The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
By: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: April 2012
Reviewed By: Cory Bickel
Reviewed On: August 2, 2012
With the royal family of Carthya dead, civil war threatens the country as nobles vie for the empty throne. The regent Bevin Connor has a plan to restore peace to the kingdom involving a fraud designed to fool the entire country. Sage, a penniless orphan and thief, gets caught up in Connorís plan and must agree to his role or face death. But can a crude, feisty street urchin succeed in impersonating a prince?
Sage returns to his orphanage after a successful bout of thievery one day to find Connor waiting for him, having bought him to become an indentured servant, or so he says. Sage is knocked unconscious after resisting, waking to find himself in a wagon along with three other orphan boys who look just like him. At a stop for the night on the way to Connorís estate, Connor tells the boys that he needs their help in a dangerous plan, and that if any of them want to leave, now is the time to do it. When the boy Latimer asks to be taken home, he is killed by Connorís henchman, revealing how deadly and untrustworthy Connor is. Sage and the other two boys realize that they have no choice but to play Connorís game, the nature of which is revealed to them after their arrival at his grand estate. He needs a boy to impersonate the young Prince Jaron, who has been missing and presumed dead after his ship was attacked by pirates years ago. The recent deaths of the king, queen and crown prince have been kept secret so far, and Connor has only two weeks to train his ďprinceĒ before their deaths are made public and the prime regent Veldergrath makes his move for the throne. In the coming two weeks, Sage, Roden, and Tobias must learn as much as they can and compete to win the role of the false prince. And though winning means living a perpetual lie, the cruel end of Latimer leaves no question about the fate of the two who are not chosen. Sageís cunning and street smarts give him an advantage over the others, but his propensity for causing trouble makes him a less-than-ideal puppet for Connor. He makes tentative allies of Mott the henchman and the mute servant girl Imogen, but the competition between the boys soon becomes fierce and bloody. Sage has one last trick up his sleeve that he will need to save both his life and his country. But even if he wins, can he convince everyone that he is the heir to the throne?
Adults and young adults alike will enjoy this lively adventure. Sage is delightfully mischievous and sarcastic, and the real fun of this story is to watch him outsmart his enemies, only to land himself in more trouble again and again. The story is full of intrigue that will keep you engaged all the way to the final plot twist, where the full extent of both Sageís skills of deception and Connorís vile nature are revealed. This first book of the Ascendance Trilogy leaves us with the promise of great things to come.
Quill Says: Many surprises are concealed beneath the dirt and ragged clothes of an unruly orphan boy in this story of danger and deceit.