I had the pleasure of getting completely sucked into a book when I picked up Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince. I read a lot, but it’d been a long time since I started something I couldn’t put down. By the end of the first paragraph, I actually said to myself, “This is what I’m doing with the rest of the night.”
The summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What makes this book work? Besides the obvious great writing, there’s the combination of an interesting premise, a vivid setting, and a protagonist whose greatest strengths may also be his greatest flaws (or vice versa). Sage’s way of looking at the world is so engaging that I’d probably read even if the plot started to drag (which it never did). Nielsen has also created a vibrant world in turmoil, with the setting itself adding tension to the plot.
I devoured the sequel, The Runaway King, just as quickly. Nielsen does a great job providing enough backstory for this book to stand on its own without bogging readers down with too much detail. And it has one of my favorite first lines ever: “I had arrived early for my own assassination.”
If you write middle grade or young adult fantasy, or if you’re just looking for a great story, I highly recommend The False Prince and the rest of the Ascendance trilogy.
What books have you come across lately that you couldn’t put down?