Book Talk Tuesday: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-545-28413-4
342 p.
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from purchased copy.

BLURB: 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.
Sage reminds me forcefully of another beloved character from another beloved series. (Note: Be sure to check back tomorrow for a list of my favorite children's and YA series).  Sage is far from perfect, making reckless and often painful choices.  But in spite of his flaws, he has a compassionate heart, a willingness to forgive, and a desire to help others.  He also delights in pushing people's buttons (however foolish this might be) and is very good at doing it because he seems to have a strong sense of what people are really like. With a desire to help others and to stop Conner, Sage comes up with a plan.  A very dangerous, risky plan, but if he can make it happen he will save not only himself, but a country. Despite the life-threatening and seemingly impossible circumstances in which he suddenly finds himself, he refuses to to give up even as obstacles of all sorts present themselves.  All of this reminds me of Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series.  Like Sage, Eugenides faces large obstacles and dangerous situations, yet using his own cleverness and courageous heart stares his problems right in the face.  (If you haven't read The Queen's Thief series, I highly recommend you do so.) Stories like this remind me that courage isn't the absence of fear, but rather acting despite one's fears.

The plot has plenty of twists and turns, some of which I anticipated and some of which I did not. While there are plenty of hints through out the story leading up to a shocking discovery, there were several unexpected plot twists at the end.  Another thing that I noticed is that telling the story from first person (Sage tells the story), allows us a glimpse into Sage's thoughts and feelings, which is powerful.  I found myself crying for him at a couple of places in the story.  There aren't a lot of stories that pull this level of empathy out of me.  Despite the first person, it is clear at several points in the story that Sage isn't telling us everything, that there is more to the story than we know.  This allows for the surprising plot twists at the end.  I highly, highly recommend this book.  I am truly looking forward to reading more about Sage.


  1. Now that I've read it myself I can come back and read other peoples' reviews! I really really liked that Sage wasn't just brash adventure boy, but someone who was actually, as you say, compassionate. And I kind of wanted to hug him more than once!

  2. I'm guessing that the color for the next book will be purple. Please consider us for the free giveaway of THE FALSE PRINCE. Gratefully, mj


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