Nalia has been an awkward princess. She’s shy, and feels ungraceful, so it almost makes sense when it’s revealed that she is a false princess, a changeling made through magic to protect the true princess from an early, foretold death. Now Nalia is no longer Nalia, but Sinda, a poor commoner who is just discovering that she’s full of uncontrolled, and therefore dangerous, magic. As Sinda struggles to discover who she really is, she also suspects the switch at court was not all that it was presented to be. Together with her childhood friend, she must maneuver to discover the truth about the true princess.
The False Princess pulled me in immediately. Sometimes in fantasy I tend to get tripped up by strange names, or overly complicated worlds, but I was able to easily fall into O’Neal’s writing. Sinda is a character that is easy to relate to, and even better, she makes smart choices and learns from her mistakes (both of which seem to be often lacking in today’s YA heroines). She also is able to see other characters for who they are, and can look past jealousies to appreciate others, even when the other person is the princess who took over your life.
Like Sinda herself, the story’s plot held much more than initially meets the eye. There’s court intrigue, mystery, romance, and magic. The False Princess is a fantasy story, in the true sense. It doesn’t take place in our world, but in a world that I pictured being much like that in The Princess Bride–a place I’d like to visit. I loved how magic is presented here: something you’re born with or not, and you must be taught to control it. I absolutely enjoyed this book, from beginning to end. It’s a fantastic debut from Eilis O’Neal.