Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Summer Challenge: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Middle Grade)

I often find books have better plots than writing styles. In The False Prince, Jennifer A. Nielsen excels at both, making it a wonderful book for all ages, middle grade and above! 


Series: The Ascendance Trilogy, Book 1

Genres: Middle Grade/Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Adventure, Mystery

Rating: 4.5 stars


The False Prince is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

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.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats!

Book Review:

I often find books have better plots than writing styles. In The False Prince, Jennifer A. Nielsen excels at both, making it a wonderful book for all ages, middle grade and above!

At first, The False Prince seems like just another Hunger Games story, maybe with slightly less violence and not kept to an enclosed arena. When Conner purchases four orphans from around the land, who all look suspiciously alike in physical features, he gives them a simple choice: learn academics, manners and fighting skills better than the others and be chosen as the false prince, or die.

Sage might possibly be my second favorite book character (after Jacky Faber, of course — I seem to like them bold and outspoken). I suppose the best way to describe him is that he cannot keep his mouth shut! He finds the need to talk back to every single comment people make, usually only getting him into trouble. But the comments he makes are extremely clever and hilarious, such as this one:

“‘A thief and a liar, eh? Can you manage a sword?’ ‘Sure, if my opponent doesn’t have one.'”

“‘You eat with your left hand?’ Conner asked me. ‘That’s unacceptable. Can you do it with your right?’ ‘Can you do it with your left?’ I countered. Conner sounded offended. ‘No.’ ‘Yet you ask me to switch to my right.'”

“Roden looked back at Cregan, then to me. ‘Okay, the winner advances to the throne. Please give me the crown instead, Sage. I don’t want to kill you.’ ‘Lucky coincidence. I don’t want to be killed.'”

Another section that shows his personality quite well is this one, his answer to the question of what you would do if….

“‘You and an opponent are engaged in a sword battle. It’s meant to be a battle to the death, but it’s also clear that he’s better than you are. Do you fight on, knowing you’ll likely die, or stop the battle and beg for your opponent’s mercy?’

…’Beg mercy… Then when my opponent lowers his guard, certain of his victory, I’d finish the battle… What do I care about sportsmanship? If I’m about to get killed, it’s not play anymore. I won’t check the rules to see if my survival fits with someone’s code of fair play.'”

Sage could quite easily be the son of Eugenides, the main character in The Thief, and the entire the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. In fact, I would highly recommend this book for fans of that series, and vice versa. The theme, genre, plot, characters, and mood are all very similar in these two series, and both are amazingly well written.

The plot is slightly predictable, but is narrated in a similar fashion to The Thief, where although the point of view is in first person from Sage’s perspective, details about his early life and plans he is constantly making are revealed slowly when he tells other characters and not always as he thinks them.

Genre Review: Middle Grade

Something else I have noticed about this genre and this book in particular is that they seem to appeal to both genders more easily than young adult books. Really this book would appeal to older audiences as well, but is appropriate and mild enough in violence to be categorized as middle grade.

I do really enjoy middle grade books as long as they are written in a slightly older middle grade fashion. I find it sad that I sometimes don’t enjoy books anymore because I find the writing to simple for my taste, even if it is a book I loved as a child.


One comment on “Gwen’s Summer Challenge: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Middle Grade)

  1. Pingback: Book Review: “The False Prince” | The Cheap Reader

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This entry was posted on July 20, 2014 by in Author: Gwen, Gwen's Summer 2014 Genre Challenge, Middle Grade, Review and tagged , .
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