My friend Megan has been telling me about her friend Jennifer Nielsen who is this fantastic writer she knew in Utah and who recently got picked up by Scholastic (!) for a three-book middle grade deal. Woo hoo! Kudos to writers who get the Big Deal! Really happy for her!
So, I was at the school book fair a couple of weeks ago and saw Nielsen’s book The False Prince featured prominently, and I thought, hey, I know somebody who knows her! I’ll buy that! Little did I know, I was picking up something that I’d define as an instant classic.
To be honest, I bought it with thoughts to give it to Megan as her birthday present, but then I made the mistake of cracking the cover. By page 10 I was so hooked in the story I knew Megan was going to get a used book for her birthday. She’s a book geek at least as much as I am, so I’m pretty sure she’ll understand. By the end of the day today when we were forced to eat leftovers because I was so into this amazing story, I didn’t regret the selfish move one bit.
Here’s the plot: Sage is an orphan who has had to live by his wits, pickpocketing what he can to keep his stomach full between stints at the orphanage in his country of Carthya, where war is brewing. He snatches a nice sized roast from a butcher, and gets nabbed by a couple of thugs, who work for a nobleman, Conner. Conner and his men insist on taking Sage from the orphanage to Conner’s country estate–with plans to pass off Sage or another of three boys as the long lost prince Jaron and install him on the throne. The stakes are high: Sage cannot refuse to go along with Conner’s plan–he knows too much and will be killed if he doesn’t go along with Conner’s scheme.
The story has plenty of twists, and kept me turning the pages. Nielsen’s writing style and especially the voice of Sage are consistently strong throughout the book. I love the care she took in crafting every paragraph. The writing is so good! Sometimes when I read strong storytelling, the writing craft gets less attention–not so in The False Prince. Everything about it is strong. I can imagine my kids aged 9-14 will all love it (when I buy another copy for our shelves), and adults who like YA or middle grade stories will enjoy it just as much. I won’t be surprised if this becomes a classic.