The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
Scholastic: April 1, 2012
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Source: Free From Library
The False Prince is a bit of a departure from what I normally read. It’s children’s fantasy and I usually stick to YA or adult reads. However, with a new job in the children’s department of the library comes new forays into fiction reading.
Sage is an orphan and has been “rescued” from his sad life by nobleman, Connor. Along with two other boys, Sage will have to compete for the right to be crowned Prince Jaron, long thought to be dead. The royal family of Carthya has been murdered and Connor plans to fill that power vacuum with a prince that he can control. In choosing one of the three orphans he has selected, Connor plans to crown one as the lost Prince Jaron. Unlike the two other boys, Sage is not inclined to play by Connor’s rules even if it means that he will be crowned king. The False Prince was an okay read; however, I feel that I should confess that I pretty much spoiled this book for myself. The False Prince is a book club pick for me tween/teen book club and when searching for discussion questions, I spoiled a pretty significant aspect of the book. I think this is a big part of why I didn’t absolutely love The False Prince. The suspense that I should have felt in The False Prince wasn’t there and I occasionally felt bored since I pretty much knew how things were going to come about in the end. Sigh. So, be careful with discussion questions – they can give away a lot!
Spoiling the book myself aside, The False Prince was a fun adventure story that I think will appeal to younger teens. Sage was a fantastic character. I loved his sarcasm, dark humour, and fondness for manipulation. I didn’t expect to find such a complex character here, and I really enjoyed seeing Sage come to terms with his role in competing to be “Prince Jaron”. It was a reluctant participation, and I liked the fact that this orphan didn’t jump at the chance to be king.
The theme of identity was also an aspect of The False Prince that I thought was done really well. All three boys who were chosen by Conner would be forced to change their entire personality to become the lost Prince Jaron, leaving their old identity behind. Some of the boys were more willing to leave behind their previous self than others. Sage in particular did not want to become Prince Jaron, realizing that it meant pretending to be someone that he wasn’t for the rest of his life and resigning himself to a life without freedom. It was interesting that the two other boys competing for the title of the prince did not share Sage’s perspective. This concept of identity and the price of becoming royalty were really well done and I think it can serve as a great point of conversation (yes, thinking about book club here).
If you’re looking for a fast-paced and compelling read for older kids and young teens, The False Prince will be sure to please. I suspect many will enjoy the character of Sage and his antagonistic personality.
I don’t read much children’s fiction, so it’s a bit of a challenge for me to recommend a similar read. However, there is one children’s fantasy that I absolutely adore, and I think it will appeal to those that liked the sense of adventure in The False Prince. Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain is a fantastic adventure series featuring an unlikely hero, a feisty fair maiden and a magical pig. Perhaps lighter than The False Prince, Chronicles does become darker as the series progresses. Start with book one, The Book of Three.