Narrator is Sage, fourteen year old orphan with attitude - one of four possibilities selected by ruthless Regent Bevin Conner to pose as Carthya's long missing, presumed dead, Prince Jaron. Two weeks of rigorous training may produce a winner, the prize being allowed to survive - at least for a while.
Here is a tale where cunning is all - treachery rife, the foe formidable. Teenage readers may readily identify with Sage, he impressively streetwise and skilled at staying alive.
Some may regard the plot as old fashioned - mythical kingdom, the absurd concept that a fortnight can transform an urchin into a convincing royal. (Variations were tackled in such time-honoured classics as "The Prisoner of Zenda", ""The Man in the Iron Mask", etc.) Some may also feel uneasy about awkwardnesses in the final stages, with Sage twice temporarily no longer narrating.
The ultimate test, though, is whether the novel was enjoyed. Despite reservations, it certainly was by me - devoured in one sitting, as Sage ingeniously strives to outwit those who plot on all sides.
Recommended - full of excitement, twists and warmth.
This is probably a good time to admit that I'm a bit of a Merlin fangirl, and I only needed to see 'if you love Merlin' (I DO. I LOVE MERLIN VERY MUCH) to pick this book up. Although its actual similarity to Merlin would be little more than a quasi-mediaeval setting and a coming-of-age element, the real similarities lies in their shared light spirit and humour.
[ALTHOUGH, I also have to add that in my head, Conner had Charles Dance's face (the Witchfinder in Merlin; Vetinari in Going Postal). He has that scary look.]
Sage is scraping by at an orphanage at the edge of Carthya, far from important events and people. When a King's Regent, Bevin Conner, scouts him out because of a resemblance to the lost (presumed dead) prince of Carthya, Sage is thrown into a competition against three other orphans. They, too, have been chosen for their resemblance to the lost prince. Conner plans to pull off a crazy coup to prevent a civil war - a civil war which will destroy Carthya, as its bordering countries take advantage of their weakness and annexe them.
There are only two weeks before the regents convene to discuss the succession - only two weeks to turn the ragged orphans into princes, and pick the most likely among them for the job. But for the boys, being chosen to impersonate the prince becomes a matter of life and death. Tobias is bookish and clever but physically a bit of a wimp; Latamer is sickly and unwilling, Roden is strong and fast, but his wits are slow and he is easily led. Sage is not led at all, and is dragged into the contest kicking and screaming - the only one, apparently, who can see the plan for the madness it is.
Jennifer Nielson's writing style is pleasantly spare and direct, which makes it wonderfully readable. She doesn't faff around with highfalutin language, and plot and pace are perfectly timed. Sage, our narrator, is amusing and aggravating in equal measure, much like Gen from Megan Whalen Turner's 'The Thief'. In a welcome turn, the plot itself is the vehicle for revealing Sage's character and personality, with very little need for explicit exposition, which in turn means that the pace doesn't fall off.
The False Prince is a bit Hunger Games, a bit Merlin, a bit John Flanagan, a bit Megan Whalen Turner, and then very much *itself*. They are writers who have a simplicity and sympathy in their work that make it compelling to read. It's the kind of elegance that comes from very good editing, a cracking story, and an authentic narrator. Sage's voice is wry and engaging, and The False Prince had me by the first chapter.
I'd (very strongly) recommend it to fans of BBC's Merlin, John Flanagan (Ranger's Apprentice; Brotherband) and Megan Whalen Turner (Queen's Thief books), for ages 9+ (but easily enjoyed by adults, i.e. me).
Now I have to wait for the next book. Why. -_-
Four orphans and lots of adventure, what more can one want from a magical adventure?
Duels, swords and friendships all come together in this tale that keeps you reading after lights out time. The names of the characters are not your normal everyday names but then again this is not your normal everyday adventure book, but one of pure magic! Well 'Magic' according to our youngest.
It explained someone's pain quite detailed when Prince Jaron was whipped and also when he was knifed (well this is what son said). Well boys well be boys and seem to like graphic details. It seems ours does but he liked the way it was described almost like could have been there and seen it.
Our ten year old loved the 'Hunger Games', so being offered this book to review I grabbed the chance to get it for him.
All I can say is that is up there as being a Five Star ...... Full of adventure Lord of the Rings Style, along with Hunger Games adrenaline. Quietness all round whilst this one was read, even if it was after lights out time.
The blurb sounded good, an all round adventure with bits of other good book ideas all tossed together and bought about to bring this one The False Prince. Certainly a book that will keep your ten year old entertained on a long car journey and more.
All I have now is son asking when the next one is out in this trilogy. Much searching has been done on the web by him even looking at the authors website to see if there is a date for the next one.
This is one that after reading it the next ones have to be bought, so getting this one to review courtesy of the Vine programme is costing me not only in time for things not done as son had his head in the book so much. But also in then getting the next ones.
Can you please tell us when the next one may be out!
The False Prince is an action filled narrative. In every chapter Sage is getting into trouble, and also getting out of trouble, or going on some dangerous adventure. This book is never sluggish. After a few chapters, you discover that you understand the characters well. Not because you've been told that their personality is this that or the other, but because you've been shown in the narrative. Ms Nielsen actually achieves this goal without a show and tell, which so few authors seem to do today.
Our main protagonist Sage is self-confident. Or where he's not, he easily fakes it. He is not a person to be big-headed, conceited, irresponsible, or patronizing. He has a strong underpinning of decorum. He is an exceptional judge of character - sensing who is fundamentally good or bad. He does not suffer fools easily. Sage is a candidate prince alongside Roden and Tobias. The dynamic between them is fascinating. When they need to be they are comrades in arms, united against the same "enemy." However, they are also rivals - in a game where the stakes are as high as they get. All three need and want to win. In their own way, each works to undermine the other two. The three act as a team sometimes, while two gain up against one at others. Each was capable of desperate cruelty.
This book has universal appeal. This does not contain any swear words or romance, it doesn't feel juvenile. It does have a surprisingly amount of violence and cruelty, although I believe it is appropriate given the plot, and is never graphic.
My only slight critique is that late in to the book there is a shift in the narrative from first person to third person, which I found disconcerting. In summation then Prince stands out for its fabulous dialogue, enchanting protagonist, and well developed plot.
My nearly 12 year old grandson really enjoyed this exciting historical fantasy novel. The recommendation that fans of Merlin would enjoy it is a safe one, with the unspecified historical period having medieval rather than Dark Age references,
Unlike many American fantasy writers, Jennifer Nielsen steers firmly clear of rehashing over-used Celtic myths and gives her characters realistic names and rounded personalities.
Sage, the young hero, is fleshed out nicely with good descriptive writing. He has complex decisions to make in order to ensure his survival; establishing his character traits makes understanding the plot and ensuring its believability much easier.
The other candidates for the role of the false prince who must impersonate the lost prince to prevent the descent of the nation into civil war are a little stereotypical, the weak, bookish Tobias for example.
However bookish people like Tobias are almost always physically weaker than their more sporty and outdoorsy peers, as children clearly acknowledge.
In making the characters very different from each other, Nielsen keeps the plot much easier to follow.
A confident reader of nine plus will have no problem with this book and it should engage children up to 13/14. Although part of a trilogy, the story is self contained, so that readers will be left satisfied with the ending, whilst still looking forward to what happens next.
When the mysterious Conner crashes into Sage's life, the last thing Sage wants is to go with him. Yes, he's poor and living in an orphanage, but at least on the streets he's his own master. But Conner insists and Sage soon learns that he's not the only orphan in Conner's plans.
In fact Conner's plan is little short of treason, but with the royal family dead there's a crown up for grabs. Four years ago young Prince Jaron vanished, but to avoid civil war Conner is preparing to bring him back. Four orphans, two weeks, one false prince.
It's a lie that could last a lifetime, but first Sage has to be picked. Or he will die.
Strong-willed, cocky and with a tendency to bite off more than he can chew, Sage veers between courageous and foolish as he fights against being told what to do. At the same time he's kind to others and stands up for those less fortunate - no matter what the cost to himself. He's smart too, almost too much for his own good as he frequently treads the line between too much and just enough.
Which makes him the perfect narrator for this tale of intrigue, deceit, friendship in unlikely places and the high price of politics. Combining trickery with a few mysteries this is a steadily paced tale full of detail and secrets. Clever and well told, I can't wait to read more about this world and its characters.
This is a very good fantasy novel for younger readers (guide age on the back is 10 and over - I'm certainly well over 10 and I enjoyed it!).
It is the first of a series and I am looking forward to reading the next two. The story starts with a useful map so the reader can follow the action across the geography of this imaginary land.
It seems to have been marketed for the 'missing 'Merlin' on the telly' crew - I didn't watch 'Merlin'; and I still enjoyed this book - so it's not necessary to have watched or be missing 'Merlin' in order to appreciate this story. There's no magic in this book but it's packed full of intrigue and plots with twists and turns and is set in a medieval style kingdom - ie one that is pre-industrial and feudal.
The main character is a boy called Sage; he narrates the story in the first person. Sage is an orphan who is at a school for Bad Boys when he is selected by a powerful man called Connor to go to the royal court along with three other boys, all of whom look very much alike. Sage realises that all three boys are on trial - the one who can most closely impersonate the (unfortunately deceased) prince Jaron will continue to live - the others are expendable. Connor is doing this because no-one must know that the royal family is dead - if this leaks out the Kingdom would erupt into civil war.
Although as a cynical adult I could predict that Sage would survive (narrators don't usually kill off their narrator at the start of a trilogy!) - I must remember that this book is aimed at much younger people than me. However, Connor doesn't have things all his own way - he has taken on a very difficult protégé who will give him a run for his money. Connor is your typical Chamberlain type - ie sneaky and duplicitous ... what is he really up to? What is he not telling Sage?
There's a lot of focus on the training of the three boys to imitate the (dead? missing?) Prince, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the pace is well maintained by the author and it's very gripping with some most unexpected twists and turns and surprises which reach a crescendo by the end of the book. This can be read independently, but I imagine most readers will want to read the sequels straight afterwards to see this through the end.
I read this book with my "parent" hat on - my sons are both very good readers, but are young so I feel that I have to read books before them to make sure that the content is appropriate.
Probably the first thing that I should say is that I really, really loved this book! I started out reading it to vet it for the kids, as I mentioned...but ended up trying to find the time to read it whenever I could as I enjoyed it so much! The story was really well thought out and I just love Jennifer Nielsen's writing style. All her characters were fully believable and I found that I genuinely cared a lot about the outcome for the main character in the book, Sage, and really wanted the villain of the piece to get what he deserved. Although this is a childrens' book I never once felt that the writing style talked down to the audience and the story is one that will give pleasure to adults as well as to it's target audience. It is a book that should certainly grip children of 10-14 years, although since there is no bad language, (that I can remember), no gratuitous violence, (and what violence there is is necessary for the storyline and isn't in gory detail), I am quite happy for my kids, (aged 7 and 8), to read it or to read it to them as a bedtime story.
The storyline of this book is great. The story is very interesting in itself - a nobleman has a daring plan to train an orphan to be the missing prince of the kingdom after the rest of the royal family have met an untimely fate - but the plot twists and turns and, just when you think you've figured it out, you'll find another twist. Brilliantly done!
I think that the best recommendation that I can give is that I'll be awaiting book 2 eagerly and will definitely be buying it when it comes out. Highly recommended.
The False Prince is a fast -paced fantasy adventure, that marks the beginning segment of a new trilogy. The ideas are well thought out and for the most part they are well-executed. The characters are strong and within a few pages you feel like you know them well.
The main characters are three orphans who have been chosen due to their resemblance to the lost prince, and the man who wishes to reveal one of them to the royal courts as the rightful heir to the throne. The reason for the subterfuge is an attempt to prevent the wider public from realising that they have been left without an heir, and the country being throne into civil war.
The three lads have to work together, and also find themselves pitted against each other, and this makes for a dramatic read at times.
The story does reach a conclusion of sorts, but it is still open-ended enough that the reader is likely to want to read the next story in the series.
Overall, The False Prince is a fast-paced adventure aimed at young adults. It can equally be enjoyed by adults too, as should any good story. It is action-packed and enjoyable throughout. I look forward to reading the next instalment!
I started reading 'The False Prince' with expectations of the usual, and sometimes a bit wearing, fantasy elements - the castles, the scheming lords, the sword fights, and this story has all those things, but they are incorporated into a cracking story which keeps the reader hooked right the way through.
Sage is an orphan, bought along with two others by a nobleman who wishes to pass one of them off as a long-lost prince. All three boys have two weeks to learn how to impersonate the prince, and what makes protagonist Sage interesting is that he spends most of the time acting as though he doesn't want to be chosen, even though he knows the two boys not picked will be killed.
There is plenty of action, but also lots of satisfying character development, and lots of twists and turns as Sage and the other two boys try to ensure they come out alive at the end of the story. A hugely enjoyable read, I didn't want it to end and missed the characters after finishing the book. I look forward to reading the next instalment!