Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #1
Published by Scholastic
Published on April 1st 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Suspense, Thriller, Young Adult
The False Prince is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.
As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.
I’ve been falling into more and more reading slumps lately. It it taking a lot more than it once did to really grab me and get me invested in a story. As I continue to get pickier and pickier with my books, and get stingier and stingier with the star ratings I give, I often wonder if I’ve lost my love for reading. Being unable to love books as easily as I once did is tough, but when I DO find a book that I treasure and cherish, the rarity of that experience makes it that much more special. I’m so grateful to have stumbled upon The False Prince when I did. Suspenseful, riveting, and just plain fun, The False Prince was an emphatic (and much needed) reminder that yes- I still love to read.
The False Prince, set in a kingdom called Carthya, is the story of a boy named Sage, an orphan who is approached by a nobleman named Conner to take part in a competition. There is trouble brewing in the royal family, and a new king is needed. But the next in line to the throne, Prince Jaron, disappeared at sea years ago, presumably killed by pirates. Carthya is dangerously close to civil war, and to prevent that, Conner is organizing one of the greatest fraudulent schemes in the kingdom’s history; the boy that he chooses will be forced to live a lie- to convince the masses that he is the long-lost Prince Jaron, and that he is back to take the throne. Conner is creating a false prince.
I tend to use the word heart-pounding in a lot of my reviews. But usually, I use the word to embellish- to dramatize the review. Most books don’t literally make my heart pound faster, even if they’re entertaining. But there are a select few novels that have literally made my heart beat faster, so much so that I have to remember to breathe. The False Prince is one of those books. It’s not the most action-packed book, but there is so much suspense, tension, and mystery swirling in the plot that it still manages to grip you. Every chapter carries an air of drama and deceit, and it is very easy to get sucked into the story. There are many twists in the book, especially near the end, and some of them are a bit predictable, but still hit you really hard. The epic climax was LITERALLY heart-pounding, and I got so nervous for the characters that I had to take a few short breaks to compose myself.
The characters… PERFECTION. So complex, so unpredictable, so easy to imagine in my head.
Sage has managed to crack my top 5 list of best YA male heroes. He’s not yet 15, but the way he carries himself, he could pass for much much older. Sage has quite a mouth on him; he isn’t afraid to say what he wants to say, which is both a strength and a weakness. He backs down to no one. In any case, he’s witty, bold, and fierce. He reminds me of Celaena from Throne of Glass in many ways. He’s not humble, also not arrogant on purpose. His narrative is refreshingly honest and blunt. He’s also incredibly clever and deceptive, always one step ahead of everyone. He’s a tough, quick-witted guy, but underneath the armour, there’s a really good human being inside.Compassionate and loyal, he is willing to fight for what is near and dear to him. He’s a splendid character, and easy to root for.
Tobias and Roden, two boys who are competing with Sage to become the false prince, are terrific supporting characters. Tobias is hellbent on winning the competition, and he uses this motivation to push on. He’s what you would call an asshat to the other competitors; he insults them and threatens to sabotage them repeatedly, all in the hopes of winning. But he has one flaw: cowardice. And this leads to some really interesting character development later on.
Roden is also someone who wants to win; he repeatedly tries to impress the instructors during the competition, and uses his great work ethic to propel him in the contest. But he develops a decent connection to Sage throughout the book- he shares Sage’s mental awareness and cunning. The great thing about both boys is that their personalities are not cemented; they change throughout the book, and because of that, their actions and motives are unpredictable.
Conner is a person whose intent we are not really sure of for most of the book, and it is fun to watch the layers peel away and reveal what kind of person he really is. His assistants, Mott and Cregan, are interesting as well. Cregan is one-dimensional; he hates Sage and his attitude, and wants someone else to win the competition. Mott’s relationship with Sage, however, is very interesting. Unlike Cregan, who detests Sage,Mott holds a certain amount of respect for Sage, and understands him better than most people. This relationship becomes of importance later on in the book, and highlights the complexity of Mott’s character.
Imogen, a servant at Conner’s estate, is one of very few important female characters in this book, and she is a unique person. Sage immediately is drawn to her out of curiosity, but she frowns when she notices him staring at her. Eventually, Imogen and Sage both take interest in the other’s life. Sage is infuriated that Imogen is mistreated and abused in the estate, and Imogen views Sage as a beacon of hope. This rather strained camaraderie is interesting to watch develop. I SHIP THEM SO HARD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW I am curious to see where their relationship goes in future books.
The writing is fantastic. It has the formal, sophisticated voice of many fantasy novels, but is easy to read and never put me to sleep. Every word is dripping with tension and suspense, and the narrative is remarkably insightful- it gave me a really clear idea of Sage’s thoughts and emotions, and provided information about who he is as a person. There’s also a comment I have about the narration that I can’t write without giving away a big twist, so I’ll hide it here. I knew Sage was actually Prince Jaron, but what really shocked me was the way he effortlessly hid it from the readers throughout the book. You rarely see a narrator play with the readers and toy with their minds, so the fact that he deceived us so skillfully was really shocking to me.
Overall, The False Prince is an excellent start to The Ascendance Trilogy, and I recommend it to everyone. Filled with drama, suspense, and carefully crafted characters, it is a true must-read that will have you on the edge of your seat for the whole ride. I can only hope that the sequel lives up to my high expectations.
Here is Dre’s review of the book.
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