Newbery winners won’t be announced until January, but booksellers and librarians are already atwitter discussing candidates for the award. Some titles are mentioned in practically every blog about Newbery hopefuls — Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate — but I’m always interested in reading some of the underdogs, so I picked up The False Prince by Katherine Nielsen. It’s on readers’ radar, but hasn’t been considered a top contender.
From the moment nobleman Conner plucks him from the orphanage to be part of a mysterious plan, street smart Sage is suspicious of his intentions, and his feelings are justified. Three more orphans are added to the group and eventually it is revealed that Conner plans to make one of them his “false prince.” Rumors have circulated that the royal family has been murdered and Conner is using this as a chance to bring back the kingdom’s long lost prince Jaron, who he will install as the new puppet ruler. The four orphans are to compete the role of prince, and they knows their lives depend on getting the part. Each has his own agenda, and lies and deceit are the only way to win the game.Each of the boys puts up a strong fight, but Sage has a special secret that may be more dangerous than anyone can imagine.
The False Prince is full of intrigue and adventure with surprising twists and turns in the plot. It takes place in an imaginary kingdom, but it has the characteristics of historical fiction, so it’s a nice blend of fantasy and realism. The great thing about the book is that it has elements that will appeal to a large number of readers, including what I think is one of the hardest audiences to write for, boys ages 10 and up.
I’m not sure if The False Prince has a strong chance of winning the Newbery, but if you’re in the mood for a page-turning adventure, it’s definitely worth a read! Look for Book 2 in the series, The Runaway King, in March of 2013.
The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy, by Jennifer Nielsen, Scholastic Press, $17.99