The False Prince
False Prince
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Jennifer A. Nielsen
ISBN 9780545284134
Scholastic, 2012.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: adventure false-prince jennifer-nielsen mystery suspense

The False Prince
by Jennifer A. Nielsen

This first book in the Ascendance Trilogy begins at a breakneck pace--nearly literally for orphan Sage--and never lets up until the finish.

In the first scene, we meet a thief who has stolen a roast and winds up part of a plot to steal the crown of the long-missing prince, Jaron Artolius Eckbert III of Carthya. Sage has two weeks to prove he's the best candidate of four orphans purchased by Bevin Conner, one of the king's regents. Conner plans to have one of the orphans impersonate the prince, thought to have gone down with a ship attacked by pirates (though his body was never found), and to install the new leader in an attempt to keep the peace in the region--and gain a measure of power for himself, of course.

Sage, nearly 15, narrates with keen perception and a biting sarcasm, and quickly suspects the man's nefarious plot. Nielsen lays out the dynamics from the boys' first meeting and builds their characters as the plot thickens. Conner educates the boys, and feeds and dresses them well. But they also remain imprisoned in a shared room. Sage, however, discovers a maze of hidden passageways that gives him a clear advantage.

Sage displays no end of talents to ensure his survival, but also a large measure of integrity. This gains him allies, but also rabid enemies. Nielsen ratchets up the suspense to a satisfying climax while still leaving plenty to explore in the next two installments. Your young readers will be eager to see what's in store.

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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