From the book description courtesy of Goodreads:
THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.
In a discontented kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant 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 or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.
As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.
As with all of my reviews, no spoilers.
The False Prince is a fun book with a twisty ending that might cause sleep deprivation if reading before bed is your habit. I have a set time I go to bed because I wake up early to write. Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince foiled me three times last week, keeping me up way past my bedtime.
What kept me reading were the mysteries that were added with each chapter. Question upon question. Not only was there the overarching question of who would become the next prince, but you come to wonder what happened to the previous prince? The royal family? Then there are other questions. Who are these boys Conner has chosen? What’s Conner’s motivation? All of these questions are layered on chapter by chapter.
Still, the mark of a good story is how you come to feel about the characters. In The False Prince you come to care for Sage and the other boys who are recruited to play the role of prince. Their lives do not improve after leaving the orphanage, because while they have better food and clothing, the possibility of death hangs over them all. The supporting cast charms you as well, propelling interest towards the next book, The Runaway King.
The real find, in my opinion, is the protagonist, Sage, a witty, funny boy, with a depth that unfolds over the course of the story, and though you might think you know how the story will end, you will be surprised. At least I was.
For me, characters make the story. I don’t think we’d care much about Hogwarts or Diagon Alley if Harry, Ron and Hermione had been written as flat and uninteresting. Jennifer Nielsen has created characters you will come to enjoy (or loathe).
In fact, Jennifer Nielsen’s writing reminds me of JK Rowland’s in that the only details given are those needed to advance the story. Her characters shine through. That’s the strength of her writing, in my opinion.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Why only 4 stars? I was left wanting to know more about the world Jennifer Nielsen has created. She gives just enough to get us through the story, but I wanted to know more. I come from reading novels by Patrick Rothfuss, Terry Goodkind, and Raymond Feist, where maybe too much meat is given. It’s a hard balance to strike, and I think Jennifer almost got there. I imagine more holes will be filled in with The Runaway King.
Great start to a trilogy.