final kick in the side, then leaned low toward me. "If you ever come into my shop again, I'll cut you up and sell you as meat at the market. Got it?"

The message was straightforward. I nodded." (Page 2-3)

and this:

"You have an clever tongue and an arrogant tilt to your head. I'm surprised Mrs. Turbeldy hasn't beaten it out of you."

"You mustn't blame her. She beat me the best she could." (Page 28)

(where Mrs. Turbeldy is the woman who ran the orphanage where Sage lived.)

I read a lot of books, and Sage stands out as a memorable hero. The other characters are all quite well-developed, too. Even the thugs have a bit of backstory. 

Plotwise, The False Prince is fast-paced and filled with twists and turns. It's the kind of book that will make kids want to stay up late, reading one more chapter. I did personally spot the biggest twist quite early on, but this didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book - I just felt "in the know". And Nielsen covered things up enough that I couldn't be absolutely sure, with a nice attention to detail. 

I didn't find the world in The False Prince quite as fully realizes as some, but I thought that the strong characters made up for this. 

Anyone who enjoys books about castles, swordfights, and plucky orphans should look no further than The False Prince. This is a great summer read for anyone really, age 9 and up. I look forward to the remaining books in the trilogy.  

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: April 1, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).