The False Prince - Throwback Thursday Review

Throwback Thursday to a novel I read for my Books and Literature for Young Adults course during "library school." We had to chose an ALA (American Library Association) Teens' Top Ten nominated novel and write a "booktalk" and review for it.

© Scholastic
Title: The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1)
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published: 2012 by Scholastic

"One of the great books I finished last week was The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, whom you may know as the author of the Underworld Chronicles, a humorous fantasy series.  This is the first book in the Ascendance trilogy, and was voted #2 of the 2013 Teens' Top Ten. If you enjoy medieval styled fantasies (or even if you don't), The False Prince is definitely worth a look.

'Four boys, one treacherous plan, and an entire kingdom to fool.'

The land of Carthya hovers on the brink of war and needs a strong king to lead its people.  Nobleman Bevin Conner schemes to save the kingdom (and gain some power himself) by placing King Eckbert's long lost second son, Prince Jaron, onto the throne.

There's just one problem:  Most of the nobles assume Prince Jaron to be dead after pirates attacked and destroyed his ship five years ago. 

Taking four orphan teens who resemble the young prince, Conner gives them two weeks of intense training in swordsmanship, riding, history, manners --the education of a royal. The deception will give them a life of wealth and power beyond their dreams. But only one boy can be chosen:

Will it be quiet and humble Latamer?
Tobias, intelligent and eager to please?
The most athletic and strong, Roden?
Or will it be Sage, a defiant street thief?

When it is revealed just how devastatingly far Conner is willing go for his deception to succeed, the teens realize their lives hang perilously at sword point.  Can they even trust each other in this world of secrets, intrigue, and lies?  Full of action, readers will keep the pages turning in this fast paced adventure novel.

Can a pauper become a Prince? 
Find out in book one of the Ascendance trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen."

Medieval style fantasy worlds were my favorite as a teen. While only 342 pages long, The False Prince has 54 short chapters. I wouldn't be surprised if it was written with reluctant readers in mind.

Our protagonist Sage has sarcastic, quick wit, and an even quicker tongue which often gets him in trouble. While female characters were a bit lacking, they were there in a supportive friendship role, but I think it worked with this type of fast paced, tight plot. Oh, and that plot twist! Maybe some will think it cheap (I felt almost betrayed for a moment), but I don't think teens would be disappointed with the ending.

The novel also plays with themes of identity:  Is your role in life something you can pick up, try out and cast aside? Teens often experiment with who they are as they discover or mold their identity, how they want others to see them, etc. so I saw echoes of that in this story, though with much higher stakes. One review I read called it "Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games." Content-wise, it's a bit of an exaggeration, but you can see elements from those series such as medieval political intrigue and teens caught up in a life or death, high stakes competition.  All in all, I enjoyed this novel and quickly went to seek out the remaining books in the trilogy.

What was your most recent medieval-style fantasy read?


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