The False Prince, by Jennifer A Nielsen [Ascendance Trilogy #1]

  • TITLE: The False Prince [Ascendance Trilogy #1]
  • AUTHOR: Jennifer A Nielsen
  • PUBLISHER: Scholastic
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 7th June 2012

The False Prince, by Jennifer A Nielsen, is the first of the Ascendance Trilogy; a relatively new YA fantasy series that offers excitement, intrigue and secrets. Before I start, I’ll say that although the cover of the edition I have (UK paperback) is very YA, I think the (I presume US paperback) alternative cover is less so, and quite rightly, since, as with many other series, the subject matter and content of this book would allow it to masquerade fairly well along with the Big Books in the regular section. It reminded me of my ever raved-on-about Seven Realms series, by Cinda Williams Chima (I promise to stop going on about this, one day… maybe).

Sage has been kidnapped from his orphanage with three other boys from different orphanages, all of whom share some resemblance. They are all very different boys with different backgrounds and skills—which is perfect for what Conner, the noble regent behind their kidnap, is looking for. With a wider choice of boys, it is more likely that he will find a suitable puppet through whom he can rule by proxy: for Conner has high ambitions and although he claims loyalty to his country, he wishes to pass off one of his chosen orphans as the lost Prince Jaron.

Jaron has been missing since he was ten years old, when he went down at sea on a vessel attacked by foreign pirates. Now that the throne hangs in the balance and Conner has proof that the missing Jaron will never come back, he intends to return the Prince to his country, by training, moulding and manipulating one of the four boys, making him fit Jaron’s shoes as surely as if they had been his all along.

Sage is not convinced. He does not trust Conner’s game and does not want to sit on the throne. But Conner is serious and the alternative is death, so, alongside having to compete against the other boys—all of whom know the cost of failure and disappointing Conner—Sage must try to find a way of escaping without being drawn deeper into the web.

With few friends and many enemies, Sage needs to be clever to stay ahead of the game and keep his head above water. The kingdom might be in chaos soon if Conner’s words are true, but if the King, Queen and the Crown Prince Darius really are dead, then whoever is chosen to be Prince Jaron will inevitably not be a prince for long—he will soon be King.

Convinced there is more going on than there seems, and holding his own cards tight to his chest, Sage plays Conner’s game on one side, whilst putting together his own hand under the table. Sage has never let anyone rule his destiny—and he’s not about to.  But Sage is stubborn and though Conner makes it clear he is a good match from the beginning, he fights tooth and nail, angering Conner and threatening to blow his chances of survival.

Still, Sage cannot bring himself to simply comply; he smells a rat and regardless of whether they would betray him at the first opportunity to save themselves, Sage needs to think of the other boys’ fates as well as his own. With his own secrets and nobody to trust them with, Sage is alone in a tangled web of lies that he was brought into, entirely against his will.

There is no defying Conner—they’ve all seen what happens if he’s pushed—and yet Sage is determined to uncover the whole truth, even if that means giving up everything he is and becoming what he must.

Expertly written and moreishly compelling, The False Prince is a cracking story that is definitely a page-turner and will keep you reading late at night. It’s fun, furious and fast-paced and offers a little bit of good old-fashioned fantasy, with a bucket load of intrigue and mystery thrown in.

It’s a devilishly clever read with twists and excitement and a lot of secrets and lies. It is a wonderfully addictive story that won’t last you very long, as you’ll be eager to get to the end. With likeable, readable characters and moreish prose, The False Prince is a complete success.

5/5

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