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Friday, January 18, 2013

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Title: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer Nielsen
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: April 1, 2012
Publishing House: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545284134
Source of Copy: Purchased from National Bookstore


Four boys.
One treacherous plan.
An entire kingdom to fool.

In a faraway land, civil war is brewing. To unify his kingdom's divided people, a nobleman named Conner devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him on the throne. Four orphans are forced to compete for the role, including a defiant and clever 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 certainly will be killed. His rivals will be devising their own plots devising their own plots as well, so Sage must trust no one and keep his thoughts hidden.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of deceit unfolds, until finally, a truth is revealed that may very well prove more than dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

Jennifer A. Nielsen has woven a heart-racing tale full of danger and bold adventure, lies and deadly truths that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.


Truth be told, I bought this one on a whim. I know, I know. I did say that I would kick that habit to the curb but I just couldn't resist! The blurb, "A bold plot leads an orphan on a terrible journey... to the brink of treason.", totally caught my attention and if there's anything that I find utterly fascinating (amongst millions of other things), it's a.) historical fiction, b.) cruelly brilliant manipulation, and c.) treachery. 

But you know what? I'm glad I was feeling particularly spontaneous that day, because this one is absolutely phenomenal. (And you guys know how rare I rave about books.)

The False Prince kicks off with Sage, a delightfully cheeky young orphan, who has been turned over to the possession of Bevin Conner, a minor nobleman of the land of Carthya, for a quick coin. Sage soon finds that he is not alone, however; three other boys have also been "recruited" by Conner to play the part as the long-lost prince. To be chosen as Conner's prince, these boys must learn all they can to trick the entire kingdom of Carthya, all the while outsmarting each other in order to ascend to the throne. But Sage has other plans, and they may not exactly coincide with the ones of those around him. It will then take an orphaned young boy more than his cunning to make sure that he stays alive.

Mott sighed and left the room. He returned several minutes later with a larger chair in each hand. Master Graves was incensed and said, as punishment for my disruption, I would have to write my letters an extra ten times that day. 
"Ten times the better I'll know them, then," I said. "How strange that you should punish me by ensuring I come out more educated than Roden, who has tried to obey you." p. 80 

Sage is a clever, clever protagonist and I must say that he could just very well be my favorite main character of all time! Goodness knows that I never will quite know what to expect with this boy. Sage's every step always has me thinking of what purpose it could serve him, as he really is quite the strategist. His shrewdness is mind-blowing and the more I got into the book, the faster my fingers turned pages. His transition from the unfeeling, detached adolescent to a thoughtful, responsible one is quite breathtaking, and I have never read anything like it. Sometimes, I do find myself forgetting that he's just what, 15 years-old?

"They look angry," Tobias said to me. "What did you do?" 
"Is it always something I've done?" I asked. "Don't you and Roden ever do anything worth their attention?" 
"It's always something you've done," Roden agreed. 

Nielsen has not only created a witty hero, but has also churned out a wide spectrum of characters ranging from the insanely brilliant, to the power-hungry, and to the abused. 

This book also allows the reader to delve into questions with regards to identities, as they are questioned not only as the shallow physical limitations would allow per se, but the identity of the human being at his/her core. Can an orphan be a prince as long as he chooses to see that he is one? Likewise, can an orphan not be a prince because he simply cannot be, then? Being a prince, being an orphan... does it make the person any more or less different than one already is? Cannot one just simply be?

Another brilliant thing I found about this book would be the symbolisms. They are rife throughout the novel and I just couldn't help but grin every time I found one. I would like to think that even their names are symbolisms. Aside from Sage being fitting for the main protagonist, I found Conner's amusing although I have no way to discern if it was indeed intended by the author (Conner the con man, get it? No?). I also scoured the internet for the other names. Interestingly enough, goody-goody Tobias, being the most self-righteous of the boys, means *the divine being is good, and that Jaron, the name of lost prince, means *descent in Hebrew, and *brave with the spear in Germanic. If you have read this book, you might find these definitions fascinating.

The characterization is highly commendable, the pacing is perfect. (I could even swear that this book has a live, thrumming heartbeat.), and the political intrigue is simple yet singlehandedly delivers a solid punch. Nielsen's ability to weave a simple, seamless storyline that sends its readers into a frenzy of page-turning is something that I would gladly go through again and again.

It then goes without saying that I highly, highly recommend you to pick this one up. Once the second book comes out, you can be assured that I will not hesitate to brandish my sword just to get a copy.

The sequel, The Runaway King, comes out on March 1, 2013.




  1. Interesting, I was going to pick this one up but second guessed myself. Sad now that I didn't, because you review really makes me wish I had it in my hands! I would point out something I like but that's pretty much everything. You write reviews incredibly well, Michelle.

    Alise @ Readers In Wonderland
    YA Blogger Book Club

    1. Thank you for the very kind words, Alise. :) I like to think that even the cover of the book is as deceptive as the characters themselves. If you do get to read it, I would be very interested to know how you feel about it.

  2. I have been excited about this book for a while now. I really like the blurb (+ the cover is pretty) and I've heard great things about it. This review only makes me more excited and this might be one of my next orders from TBD :) I love the sound from Sage! It's great to read a book with a good, clever male protagonist. Awesome review! I'm happy that you loved it so much.


    1. Yay, haha! :) I hope you'll love Sage - and the book - as much as I do. Thanks for dropping by!