The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen with Guest Reviewer JJ Sherwood

Hey readers! For those of you who follow and/or participate in our One Book Two read-alongs, we’re finally catching up to some of the reviews in our recent YA High Fantasy spree. First off is The False Prince! But don’t just check out my review – also welcome our guest reviewer, fantasy author J.J. Sherwood, and her opinion of this action-packed teen fantasy!

false-princeTitleThe False Prince
AuthorJennifer A. Nielsen
SeriesAscendance Trilogy, Book 01
Publish Date: April 1, 2012
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: 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.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

In this retelling of the Arabic tale, The False Prince, readers are introduced to the cocky, sarcastic, mischievous, and mysterious Sage. Sage is an orphan who’s captured by a nobleman named Conner and forced into a secret competition between him and four other boys. Tested on their swordsmanship, knowledge, etiquette, and willpower, Sage has to convince Conner that he’s worthy of winning – because the prize is grander than any orphan could dream of. If he wins, he becomes king of Carthya. If he loses, he dies. But Sage quickly learns that all power comes with consequence and he ends up in a battle for his life, manipulated and betrayed by those around him.

Despite these obstacles, Sage proves just how hardcore, intelligent, and tricky he can be as he outsmarts the bad guys and steps out into the light with a new identity – though his new spotlight may earn him even more enemies than before.

I’m actually quite impressed by this story. The writing is very enjoyable, the dialogue a mix of lightheartedness and seriousness, and the world-building the usual high-fantasy style I’ve always cared for. The story moves quickly along and there’s plenty of action and drama to build it to those awesome cliffhangers I adore.

badge5v5But although I really loved Sage and all his trouble-making antics, I wasn’t really attached to any of the other characters much. I suppose Mott was an interesting character, being the only one under Conner’s guard that seemed to truly care for Sage and the others, but I didn’t get to know a lot about him besides the fact that he somehow knew who Sage really was.

Now, let us welcome our special guest reviewer, J.J. Sherwood, who kindly joined me on this part of the read-along. Check out her review below!

jjsherwood100J.J. Sherwood says…

OverallThe False Prince promised so much, being reminiscent of one of my favorite stories of all time (The Prince and the Pauper, by Mark Twain). Political subterfuge, princes in disguise, treason … what was not to love?

Unfortunately, much of it.

Characters: The cast in The False Prince, by and large, were tropey, predictable, and unmemorable. The anticipation and mystery was stripped away by always knowing exactly what any character would do at any given time. I felt that the antagonist in The False Prince was the best written character—you could wholly understand why he was doing what he was doing and the justification of his actions. The strength of his character was greatly lost, however, when it became apparent that his motives were partially backed by the stereotypical desire for power.

Story: Even with tropey characters, a well-executed plot could have absolutely saved the story! Alas, the overall execution of The False Prince was a great disappointment. The writing and pacing in the story were great—no complaints here! But the characters and story were predictable and forced.

Three examples really stood out to me: One of the female characters entered the story by just being “extra noticed” by the main character. There wasn’t really anything exceptional to draw this attention except that the author wanted her to be a primary character. You knew immediately by the writing that “oh, this is a main character.” It was like when you watch cartoons and only the important characters have cool hair.

Second example: When the antagonist had to choose his prince, the choice was down to two people. Objectively, there was a clear choice. One of them possessed, by and large, all of the traits that the antagonist desired, and the other absolutely did not. The final decision was made for wholly TERRIBLE reasons.

badge3v4Third example: Lying narrative. Ouch. This is a biggie to me. Without spoiling anything, let me just say that the author left out an extremely important bit of information that the reader should have wholly been aware of—solely for the purpose of trying to surprise the reader.

Rating: 3/5: I’d go down to 2/5, but I generally expect these problems from YA literature.

About author and guest reviewer J.J. Sherwood

On a cold winter night, wind howling into the desert sky, one ordinary hospital gave witness to a historic event. J.J. Sherwood was born at 2:30 a.m. on December 31st, just barely managing to squeeze in to supplant New Year’s Eve. J.J. has always had a flair for the dramatics.

Sherwood began writing in the womb after a harrowing incident in which Mother Sherwood swallowed a pen–and thus, destiny was born. J.J.’s first work was completed by the age of 5: a riveting tale of a duck attempting to climb into an apartment during the pouring rain. Unfortunately this book is not in print, but it served as the first spark that spurred on a lifetime of creativity.

Much of J.J.’s childhood was spent tearing through the woods, playing out fantasy worlds, and tying Barbie to the roof so that the Power Rangers might rescue her. Middle and high school carried on this roleplaying, while college encompassed creating and refining over 250 characters in the world of Aersadore.

After escaping college, finally armed with the tools of the trade and a lifetime of development, J.J. set to writing what would become the Steps of Power series: it was then that Eraydon slew his first dragon, Jikun battled the warlord Saebellus, and Taranus rebelled against his brother’s throne.

When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, J.J.’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes. J.J. Sherwood lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with one loving and extremely patient spouse, a bearded dragon, a mule, a horse, and five cats who look far too similar.

Check out her page here:

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are posted.

Other recommendations…

I’d recommend this to fans of high fantasy everywhere, especially fans of Sara B. Larson, Erika Johansen, and Melina Marchetta.


About Kat Mandu

I'm an urban fantasy and young-adult paranormal writer. I love to cook, rock out to music, and read as much as I can get my hands on. Always believe in your dreams and pursue them no matter what the cost. If you believe in it, it's worth every chance you take.

Posted on March 9, 2017, in Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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