Every so often, I come across a new book that I just love and have to share with friends who are also readers. Sometimes, they already know about the book because other librarians and book bloggers are also talking about it. Sometimes, I seem to be the only one who loves it. But that’s the great thing about books! Everyone has different experiences when they read one.
The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, is a new book that I read and loved. Let’s see if I can convince you to read it too…
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Sage lives by his wits on the streets of one of the major cities of Carthya. Well, really he lives at Mrs. Turbeldy’s Orphanage for Disadvantaged Boys, but since all Mrs. Turbeldy provides is a vermin-filled bed and a bunch of hungry roommates, Sage might just as well be on the street. Also living in the orphanage are nineteen other boys between the ages of three to fifteen; Sage is one of the oldest. Most of the boys are kicked out of the orphanage once they turn fourteen, but Sage is kept a bit longer because he’s good at “finding” things for all the boys to eat, and at stealing little trinkets to keep Mrs. Turbeldy happy.
Caught in the market by a merchant and fleeing pursuit for theft of a roast, Sage returns to the orphanage one afternoon only to find that Mrs. Turbeldy has sold his services to a man named Bevin Conner. Conner strikes him as untrustworthy, and Sage has no desire to be his servant. Sage resists going with the man…he’d rather be free and on his own than serve a man who won’t even tell him his trade or business. That’s when he finds out that Conner won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Sage is clubbed over the head and dragged away.
When Sage awakens, he finds himself in the back of a wagon, with his hands and feet tied. Three other boys are with him in the wagon bed, all about his age, all with light brown hair and similar features. In fact, they look like they could all be brothers. Sage wants to know what is going on, but the other boys tell him they’re as much in the dark as he is. They only know that Bevin Conner is a noble, and a friend to the King’s Court. One of the boys had overheard that Conner wants the boys for a service to the king.
When they stop for the night, Sage is taken out of the wagon. He discovers that Conner and his two henchmen, Cregan and Mott, aren’t yet willing to trust him. Although he is untied, he is left chained, so he won’t attempt an escape. After a short break for a bare-bones meal, Sage learns Conner’s plan. It seems that Conner is one of the King’s regents, and he’s plotting treason. His plan is to overthrow the king, get rid of him, and put an imposter on the throne. King Eckbert has one son, Prince Darius, but there used to be two. The younger son, Prince Jaron, was lost at sea four years ago when the ship he was traveling on was attacked by pirates and sunk.
Conner’s plan is to teach all the boys the skills they will need to convince the court that one of them IS Prince Jaron. He will say that he tracked down the prince in dire circumstances and rescued him from his enemies, then install him on the throne. The boy who is picked will become Prince Jaron and inherit the crown of Cathyan. He doesn’t say it, but the boys know that after the training is complete, the leftover, unsuccessful trainees will be a threat to the one who becomes Prince Jaron. The boys who are not chosen will most likely be killed. It is a deadly incentive to learn Conner’s lessons. To make the boys realize that he is serious, Conner has Cregan kill one of the boys. His excuse is that Latimer was sick, and would never have recovered enough to learn the sword fighting, horseback riding or dancing he would need to play Prince Jaron.
It’s definitely a way to keep the three remaining boys on their toes and willing to learn.
Sage, Tobias and Roden enter into their training with different skills, knowledge and backgrounds. Each of them is determined to be the one selected as Prince Jaron. Sage watches his two rivals with a cautious respect. Even though they are competing for the biggest prize of all, the boys do work together on some tasks. Sage has secrets and skills that he doesn’t share with the others though. Every lie he weaves, every devious action he takes gets him closer to being the one chosen as the false prince.
As lies and truths become muddled, Sage is caught in a trap of destiny. Can a liar and a thief become a king? Does he even want to?
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This is a great book! It’s told from Sage’s point of view, so the reader only knows what Sage chooses to tell us. And Sage keeps secrets. There are plenty of twists and turns as Sage’s life becomes more and more complicated. His life on the streets will stand him in good stead in this deadly game.
The False Prince is the first book in the Ascendance trilogy, and I’m already waiting for book two. It won’t be out for awhile though, so we’ll all have to wait. This is a book you need to read carefully, because there is a lot going on. If you pay attention, you may figure out what’s going on before the other characters in the book do. Because The False Prince is full of political intrigue and mystery, it’s probably best suited to readers in middle school. A good fifth grade reader might enjoy it too though, and anyone who read and loved The Thief, by Megan Whelan Turner will probably appreciate Sage’s story. I’m really hoping that the publisher releases it as a book on CD, because it would be a great novel to listen to on a car trip.
So give The False Prince a try, and see what you think!