My book club read The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen this month. We all agreed that, while this book would definitely appeal to its intended middle grade audience, it definitely doesn’t hold up with anyone older than that. Let’s get a bit of information about this book to start.
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.
One of the things I noticed first about The False Prince was that there was a map in the beginning of the book. I like it when books include a map, whether it is needed or not. While I don’t think I needed it to be able to follow the characters’ journeys in this book, I suspect the map will become more helpful in the following two books in the trilogy. Either way, I enjoyed perusing it.
The language in this book felt more formal. There wasn’t any slang and it definitely felt more medieval with the way certain sentences were worded. Occasionally this caused the language to feel stilted or awkward to me. For the most part it read smoothly to me, though. A reviewer on Goodreads mentioned that there were more modern words used in the book, which felt jarring to them. For example, the reviewer noticed the word “okay” was used. I didn’t notice this at all while I read, so it must not have stood out much to me.
***MAJOR SPOILERS IN FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS***
The False Prince had some very serious events taking place within it. Conner is preparing to commit treason, the royal family is dead, and war is looming on the horizon. And yet, I never felt the seriousness that I should have, given these circumstances. The tone was very light for most of the book, which made it hard to feel an appropriate amount of concern for what was going to happen next. I also thought that the book should have had a greater sense of urgency to it. After all, the three boys only have two weeks to learn how to act like a prince or they’ll be killed. I never really felt worried about the boys, though. I don’t know if I didn’t care what happened to them or if I just knew that everything would work out all right in the end. Either way, I wasn’t too concerned about their fates.
There were so many inconsistencies or things that didn’t make sense in this book. For example, everyone thinks Sage brought Imogen along to Drylliad to help him convince Princess Amarinda that he’s truly Prince Jaron. But everyone thinks Imogen is a mute, so how exactly is she going to convince Amarinda of anything when she can’t talk? And why would Amarinda trust the word of a random servant anyway? That just didn’t make sense to me at all. And that was just one of many things that made no sense.
***END OF SPOILERS***
Wow, I guess I enjoyed The False Prince less than I thought. I’m definitely not the target audience, though, so take my review with a grain of salt. I don’t think I will continue with the rest of the trilogy. Despite my problems with it, I’m going to give this book three stars since I think the age group it is meant for would like it more than I did.