The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: When will I learn to listen to the book club kids? They have been raving about The False Prince (Scholastic 2012) for months now and I JUST got to it. In my defense, it was in such hot demand that it took me a long time to get it away from the kids. Still, within the first chapter I knew this was my kind of book. Do you know someone looking for a book that is pure fun with an intiguing premise, great characters and wheels within wheels plot? Well, learn from me and don’t wait. This one is curl-up-and-gobble-it-down escapist reading pleasure and I did just that.
The story opens with orphan Sage stealing a roast and running through the town with the butcher hot on his heels. The roast is for all the orphans to share but the butcher turns out to be faster than Sage imagined and he’s only saved from a beating by the sudden appearance of a wealthy nobleman who buys him out of trouble and hauls Sage back to the orphanage. The stranger, it seems, is intent on a mysterious scheme involving 3 other orphaned boys, all of whom look somewhat alike. Hauled off under guard to Connor’s home, the boys learn that one of them is to be chosen to pass himself off as the missing heir to the throne, drowned four years before in a pirate raid. Connor is intent on a speedy training and education program – just 2 weeks to turn a peasant orphan into a prince. There’s plenty of incentive and not just the power and wealth success would bring as it is clear that the unselected boys will be killed. Sage has other plans, as does almost everyone else, and the whole place seethes with secrets, plots and schemes. I challenge you to read the first couple of chapters and not neglect everything else around you while you inhale this fun story. There is an extremely satisfying resolution but this is also the start of a trilogy so clearly much lies ahead and our kids are already asking for the next installment!
While they wait, hand them Megan Whelan Turner’s masterful Thief (Harper/Greenwillow 1996)
Cindy: The best part about reading this book so late in the year is that the wait for the sequel will not be so long. Never fear, the story-arc here is complete, but I’ve come to care about the characters and can’t wait for the hinted threads to weave themselves into the next installment. Stories about reluctant heroes are some of my favorites and Sage is reluctant for lots of good reasons. Someone killed the King, Queen, and oldest son…what’s to say he won’t be next if he poses as the youngest son, now heir to the throne? Sage values his freedom, and who is less free than a King with the responsibility for his kingdom weighing on his every move? And if the regents believe in the return of Prince Jaron, he will be bound to marry Amarinda…who still loves Jaron’s dead brother. Oh, there is a lot to work out and the puzzles are fun. This is a book many teens will want to reread to see the clues that Nielsen dropped throughout the story. I don’t want to rush my vacation, but I can’t wait to booktalk this when school resumes.