Sage has led a rough life. He arrived at an orphanage five years ago with nothing, the son of a failed musician. His only chance for survival comes from his ability and willingness to steal everything he needs to live. All that changes, though, when Conner, a nobleman, arrives at the orphanage and purchases Sage. After attempting to escape, Sage is hauled on to a wagon with three other orphan boys to a camp outside of town. It is there that Sage and the other boys learn that one of them will be chosen to pose as a prince.

Jennifer A. Nielsen, author of Elliot and the Goblin War, weaves a dark and twisted plot in The False Prince, the first book in the Ascendance Trilogy. The King, Queen and Prince of Carthya are dead, though that fact has not yet become common knowledge. Conner is convinced that if he can “find” the missing prince of Carthya, all the noblemen will band together and war will be averted (of course, Conner plans to grab a little of this power for himself). Since the missing prince cannot be located, Conner hatches a plot to find boys who resemble the prince. He then plans to train them, select the best candidate and convince the noblemen that this boy is the missing prince—and now the King of Carthya. However, like most things in life, the plan doesn’t go exactly as intended.

The False Prince is a fast-paced, exciting adventure. There is action, as the boys train with Conner’s assistants, sneak out of their rooms and jockey for position in the most important contest of their lives. There is political intrigue, as Conner considers how to convince the noblemen that he has found the missing prince, and convince the boys to reward him for what he has done. There is even friendship, between Sage and the other boys, as well as with some unexpected characters. Nielsen has written a terrific story that carries readers along to the very (surprising) end and will leave them clamoring for the next book in her trilogy.

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