Jaron is now king, but he doesn’t have to act like it. Between avoiding his family’s funeral, avoiding his own fiance, and ticking off the king of Avenia, he’s not doing so hot in the kingliness department. That’s why, when said ticked-off king threatens war, Jaron’s nobles decide that a regent should rule instead. The problem is, Jaron doesn’t know who he can trust. After all, these were the dumbasses who kind of just sat around while his family was assassinated.
If that wasn’t bad enough already, Jaron knows they have no chance of winning the war. King Angry-pants doesn’t just have his own army at his disposal; he also hires the services of pirates.
Instead of staying to watch his nobles replace him, Jaron runs away. But he doesn’t run just anywhere. He runs to the pirates to join them, with a vague plan to destroy them and keep them out of the war. Seriously. Jaron versus a band of pirates. The same pirates that had tried to kill him ages ago. This is why you don’t let teenagers plan things.
The Quills: 7.5/10
I punched an elbow backward, connecting with the chest of this new attacker. He grunted, but it took three hits before he was forced to readjust his position and loosen the rope. When he shifted, I rounded on him and reared back an arm for a swing.
Then I froze. In the instant I locked eyes with the intruder, time stopped.
It was Roden. Once my friend. Then my enemy. Now my assasin.
– Jennifer A. Nielsen, The Runaway King
The Runaway King, like the first book in this series, is shelved (at least in my library) as young adult (medieval) fantasy, but can also be enjoyed by middle-graders. Middle-graders may actually enjoy it more because the plot and characters are quite simple and the novel doesn’t feature mature content.
This novel is told in first person from Jaron’s point of view, but unlike the first novel, there isn’t a weird section with a switch to third person. The narration is a lot more reliable in this novel; we get to follow Jaron most places he goes, unlike The False Prince, where he would somehow stop narrating and disappear for ages. He doesn’t think about himself in the third person as much, which is nice and makes him seem a lot less weird and mentally unstable.
The tone of this novel has become quite sombre. There’s less banter and smart-mouthing. Jaron is still as witty as ever, but he’s clearly more serious. This shows some interesting character growth, but his base characteristics haven’t changed, which is good.
The world of this book was already rather vague, and expanding it doesn’t really help. The pirates are interesting and their society is well-developed. However, the contrast between the pirates and Carthya emphasises the fact that Carthya is just some vaguely medieval country that hasn’t been built very well.
The new characters introduced are quite round. There are, however, some people who are super evil from the get-go, and remain flat, unempathetic, evil planes in space.
In this sequel, the plot is still quite simple, but at least it’s not trying to build up to a big, very obvious reveal. Jaron’s thoughts and judgements are still quite juvenile, which is one of the reasons why middle-graders may enjoy this novel more.
The Roses: 6.5/10
Initially, I liked this a bit more than the first novel because Jaron is actually driving the plot. He’s actually choosing to do things, rather than just coasting and letting others force him into doing things. I do miss the clever banter. Sage has lot a bit of his sharp, fun voice from the previous book, replacing it with bitter moping. Not so fun.
Unfortunately, as I went along, I realised I wasn’t too keen on the plot in general; it seemed a bit too ridiculous. Also, the ending was quite cheesy, which I’m generally not a huge fan of.
The relationships are crafted a little clumsily, and a lot of things are told bluntly, rather than implied. This is fine for a middle-grade novel, so I think if I were still that age, I would enjoy this book a whole lot more.
Conclusion: The Runaway King brings an interesting group of pirates into the mix at the cost of some of Jaron’s cheekiness. The plot is slightly less predictable, however, this novel is still probably best for middle-graders due to its simplicity and story-telling.