Book Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

This month’s book is a fun recommendation from Rachel’s twelve-year-old son. It’s easy to understand why The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, was such a hit with him and the whole of his sixth-grade class. Nielsen weaves a fantastic middle grade novel full of twists and intrigue that keeps you going from beginning to end.

The False Prince
The False Prince

The Book at a Glance

  • Title: The False Prince
  • Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
  • POV: 1st Person
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Theme: Coming of Age
  • Setting: Fanciful kingdom of Carthya
  • Single Word Descriptor: Engaging

Summary: How to Train a Prince

In a discontented kingdom, civil-war is brewing—but not that Sage cares. As a fourteen-year-old orphan, Sage is content with stealing what additional scrapes he can to fill an empty belly and surviving off his cunning. He has no other plans for his future other than enduring—that is, until Bevin Conner, a regent of the Carthya court, forces a different path.

To unify a divided people, Bevin Conner offers a solution that Sage and two other selected orphan boys can’t refuse. Selected for their similarities to the youngest son of King Eckbert, the boys are given two weeks to prove they can pretend to be the prince of Carthya or be killed. Only one can pass Conner’s deadly test.

My Favorite Part

Although I was able to guess the twist my son was so excited for me to read, it was still a satisfying reveal. Everything in Jennifer’s story comes together in a neat little box in the end.

My Least Favorite Part

By the finish I had grown tolerant of the main character. However, I had a horrible time liking Sage at all. His constant anger-rousing behavior became incredibly annoying, especially understanding what was at stake. It made me wonder why Conner didn’t kill him at least halfway through the story.

Kate’s Take

I love the Anastasia motif this book plays upon (missing royalty presumed dead, with impostors seeking to fill the gap to their own advantage), but I felt like the 1st Person Point of View worked against the story rather than to its advantage. The narrator’s ambiguity and omissions give away his plot twist long before he levels with the reader, and one pivotal chapter near the end must shift to 3rd Person because he’s not present. Some major plot elements have very convenient resolutions, but overall, this is a great read for its intended middle-grade audience.