THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen
jacket flap blurb
One treacherous plan.
An entire kingdom to fool.
In a faraway land, civil war is brewing. To unify his kingdom’s divided people, a nobleman named Conner devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him on the throne. Four orphans are forced to compete for the role, including a defiant and clever 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 of he will certainly be killed. His rivals will be devising their own plots as well, so Sage must trust no one and keep his thoughts hidden.
As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of deceit unfolds, until finally, a truth is revealed that may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
Jennifer A. Nielsen has woven a heart-racing tale full of danger and bold adventure, lies and deadly truths that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
This is an excellent book. The characters were interesting and complex—surprisingly so. The book starts out fairly shallow, with only clever dialogue and an engaging premise to drag people in. But the further you go, the more the characters are fleshed out. It doesn’t lose it’s snappy wit, but it gains depth.
There are a number of small twists throughout the story that keep you guessing who can be trusted and who can’t, but the biggest surprise comes near the end. See, Sage really is the long-lost Prince Jaron. It was something I starting asking myself about halfway through or so; if Sage could actually be Jaron. But by the time the reveal rolled around, I’d convinced myself it wasn’t possible—after all, the book is written in first person, if Sage was Jaron, wouldn’t it be pretty clear?
But it’s not. It’s written so that you can’t tell, can’t be sure one way or another. There are hints—they’re just sentences really, and they are initially confusing. But once you find out Sage is Jaron, it suddenly makes a lot more sense.
The one thing that bugs me, though, is how much more of Sage/Jaron’s thoughts we get after the reveal. Stuff to clarify what has happened up to that point, what went through Sage/Jaron’s head that we weren’t privy to. I wonder if there was a better way to get that information across. For one thing, I think it would have been okay for us to learn where Sage/Jaron hid the “gold” rock at Conner’s house. I don’t think it would have made his status as prince any more or less clear.
My favorite character, besides Sage/Jaron, was probably Mott. And after him Tobias. The one character I wasn’t sure about was Imogen. I couldn’t understand why Sage/Jaron was so interested in her. Was he attracted to her? Did he just pity her? Did she remind him of someone? I don’t know. I suspect he was attracted to her, but it’s really unclear. A lot of Sage/Jaron’s actions are written in a way that leans towards the third person objective style (observe actions and dialogue without thoughts—like a movie, essentially, but just following one character), except it’s in first person. So it’s hard to say how Sage/Jaron really felt about Imogen.
And, actually, it’s hard to say what he really felt about a lot of things. I’m not a fan of the objective style (I’ve never actually read a book in it, but I have read numerous short stories). It works for movies because viewers can see the actor’s faces and body language, which can communicate subtleties. But in a book, all of that is missing. Which is normally just fine, because books can do something movies can’t: get directly inside a character’s head and head what they’re thinking, witness the inner workings of their personality.
But with the style this book is written in, most of that is cut out. I think the author could have included more of it in the same slightly-confusing, make-the-readers-guess way she did for a lot of the hints that Sage was Jaron. And she could have included a lot more about how Sage/Jaron felt about Mott, Tobias, Roden, Imogen, Conner, and other characters. That’s pretty much the reason why this book gets four stars and not five.
And yes, this is the first of a series. A trilogy, it looks like. But no, thankfully it does not end on a cliff-hanger.
rating out of five stars