Sage is living (almost) happily in an orphanage when a nobleman named Conner scoops him up. Conner has scoured the country’s orphanages and managed to find four orphans for a diabolical plot. Yeah, the evil plan is exactly what you think: to create a false prince. At least the title is relevant.
The orphans only have two weeks to learn everything they need to know; the royal family was assassinated (minus the youngest prince, who had been missing), and evidently the nobles need to find new management somewhat quickly. How polite of them to wait two weeks before beginning a civil war.
After the training, Conner will pick the best orphan to be his puppet ruler. As for the others, well, they’re orphans. No one will notice if they go missing.
Sage has to survive both the lessons and the other orphans. That is, if Conner doesn’t kill him for smart-mouthing first.
The Quills: 6/10
Conner held out a hand to me. “I’m offering to make you the sun of Carthya, brighter than the moon and stars combined. And you will take the throne, knowing that you have pulled your country back from the brink of war. How can you refuse this opportunity, Sage?”
“Carthya’s not my country,” I said, reaching for the doors to leave. “Frankly, I hope Avenia destroys it.”
-Jennifer A. Nielsen, The False Prince
This novel seems to be sold as young adult, but it’s quite middle grade because of the simple plot and content. Beyond that, it’s vaguely medieval and is full of smart-mouthing and mischief-creating.
The writing is great at parts, odd at others. Sage tells the story in first person for most of the book but near the end, there is a section written in third person. It creates a really odd, disjointed, intermission-y feeling in the story. Also, for some reason, there are moments where Sage turns his narration off and disappears to do things (somewhat) important to the plot. I don’t think that’s how first-person narration is supposed to work. It’s clearly meant to create suspense, but it does so very clumsily.
I say the world is vaguely medieval because it’s never really built. There are kings, sword lessons, and horse rides, but there is no substance to the world. It’s just a random country situated beside another random country. It has no culture, no beliefs (beyond the odd mentioning of the devils), no landscape, no lore. It’s like being stuck in an empty room and being told, “This is your kingdom.”
The characters are as empty as the world. The bad guys are very bad, the good guys are very good. For some reason, two of the characters switch personalities near the end of the book. These can be forgiven because the target audience is younger and probably won’t question these things too much, but it does make the entire thing less believable.
The Roses: 7/10
Honestly, I think Conner should have been the main character. He’s the one who instigates everything, whereas Sage protests loudly while doing what he’s told. Sure, Sage does do a bunch of stuff in the background, but that’s all skipped over in his narrationless moments.
The plot was very simple and I guessed the ending right off, but it was a fun tale anyhow.
There are quite a few questionable things. For example, the kids were supposed to learn how to be a different person in just 2 weeks! They had to learn reading and writing, horseback riding, manners, sword fighting, and a plethora of other things. It took me far longer than two weeks to learn to read, let alone all that other stuff. Also, I just have to mention this: blackmail and then a promise to save blackmailee from the effects of said blackmail does not a loyal friend make. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works. Otherwise, I’ve been doing it wrong.
What I really enjoyed from this book was the voice. Sage has a great, rebellious, but sometimes uncertain voice while narrating. His sharp comments are amusing and this book would be nothing without them.
Conclusion: The False Prince is a fun, quick read full of witty comments. Just enjoy the ride and don’t look too closely. If you do, it may just fall apart.