Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Monday, January 21, 2013

False Prince & Runaway King: Must-Read Young Adult Political Fantasy

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the people, Conner, a nobleman of the court hatches a risky and dangerous scheme- to install an impersonator of the long-lost prince on the throne, and use him as a puppet to control the kingdom. Four orphans are recruited to "audition" for the role, including Sage- a defiant young orphan and thief, who bears a striking resemblance to the lost prince. Sage knows that Conner's motives are dubious, but he also knows that if his life almost certainly depends on being chosen for the role.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layers of deceit and treachery unfold, culminating in a revelation that is bigger and more dangerous than all the lies together.

The Runaway King, the second book in the Ascendance trilogy picks up where book one leaves off, taking readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder.

For months I'd been hearing about Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince as something I had to read, and I was not disappointed! Years ago I was enthralled by Megan Whalen Turner`s The Queen`s Thief series, and this trilogy greatly reminded me of these fabulous books.

From the very beginning you know that Sage is different from the other chosen boys, but you just can`t quite put your finger on what. He`s a thief- and smart one. He seldom gets caught, but can talk his way out of trouble (mostly) when he does, he`s witty, nimble, and is not nearly as malleable as Conner expects him to be. While the other boys mostly fall in line with Conner`s plans, Sage will not be manipulated or controlled.

For the careful reader, there are clues- and if you follow them, you`ll understand exactly what makes Sage so different, and why he can be so confident that he will be king. I picked up on the clues pretty quickly and figured out the twist early on, but it didn`t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all.

The author does a fantastic job world-building, and the political tensions and intrigue is completely believable. You also can`t help but adore Sage, and root for him to become king. In a situation where he could have been cut-throat and done anything necessary to win, he demonstrates compassion and justness-qualities you wouldn't expect to see in an orphan and a thief.

The story moves along at a breakneck pace, and even suspecting where it was going, I was compelled to keep reading just to find out how everything would resolve itself. Calling a book clever is not something I do very often, but the plotting in False Prince is extremely clever and intelligently done, and kids will love the twists and turns.

In book 2, and I won't say much about this plot for fear of giving away spoilers, the story continues. The new king is in place, and adjusting to his role, the bad guy (or at least the known bad guy) has been taken care of, and now the politics of the kingdom and the full weight of the returned king take the focus. The book retains the quality and consistency of book one, and I found it to be equally exciting as the first. In fact, I probably liked the second book a bit better, (which is rare) just because it was so much more intense. I was very fortunate to have an ARC of the second book on hand to read it immediately after reading the first, and now I can't wait for the third book!

In an age where everybody talks about getting boys- and particularly those in 7th or 8th grade reading- Jennifer Nielsen has created a masterful pair of books full of action, adventure and danger that will keep them on the edge of their seats, and never wanting to leave this world and these phenomenal characters.