Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

The False Prince

The False Prince book cover
Image from Ms. Martin Teaches Media

Title: The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy #1)

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Genre: Fantasy

With civil war is brewing in Carthya, a nobleman named Conner devises a plan to unify the kingdom’s divided people. Sage, along with three other orphan boys, is bought to compete for the pivotal role—impersonating the king’s long-lost younger son. Sage knows Conner’s motives are more than questionable, but his life balances on a sword’s point. If he doesn’t beat his rivals and bet chosen to play the prince, he will most certainly be killed.

I read The False Prince when it first came out. Then I found the second book in the series, The Runaway King, and realized I remembered nothing of book one. So I had to reread it.

Sage was an interesting personality. He was abrasive and had a knack for getting people angry with him. He was also reckless, defiant, manipulative, and extraordinarily smart. But he cared about people, too, which just made him an awesome character.

Tobias and Roden were two of the other orphans, but they weren’t nearly as interesting as Sage. Tobias was the smart one with a mean streak. Roden was quiet, mild, and unassuming. Tobias had more personality than Roden, but next to Sage, they both seemed bland.

Conner’s motives are called into question through the whole book. He’s heartless and willing to do whatever necessary to make his plot succeed, but is it because he doesn’t want Carthya to be destroyed, or because he wants to be the master behind a puppet king? Up until the very end, it could go either way.

The whole story is brilliant. The boys are competing in a life-or-death situation – the winner gets to be the prince, the losers die. Nobody trusts anybody, and Sage doesn’t like following anybody’s orders. Personality clashes between Sage and everybody else, vast amounts of secrets, life-or-death stakes, and political intrigue combine into a brilliantly engrossing story.

There are so many secrets in The False Prince. Conner has secrets – why he’s sure he can get away with this, what his real motives are, and a bunch of little details concerning the royal family. Tobias has secrets that he’s not very good at hiding. Even Sage has secrets, which aren’t revealed until the end (even though I probably should have seen them coming).

My final verdict: I remember why I wanted to read book two so bad. This is one of those books you almost want to forget because it’s so much fun to discover it all over again. I officially can’t wait to read The Runaway King.

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