Friday, March 2, 2012

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is the last of my little stack of current galleys. It comes out next month, so I am actually reviewing it in the time frame that the publisher would most prefer, for once!

The king of Carthya is dead, along with the queen and the crown prince -- but the people of Carthya don't know it yet. Since the king's younger son, Prince Jaron, was lost in a shipwreck and presumed dead several years before, the country is without a ruler, and is therefore undoubtedly on the brink of civil war. The Council of Regents are attempting to decide the fate of the country, but many of its members have plans of their own. Connor, one of the minor regents, is scouring orphanages for likely boys to put in Prince Jaron's place. It's a bold plan, and if it succeeds, Connor will be the power behind the throne. He finds four teens of the right age and appearance, including Sage, a brash young thief.

Sage is actually the narrator and main character of this story. From the first, it's obvious that he's one of those unreliable narrators your mother warned you about. Of the boys recruited by Connor, Sage may be the least likely to succeed at imitating the prince -- but Connor makes it clear from the beginning that the boys who do not succeed are unlikely to live to see their rival on the throne. Can Sage and the other boys learn everything they need to impersonate a prince in the space of just a few weeks? And just what is Sage hiding? He's not the sort to humbly submit to Connor's plan. . . .

This book inevitably reminded me of a certain other book with an unreliable thief as its narrator, though it came up a bit short in comparison. Sage is no Eugenides -- he has all of the attitude, but lacks some of the charm. I also guessed Sage's secret about halfway through the book -- not that that's a problem, really, as I still enjoyed reading about how it all played out. I did think the ending felt a bit rushed. Also, there were some hints of romance that never played out, though since this is the first book of a trilogy, I imagine those will be more fully explored in the coming volumes. I didn't love this book, but I liked it enough that I will probably read the rest of the series when it is available.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.) 

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