Series: The Ascendance Triology #1
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Genres: fiction, historical, medieval, young adult
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Publication Date: June 7th, 2012
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In a discontented kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan. He will 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 as Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to the king’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold.
Until, finally, a truth is revealed that may prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together…
The False Prince is, at least according to my library, supposed to be targeted at the older half of junior readers (from about 9 up). I however would probably categorize it more as a young adult book, because there is a complexity to the plot that just pushes it over into the Young Adult category in my opinion. That said, I really quite enjoyed it.
The first chapter or two of the book is a little bit slow, purely because some things have to be explained and we need to be shown the main adults in this story and what they are, for appearances sake anyway, like. There are one or two minor things that are a little bit confusing but they are soon cleared up as the story goes on.
Sage, the protagonist of the series, is fairly young to be taking on the role of prince and king, however there is much, much more to young Sage than initally meets the eye. Jennifer Nielsen weaves Sage’s background through the main plot quite well, and you begin to suspect certain things about him, and these are more or less confirmed as the book goes on.
Surprisingly for a middle grade/young adult novel set in medieveal times, there is no magic in this story, and to be honest it doesn’t need it. The story works quite well without relying on magic to carry it along. Sage and the other boys are enough to give the plot some colour without overdoing it at the same time.
As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, Sage is a boy with several secrets, one of which may well threaten the whole escapade should certain people find out about it. From about halfway through there are big flashing arrows pointing the reader to a couple of things that will ultimately alter the course of what happens to the characters. These are done quite intentionally, for the reader becomes aware of these things well before other characters do, which then makes you wonder when the others are going to figure it out/find it out.
The book finishes neatly with a ‘what’s going to happen in the future’ ending as opposed to some great big cliffhanger, which is nice for a change.