28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags:

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, 342 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/11/2014

The False Prince starts out with a teenaged orphan named Sage stealing a slab of meat for the others in his orphanage. On his way home, Sage runs into a man called Connor who shows a great deal of interest in Sage. After a discussion with the lady who runs the orphanage, Sage finds himself along with three other orphan boys his age in the custody of Connor and his henchmen. Connor tells the boys he has a plan. That plan involves one of the boys becoming wealthy and powerful beyond his wildest dreams. The boy that is chosen will be part of a massive and dangerous secret. The boys that aren’t chosen? Well, no one seems to want to say out loud what will become of them. Escape is a tempting option, but when given the chance to leave, one of the boys does and is promptly killed for his decision. Sage decides he will go along with Connor to see just what he is plotting, as much out of self-preservation as his own curiosity.
Once at Connor’s estate, it is revealed that the royal family is, in fact, dead. The eldest son and his royal parents had all been poisoned some weeks prior, but no one outside the king’s inner circle knows. Connor is one of the king’s advisers and is thus privy to such information. Connor decides to take matters into his own hands. His plan is dangerous. There was once a second son in the royal family. The younger of the two boys had been sent away years ago by his parents due to behavior-related incidents. Instead of going to the boarding school he was supposed to attend, the young prince ran off, only to wind up on ship that is overtaken by pirates. According to the official narrative, the prince did not survive. Since no body had ever been found, however, Connor decides that he will create an alternate story where the prince was secretly in hiding. Lacking an actual prince, Connor is determined to train the orphans that he’s tracked down to be as much like the real prince as possible. Then, when the public has been informed that their beloved king and queen (and heir) are dead, Connor will present the rest of the advisers with his version of the prodigal son. Naturally, the boys not chosen will be privy to treasonous secrets, which puts their chances at long and happy lives at a minimum. Sage decides that, even though he really doesn’t want to be the king, he would prefer not to die just yet, so he sticks around and attempts to play Connor’s game.
The False Prince is a delightful series opener. Sage is a fantastic character with wit and cleverness to burn. The rest of the cast of characters are equally intriguing and nuanced. The playful tone of the narrative counteracts the more serious questions of political intrigue and personal identity. The pacing is impeccable and a massive twist at the end will leave readers reeling and hankering for the next book in the trilogy (if they don’t go back and reread the book with different eyes). I had my middle-schoolers read this one for our most recent book group and they all loved it.

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