emily's Reviews > The False Prince

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
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May 06, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, fantasy, young-adult, read-on-nook, mission-quest-things, bildungsroman, con-men-and-thieves
Read on May 06, 2012

When I was about a third of the way through this book I realized that this story is what would happen if there had been three of Aladdin, and if Prince Ali Ababwa was a real person they were competing for the chance to impersonate. And not just for a while; not just to win the hand of a princess, but forever. The three boys-- including our main character, Sage-- are competing for the right to assume the place of the presumed-dead Prince Jaron, and to live out the rest of their lives as him. This includes, naturally, taking the throne and ruling the kingdom of Carthya as its king.

There is so much to love about this book. The plot is simple but immediately interesting: the boys have two weeks to learn how to be a prince, so that their master, Conner, will choose them for the right to assume Jaron's identity. The other two will be killed for knowing too much about the plan. I liked Sage from the first page; he's funny, resourceful, smart and not nearly as careless as he lets on. There's obviously more to him than meets the eye, and while the reveal of what that more is was something I had suspected for a while, it didn't make the confirmation any less satisfying. His two rivals are less intricate, a bit more caricatured, but still believable. Tobias is the Percy Weasley of the three, ambitious but most likely a complete coward. However, I think he has potential to grow through the course of the sequels. Roden was a bit easier to like, but more predictable. I predict he'll be back before the trilogy's over.

My only two gripes with the book are its villain and its love interest. I'll take them in reverse order. From the beginning it's clear Imogen is designed to be Sage's love interest, but I didn't really get a good sense of her personality. Perhaps that's because she spends half the book pretending to be mute, but probably not. She's very sweet, but Sage's attachment to her is, in my opinion, disproportionate to the kindness that supposedly earned her it. I hope we get to know her better from her perspective, not from the secondhand stories that give Sage most of his information about her. Conner, on the other hand, was a pretty big letdown as a villain. I wanted so much more from this would-be Machiavelli, but he lost his cool way too often to be the control-freak mastermind that he was supposed to be. He kept letting Sage piss him off, which totally broke the illusion that he was capable of orchestrating the kind of plan he was attempting. It's totally possible to have a villain who's a gentleman, a noble, but also a complete ham-fisted bastard when necessary; I just didn't buy that role from Conner either. He was neither brutish enough nor wily enough to make me nervous; I wasn't that surprised that Sage kept outfoxing him.

But even though some of Sage's supporting cast were far outshone by his awesomeness, that wasn't enough to make me even think about giving this book less than four stars. The world is believable, the plot is interesting and complete while still making my fingers itch to hold the sequel, and Sage is an A-plus narrator with such a clear voice that I could read about him for days. I really can't wait for the rest of this trilogy to come out, I suspect it's only going to get better from here.
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Reading Progress

05/06/2012 page 151
44.0% "this book is what would've happened if there were 3 of aladdin and prince ali ababwa was a real person they were trying to impersonate."

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