Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson
Sarah Grace's Rating: 5 out of 5 bookmarks

Jennifer A. Nielson is the queen of her genre. The first book in the Ascendence Trilogy, The False Prince, is a perfect balance of plot twists, action, heart, wit, and emotion. I think I can honestly say this is the most complex book I have ever read.

Here's the summary courtesy of
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.

Written in the first person point of view of a fifteen-year-old orphan boy named Sage, Nielson masterfully reveals details to the reader one by one throughout the book, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the story takes another twist—then another and another.

Sage is a remarkably complex character. He’s cocky, sarcastic, and incredibly smart, but he’s also insecure, unsure, and still a young boy trying to figure out how to survive in this dangerous world. The reader can’t help but empathize with at least one aspect of his character, if not more.

The rest of the cast is nearly as complex. From the manipulating Bevin Connor to the villainous Creegan, to the tenderhearted, but misled Mott, the bookish Tobias, and sweet Imogen. The entire cast of characters is vibrant and realistic and left me shaking my head in awe at their complexities.

A collection of various cover designs for different editions

Not only is Nielson a master of characters, but she is also extremely talented when it comes to description and world building. Within the course of one short book (these are YA novels, after all), she creates a brand new, large and multiplex world that is so vivid the reader isn’t just reading this story, they are in the story, living the story. The plot, in my opinion, is unparalleled in its uniqueness and intricacies. It’s hard to say much about it without spoiling anything due to the aforementioned numerous twists and turns, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Overall, Neilson pens a novel that will grip your attention and your emotions from the very start, and won’t let go until you finish the entire trilogy. (I definitely recommend having all three on hand before starting The False Prince!) This book is a great adventure story for all readers ages 14 and up.

Note: I highly recommend listening to Scholastic Inc’s audiobook version of the series narrated by Charlie McWade. He does an incredible job personifying each character.

Sarah Grace is a voracious reader, and if it weren’t for this crazy thing called “Life”, she’d be tempted to spend all her days in front of a woodstove, book in one hand, coffee mug in the other. A lover of learning, she finds enjoyment in many things, and has more hobbies than she knows what to do with. When not reading, spending time with her ever-growing family, or buried in a textbook, she can be found painting, playing the piano, producing music and audio dramas, web designing, fangirling with her sisters and friends, or discussing technology with her brothers. Sarah Grace inhabits the State of Great Lakes and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

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