The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t want power or wealth, Conner. I want to stay alive. —Sage
Surprise, surprise! It’s been a while since I’ve read a middle grade book. Heck, it is a truth universally acknowledged that YA books have dominated my TBR for the past decade. With that in mind, I am very pleased to critique this unique, wonderful, and gripping novel.
The False Prince is the story of a 14-year-old orphan named Sage, who lives in Carthya, a kingdom on the brink of civil war. Unlike most of the kids his age, Sage has a very independent and strong-willed personality. He does whatever he can to survive, and he really doesn’t care if he has to break the law to get what he needs. Sage’s life becomes more dangerous when he is recruited by Conner, a nobleman of the court. Sage and three other orphans are trained to impersonate Jaron, the king’s long-lost son. Only one of them will be installed as the false prince, and Sage is determined to win and stay alive.
I genuinely enjoyed this book because it was reminiscent of The Kiss of Deception, one of my favorite books. Like the latter, The False Prince could be described as very misleading, in that Sage hid a lot of information from the reader. Consequently, the plot twists became more surprising and delightful. Sage did leave some clues every now and then, but I was rendered too excited/restless by the plot to stop and take note of them. Seriously, don’t be shocked if you find your mouth ajar while reading this book.
I also loved the narrator, Charlie McWade. Although his “female” voice logically sounded weird sometimes, he was generally an excellent narrator. His smooth, boyish cadence was the perfect accompaniment to Sage’s narrative. I highly recommend checking out The False Prince on Audible.
Sage was undoubtedly my favorite character. He was always the star of the show, and I loved how he managed to outwit even the smartest of his foes. In light of his supreme intellect and knack for strategy, Sage was practically the male version of Kestrel from The Winner’s Curse. As a bonus, Sage’s skill with the sword was also a force to be reckoned with. I honestly found it hard to be believe he was merely 14.
Conner and the other villains were likable in their own way. Like Sage, they were naturally secretive, forever plotting to do something unexpected. In this epic battle of minds, Conner was definitely a worthy opponent. If the author published a novella about him, I would read it in a heartbeat.
For me, romance was the only weakness of this book. I wasn’t a fan or shipper of Sage and this particular girl. Nothing physical happened between them since both of them were still young, but I couldn’t bear to imagine them as a couple in the future. The heavily political plot of this series is already great, so I would still be happy if the next books didn’t have any OTP or love triangle.
In totality, this middle grade book was way better than a number of YA fantasy novels I’ve read. Sage was so cunning, mature, and admirable, and I couldn’t get enough of his fast-paced story. The False Prince is a welcome addition to my shelf of favorite books. Please don’t hesitate to pick it up! ❤
P.S. Movie rights were already sold back in 2012, so what happened? Huhu
*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)