Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The False Prince

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen is one of those books that had me from page one and didn't let me go until the end, with the exception of the couple times I had to get up and walk around the room to let off some pent up energy caused by my intense involvement in the story.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In a discontent 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.


If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life. Then again, I'm not sure I ever had a choice. These were my thoughts as I raced away from the market, with a stolen roast tucked under my arm. I'd never attempted roast thievery before, and I was already regretting it. It happens to be very difficult to hold a chunk of raw meat while running. More slippery than I'd anticipated. If the butcher didn't catch me with his cleaver first, and literally cut off my future plans, I vowed to remember to get the meat wrapped next time. Then steal it.

Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog will not find it surprising that with a beginning like that one I was caught. And all of it because of Sage. There is always room in the world for another clever, sarcastic, rash, thief and I will always enjoy reading about such characters. Sage is no exception. He was a very easy character for me to  engage with. As his story unfolds you get a picture of a boy who is torn by the decisions he is having to make. He is whiny, he is brash, he is cocky, and he is sarcastic. He is also honorable with feelings that run deep and is clearly torn up by what is going on around him. There were a lot of other characters I came to have strong feelings for, but don't want to give anything away so will not say anymore. Except there are three other characters I very much fell for as well. And I appreciated how Conner was sometimes likable despite his despicable actions. 


Sage is an unreliable narrator and the reader knows this from the beginning. The narrative reveals enough for the reader to get a sense of the internal struggle Sage is waging while still maintaining an air of suspense and mystery. The political intrigue in this is excellently done. Treason, half truths, all out lies, and backstabbing (literally) happening all over the place. It is action packed for sure.  The tension in some scenes had me bouncing in my seat. The ending definitely completed this story while leaving plenty of development available for the sequel. There was one chapter toward the end that suddenly pulled out of Sage's first person narration and that was a bit jarring. There was also a good bit of back story that needed explaining at one point that was a tad awkward and didn't seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. 

Being a book about a mouthy thief with a lot of political intrigue comparisons to Megan Whalen Turner are inevitable. Nielsen lists Turner as an influence on her Goodreads page and that influence is certainly obvious as one reads this book. If you have read The Thief you will be forced to make comparisons.  I believe that fans of Turner will enjoy this as long as they go into it remembering Sage is not Gen and his story is a different one and very much his own. For one he sounds younger and less sure of himself. His unreliability comes from being completely at sea, coming to terms with what he must do, and knowing there is no one he can fully trust (though he wants someone he can talk to). Personally, in a direct comparison I believe this book suffers. Others, such as Thea from The Book Smugglers, disagree.

This is a fantasy novel as it is about countries that don't exist and never had, however there is nothing overtly fantastical about the world. There is no magic or mythical creatures. There are still two more books to come so possibly more fantastical elements will be coming. Even if they don't the story is strong enough without them.

8 comments:

  1. It was fun tweeting with you about this book. Although I enjoyed it tremendously, I felt like it was a The Thief wannabe, and definitely suffered in comparison. (Mind you, almost ANY book suffers in comparison with The Thief.) But I'm interested to see where the story goes, and hope the author will grow at showing rather than telling.

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    1. It was fun! True, most things do suffer when compared to MWT's awesomeness. It is why I am usually very wary when people start throwing her name around in reviews. I enjoyed this one more than most books that people compare to hers. I too want to see the telling rather than showing thing improve.

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  2. This is the third review that I've seen that compares the book to MWT's writing. I remember Thea said she liked this one more than the The Thief but I remember another review saying Sage is Gen-lite and that the book is a bit disappointing. Hmm I should probably give it a try because I really enjoy thieves in fiction and you seemed to like this.

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    1. Sage is not as confident or sure of himself as Gen. I felt very maternal toward him. I have never felt maternal toward Gen. Sage definitely reads younger.

      I did really like it. I enjoyed the experience of reading it quite a lot. It just forces you to compare it to The Thief and the author doesn't have the same sort of control over the story MWT has.

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  3. I loved this one! Of course, it was hard not to think Thiefness (and I mentioned that in my own review), but the story arc is so very different, and Sage has such a different emotional feel that that didn't last. I liked that I guessed the twist early (which I think was kind of intentional) so that I was aware of the ton of emotion not said, but very present....

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    1. I completely agree with you about the easiness of figuring out the twist. I think it was intentional too. (This is part of what Sondy and I were debating on Twitter. It was tons of fun, but made both are days start late.) I loved that Sage had a different emotional feel to his character too. I would have been knocked down by the amazingness of the book if the narrative disruption at the end hadn't thrown me out of the story abruptly. I was still pretty wowed despite that.

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    2. Think it over more, I've come to the conclusion that I liked it so much because it made me feel all maternal--boy without a mama, and all that. Whereas Gen didn't make me feel that way until Queen of Attolia!

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    3. Charlotte, I felt the same way! I wanted to bring Sage home and shower affection and chocolate chip cookies on him. Maybe that's why I feel this reads younger. I NEVER have maternal feelings toward Gen. Not even in QoA.

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