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The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy Hardcover – April 1, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 688 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Ascendance Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Jennifer A. Nielsen

Question: What inspired you to write The False Prince?

Nielsen: I’d had the general idea for The False Prince for some time, but could never find the right protagonist to carry the weight of the story I wanted to tell. The central character, Sage, was found in the words of a song called Guaranteed, by the great Eddie Vedder. It said, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me, guaranteed.” From that line, I had the instant image of a defiant but charismatic boy who always stays a step ahead of the game, and where other players have no clue that all the rules are very quietly being rewritten.

Q: Where did Sage’s voice come from?

Nielsen: Sage came to me as a complete character, as fully developed as if he had been a real person. So writing The False Prince wasn’t really about creating him, but instead, it was the experience of discovering him as the story unfolded. There were several moments when I knew what was waiting for Sage if he didn’t back down, and yet, he never would. So I gritted my teeth and let things unfold the only way they could with him. As I work on the sequels, he continues to surprise, amuse, and shock me. He’s the most complex character I’ve ever written, and I’m always thrilled to get feedback from readers who are as fascinated by him as I am.

Q: Was the setting or any of the other characters inspired by real people or places?

Nielsen: Sage is very much his own person, and as a whole, is completely unique. However, there is one trait of his that I borrowed from a student I had when I was a high school debate teacher years ago. He was popular, brilliant, charming, and an amazingly talented thief. At the start of every ride to a tournament, he would steal the watch off of the bus driver’s wrist, then keep it for the entire trip. As he left the bus at the end, he would hand the watch back to the driver, explaining it must have fallen to the floor. Then the driver always thanked him for being such a great and honest kid. I should’ve been angry, but I never was – he just pulled off his scams that well

Q: Where do you like to go to write?

Nielsen: I’ll write anywhere. I work out scenes in my head while driving or in the shower, and pick up inspiration from events I notice each day. I try to always keep a pen and extra paper handy so that if something occurs to me I can write it down and not risk losing it (I hate it when I know there was something I thought of earlier that I had loved, but now can’t remember it!). My favorite places for actual writing aren’t very exciting. I love to write curled up on a loveseat beneath a sunny window. And nearly every night I’ll print out pages I’ve worked on in the day and edit them in bed before I fall asleep.

Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you first know this is what you wanted to do?

Nielsen: I’ve written for as long as I can remember, but the idea that I could turn that into a career never seemed real to me. I never knew any authors growing up, and as far as I could tell, they were mythical people who lived like the Great Gatsby on the other side of the country, or who had lived a hundred years ago. So I wrote as a hobby, then planned on other careers that real people had, such as being a detective, or working somewhere in the theater, or being a teacher.

That all changed after my oldest child was born and I stayed home to care for him. Suddenly, I had a lot more time on my hands, which I filled with reading. But it wasn’t long before the stories in my head became more interesting than the books in my hand, and I realized that I wanted to hold a book of my own. That was when I decided to seriously pursue writing as a career. It’s the perfect place for me to be now, and I can’t imagine being happier anywhere else.

From Booklist

This first book in a planned trilogy is action-oriented fantasy, but don’t expect magical creatures. Instead, it revolves around political intrigue (à la Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, 1996). Sage is a street-savvy orphan, and along with two other boys he is recruited by Conner, a nobleman who wants to remake them in the image of their country’s lost prince, a victim of pirates and presumed dead. The task is urgent, as the rest of the royal family has been murdered and civil war seems imminent. As the boys, chosen for their passing resemblance to Prince Jaron, compete to assume a new identity and the throne, Sage discovers some unpleasant truths about their host, beyond his treasonous plans to pass one of them off as royalty. Sage is a likable hero full of smart-alecky snarkiness. Especially appealing are the friendships he forges: one with his bodyguard and teacher; another with a mute serving girl. Though lacking in subtlety, Nielsen’s plot twists keep coming, and readers will want to see how they play out as Sage’s adventures continue. Grades 4-7. --Karen Cruze

Best of the Month in Young Adult
This title is one of our Best of the Month in Young Adult selections for April 2012. For more on all of our editors' teen picks check out this list.

Product Details

  • Series: Ascendance Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; F First Edition, First Printing edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545284139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545284134
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (688 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I keep searching for the words to describe how the layers carefully crafted in this book came together. Earlier today, I bought this book after seeing it compared to both Hunger Games and Harry Potter. A lofty and impossible comparison I thought. No way. Then, I heard from one of my daughter's friends that it was a---maz--ing. (The word had more than three syllables, I kid you not. Possibly seven syllables.)

So, I thought that I'd just check it out before passing it on to my daughter, but I couldn't put it down. I just finished it after reading it in one straight sitting.

The layer-upon-layer build in this book was brilliant. Every little detail felt like it was leading somewhere to something. The author used an unreliable narrator--you knew that the first person narration was hiding more than he was revealing. Every so often, you'd catch a hint of this and it would drag you breathless through more pages as you waited for the reveal that was building and building.

I thought there was no way it could live up to the internal hype I was creating. Telling me a book is like either Harry Potter or Hunger Games is dooming me to disappointment--I thought. This book delivered on this promise. I liked how it kept me guessing because I knew there was something that I didn't know...some big secret that all these smaller secrets and hints were leading to. I kept mentally guessing...and I was completely wrong and the ending blew me away.

It's not really like Harry Potter--though Sage is clever, young (14 or 15), and wonderfully imperfect and the writing is equally as brilliant.

It's not quite like Hunger Games, but it kept me reading with the same anxious anticipation. It was more hopeful and the end of this first book more satisfying.
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Format: Hardcover
First Sentences: If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life. Then again, I'm not sure I ever had a choice.

How I Acquired the Book: I reserved this one from my town's library. It took forever to arrive, with 3 others placing a hold on it and whatnot.

The Review: I'm going to say it up front: this book completely blew me away. It's been a long time since a book last did that to me, and I certainly didn't expect this book to achieve that feat. I went into it with very low expectations and even a bit of hesitation, since Scholastic had been promoting it heavily. (Okay, I'm sorry, I'm totally biased against Scholastic as a publisher, because other than Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, what good stuff have they published? For me, HarperCollins is the way to go.) Furthermore, I was under the impression that this would be a middle-grade, and not young adult read, and that I'd be reading something that was not intended to be read for teenagers. Not only that, but Scholastic made the plot sound boring.

What finally got me to read the book, I'm ashamed to admit, was the enticing blue cover, cool lettering, and the crown. As soon as I read the blurb on the book (which was much better than Scholastic's description, thank you very much), I couldn't wait to start it.

The premise of The False Prince is this: In a faraway land, a prince has been lost for years. The king and queen have just been murdered, but no one knows yet. A nobleman named Conner hatches a plot to find an orphan boy to impersonate the long-lost prince, so he can gain power. Conner kidnaps four orphans, and forces them to compete to be the prince. In two weeks, one will be selected to be the prince. The other three will face a not-so-great fate.
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Format: Hardcover
If you don't have this book on your to-buy list, I urge you to add it. I finished it last night and am so thrilled with the whole story that I have to restrain myself from just writing "awesome" in big, bold letters and calling it a day.
The first and most important thing in this novel is the protagonist, Sage. He is a perfect example of an unreliable narrator, which is one of my favorite literary devices, and is, generally, one of the most fun protagonists I've read about in a long while. He is a fully-fledged character, with all his flaws and virtues. Sometimes I found myself wanting to throttle him, but that's what makes him such a wonder to read. The rest of the characters are also incredibly amusing, but Sage is the one that grabs and holds on to your attention.
The plot is an intricately crafted one, clever and full of edge-of-your-seat moments. It is the kind of book you'll want to read again as soon as you finish it. Trust me on that. The writing is straight forward, allowing Sage's voice to shine through at its fullest.
This is one of the best books I've read so far this year, so I highly, highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
I knew this was going to be a Special Shelf book as soon as I "heard" Sage's voice narrating. Sage is one of those characters who has Sherlock Holmes Superpowers of Observation and Fantasticness. Which is to say, he's always about ten steps ahead of everyone, can deduce master plans from a discarded gum wrapper, and pulls it all off with the type of suave demeanor that never fails to make my knees wobble.

Plus, he's an underdog with attitude and I have a massive weakness for hot underdogs with swaggering attitude. Sage never seems to be able to resist needling those who lord over him, even if it means he'll get a bruise for his quip. He also lies like a pro, so that combined with his stealth and sneakiness make him the type of character that makes a great thief or conman.

Basically, think Han Solo plus Sherlock Holmes' brains plus extra hotness and a smidgen of vulnerability and you've pretty much got Sage.

As much as I love fast-paced books, my favorite kinds of books actually have a slow-burn pace (NOT to be confused with a sloooow pace, which is chock full of a lot of boring filler). In a slow-burn pace, plot details come together like a puzzle, with intrigue building steadily and keeping me on my toes throughout the whole book. Like a slow-burn romance, slow-burn pacing strings me along with delicious little morsels and makes me beg for more and more.

The majority of The False Prince takes place in Conner's castle (the noble with The Plan) as he trains the boys and maliciously toys with their emotions (because, you see, only the guy that's picked to impersonate the prince gets to live).

Backstabbing (literally!
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