This was a happily read, all-in-one-sitting kind of book. I'm not a sucker for castles and princes and fairytale happily-ever-after sorts of things - we get a lot of those, as girls.
I pay more attention when the main character is a boy. A funny little quirk, that. False Princesses are a dime a dozen, apparently. But, a false prince, in a contest with two other false princes, to win the throne of a country not his own...
Reader Gut Reaction: The book opened with orphans - another great trope - and action. You get drifts of Oliver Twist and Disney's Aladdin right off the bat -- thieving young orphan, scrabbling to make a life, and he's taken out of his old life by a Mysterious Man.
Concerning Character:But...here's where our story diverges from the usual. This thief -- Sage -- doesn't wanna go. At all. He's not interested in Mysterious Men or in New Lives. He's okay with stealing roasts, running through the marketplace, wearing crap clothes, and being lice-ridden. He's kind of happy like that. Sage remains true to himself -- and to be honest, sometimes REALLY ANNOYING -- because he is difficult, prickly, smart-mouthed, and... he knows what he wants. It turns out that the Mysterious Man -- Conner -- is a little more forceful than expected -- he's perpetrating a hoax on an entire nation, after all - for its own good, of course, but patriots are zealous and dangerous. Sage learns not to cross Conner for no reason -- but he never stops crossing him. EVER. Even when it costs him blood. Sage is pretty devil-may-care, but after he's had his ribs broken, and he's bleeding, the reader will start wonder a.) what is UP with this guy, and b.) what on earth is worth all of the trouble he's going through?
The answer might just give you a bit of a shock.
Recommended for Fans Of...: THE ATTOLIA BOOKS, by Megan Whalen Turner. Yes. There. I said it. Sage reminds me all too much of Eugenides, and while Sage has not quite grown on me as much yet, this is only book one of the series. Also, for fans of THE LUMATERE CHRONICLES, by Melina Marchetta, THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, by Mark Twain; and FIRE AND HEMLOCK, by Diana Wynne Jones
Authorial Asides: So, I wondered to myself, "Who is this Nielsen person, and does she have other books?" Well... yes. To my surprise, I discovered that she had a series from Sourcebooks for middle graders, which looks hilarious. While THE FALSE PRINCE is indeed the first of her YA books to see the light of day, there will be more... Nielsen is part of writing A DIFFERENT SERIES in December. It's part of the INFINITY RING series. From the Scholastic press release: "Infinity Ring will launch simultaneously in September 2012 in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, with Book 1: A Mutiny in Time, written by New York Times bestselling author James Dashner, who also outlined the program’s overall story arc. Dashner will be followed by a team of bestselling and acclaimed authors including Carrie Ryan (Book 2; November 2012), Lisa McMann (Book 3; February 2013), Matt de la Pena (Book 4; June 2013), Matthew Kirby (Book 5; September 2013), and Jennifer Nielsen (Book 6; December 2013). The last book in the Infinity Ring series also will be written by James Dashner (Book 7; March 2014)."
Sounds cool, doesn't it??
You can find THE FALSE PRINCE and other books by Jennifer A. Nielsen at an independent bookstore near you!