Gwen & Kate's Library

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

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

This book greatly disappointed me as a sequel to the fantastic The False Prince. It read like a middle book in a series, and didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Series: The Ascendance Trilogy, Book 2

Genres: Middle Grade/Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, Humor

Rating: 3.5 stars


A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen’s blockbuster The False Prince!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with The Runaway King!

Book Review:

This book greatly disappointed me as a sequel to the fantastic The False Prince. It read like a middle book in a series, and didn’t quite live up to  my expectations.

One thing that annoyed me the most about this book was Jennifer A. Nielsen’s departure from the realm of originality and dive into the depths of the cliché. (Small spoiler) For example, early in the book Jaron (as he is now referred to most of the time, as King of Carthya) rescues a young girl and is taken in by her grandfather as his own son. Jaron is treated with such kindness that he goes back and steals from him as soon as he leaves. He of course has good reason to do this, but it bugged me how unoriginal this idea sounded (Les Miserables, anyone?).

Another thing that I found odd throughout most of this book is how perfect Jaron/Sage is in his planning and plotting! For almost all of this book, even when he tricks the reader into thinking he is in a horrible situation with no way out, he really has everything under control and it is all part of his master plan. Okay, I did actually enjoy that part, but I felt that in order for Jaron to feel like an actually realistic person, he needed to make more mistakes and not always have a genius plan up his sleeve.

Something I always like in books, specifically fantasy ones, is interesting games the author makes up just for additional entertainment. One in this book that I want to try one day is called Queen’s Cross and seems to be a version of capture the flag.

“Queen’s Cross is played with two teams, each seeking the other’s flag, or “Queen,” from behind their zone. Players fight for control of a leather ball stuffed with grains of wheat or rice. The ball can be kicked, carried, or thrown toward the other team’s zone, but only with the ball can a player enter the zone to steal the Queen and win the game. Queen’s Cross games are very physical, often laden with injuries, and always a lot of fun.”

Although this book did greatly disappoint me compared to the amazing The False Prince, I am still planning on reading and reviewing the third and final book in the Ascendance Trilogy, The Shadow Throne, where the rising war will develop and hopefully end well for Jaron/Sage and his friends.

Genre Review: Middle Grade

As I said in my review of The False Prince, this book is right on the cusp of the young adult genre, and can easily be enjoyed by both middle grade and older readers. My main reasons for categorizing it as such are because the writing style is simple enough but still engaging for both reading levels, and the romance is sweet but never past basic kissing (although there is a strange “love triangle” in The Runaway King that seems a little more young adult), and the (frequent) violence is on the milder side.

I would highly recommend The False Prince to readers of all ages, but might also suggest treating it as a standalone novel rather than a trilogy — in that way, it does not live up to the standard Jennifer A. Nielsen set in her first book.


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