Hello there! Today I am going to be reviewing The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Originally published in 2012, this middle grade novel only recently fell into my hands and I thought that this was definitely a book worthy of a positive review.
First Impressions: This novel has a most intriguing title. When I first read it, it made me think immediately of royal conspiracies, backstabbing, high stakes and good ol’ fantasy. Why is someone pretending to be a prince? How many people know about his true identity? Why is he pretending to be a prince anyways, and who was he before the deception? The cover of the book isn’t particularly gripping though, but my intrigue with the premise made up for it.
What is this book about, anyways?: Sage is an orphan living in an orphanage and stealing food to stay alive. A nobleman, the Lord Conner takes him to his mansion, Sage learns that he is one of the four boys that Conner has chosen as potential candidates to impersonate the “dead” Prince Jaron and prevent an impending civil war.
What I liked about this book:
The main character Sage is an orphan and he becomes immediately sympathetic to the reader. Since Sage can be sarcastic and stubborn at times, the sympathy that the reader feels for him at the start is enough to propel the reader through the first chapter until Sage proves himself as a kind human being.
Also, the plot twist. Oh, the twist! Although I suspected what was coming from the start, it seemed less and less likely as each chapter wore on until at the end, everything just fell into place. I apologize if that sounds confusing. Read the book to find out!
The premise of this novel just screams “HIGH STAKES!” If there are three boys competing for one role, what horrible fate do the losers meet? As evidenced by the fact that Lord Conner guiltlessly slays one of the 4 boys within the first twenty pages, he is willing to sacrifice anything to see his plan through to completion. What if the winning impersonator is found out? One stumbling block in the royal court and the false prince may find his head on the execution block. (*pun not intended)
What Could Have Been Better:
While I thought that the main character Sage was well-developed, several other characters didn’t seem that way. Like with one of the other boys, Tobias, his background was all-too convenient. He, another orphan, had been too many of the places that Sage travelled to with Conner and was conveniently able to fill the others in on background information.
Speaking of world building, the fantasy world of this novel is nothing exceptional. Not bad, but nothing special.
In Conclusion: I would rate this novel as a 4/5 stars. As for the audience, I would recommend this middle grade fantasy novel to readers between the ages of 11-14 who enjoy a dangerous fantasy with a sarcastic narrator as well as to readers of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.