Title: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Series: Ascendance Trilogy #1
Published: January 1st, 2012 by Scholastic
Genres: young adult/ middle grade, fantasy
Rating: ★★★★½ – 4.5/5 stars
Synopsis: 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.
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This book had been on my to-read shelf for such a long time. I love fantasy novels and the synopsis of this one sounded incredible to me. I can’t believe I waited so long to read this! I absolutely adored it.
Let’s start by talking about the plot. We start the story a few moments before Sage meets Conner. There’s always a certain point -usually in the beginning of the novel- for me in which I know whether I like the character or not. Usually it’s a witty response or line, doesn’t matter. In the False Prince that moment came quite early on, right when Sage meets Conner. His defiance and witty responses instantly made me like him. It made reading from his perspective very enjoyable.
This book mainly focuses on the competition between the four orphans chosen by Conner to play the long-lost prince. Being the one to win is pretty much all that matters, as the other boys most likely won’t survive. I guess you could say this book is a bit slower as the competition takes up most of it. But it didn’t make me feel bored or annoyed once. I was absorbing everything happily and was truly captivated. While I kind of suspected the twists coming, they still took me by surprise.
Then, there’s the characters. Sage is one stubborn kid. That’s the first thing to know. Sometimes annoyingly so, he would knowingly do things that would get him into trouble. And you don’t really understand the reasons why for most of the book. But he stays true to himself in the competition -unlike most of the others- and while he’s clearly not a saint, he is not a cruel person either. He is impulsive though, someone who doesn’t always think about the consequences of his actions.
Then there are the side characters: the other orphans, Conner, his associates and his household. During the whole book, I never really knew what to think of Conner. He seemed to be a nobleman trying to do what he deemed best for his country, even though he is basically committing treason by having someone impersonate a prince. Is he a good guy or not? That thought constantly drifted around in my mind while reading. I enjoyed the added mystery to the story. And the other boys were really interesting as well. All orphans trying to survive. And for some, that means leaving their conscience behind.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I will definitely read the following books in the series, I want to know what will happen next! I’d recommend this to people that enjoy middle grade/YA and either love/like fantasy or want to get into it but don’t really know where to start. This is quite an “easy” fantasy to follow! 🙂