Goodreads: The False Prince
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #1
Source: ARC provided by Scholastic through Shelf Awareness giveaway
Summary: Connor, a nobleman in a kingdom on the brink of civil war, has created a plan to hold his country together. He gathers boys from orphanages across the land, seeking for the perfect boy to present to the court as the long-lost prince, the rightful heir to the throne. Although Conner presents his motives as pure, Sage is skeptical. His tongue is as sharp as his mind, but he finds he may have to compete for the role of prince as keenly as the other boys if he intends to come out of the plot unscathed.
Review: Jennifer A. Nielson’s The False Prince is an exuberant adventure filled with mystery, intrigue, and plotting that will have readers racing through the pages from the very first chapter. Sage is introduced as a rambunctious, incorrigible orphan with a penchant for stealing and a flippant mouth, but the keen intelligence and noble character he hides beneath this rough façade begin to show quickly once he is in the hands of Connor. Trapped in a corner where it appears his only two options are to be the perfect puppet prince or to die, Sage strives to do the impossible, to manipulate both friends and foes so he comes out on top. Readers will be captivated by his spirit and his designs, eyes glued to the book as they wonder what he will do and say next. It is always a surprise!
Sage has a worthwhile opponent in Conner, who has spent a lifetime scheming at court. The False Prince is a protracted battle of wits and crossing of swords between the two. But Sage must also deal with the other boys chosen for Connor’s competition, precariously balancing the benefits of their friendship against his own survival. Their relationships fluctuate, fraught with tension, camaraderie, and the sense of something valuable that has been lost.
Nothing in The False Prince is certain—Connor’s motives, the final winner of his competition, whether any boy will claim the throne at all. Nielson has created a very real suspense that is infrequently found in most YA literature. The characters ultimately hurtle the readers toward a dramatic conclusion sprinkled with danger, secrets, and hope. At the end, readers will find themselves rethinking the book, watching events fold in a completely new light as all the tiny pieces fall together.
Best of all, however, the pieces do fall together, and The False Prince can function perfectly as a standalone book. Sage is such a fascinating character, however, and Nielson such an engaging writer, that everyone will be rushing to read the sequels.
Published: April 1, 2012
Goodreads: The Frog Princess
Series: Tales of the Frog Princess #1
Summary: When Princess Emma runs to the swamp to escape a visit with Prince Jorge, she meets a frog who claims to be an enchanted prince. One kiss, he tells her, and he will return to being human. Unfortunately, things do not turn out quite as the frog claimed.
Review: The Frog Princess is an amusing read full of little jokes and cute animals. Many of them have the potential to be an enemy to a frog—otters, mice, toads, bats, snakes, and spiders—but most of them end up being friends. Young readers will enjoy their adventures as they experience the world along with them, from an animal’s unique point of view. Everything is large. Many things are dangerous. But some things, like eating flies, are unexpectedly good.
The writing style of The Frog Princess will probably appeal to only a select group of readers, however. Baker attempts to be funny or modern, maybe both, but the effect is that Princess Emma sounds completely out of place. Her rude, contemporary speech suggests that a royal upbringing was missing, even though her mother is supposedly a stickler for decorum, and it makes her sound as if she does not belong in her own time period—whenever, precisely, that is. Some readers may find this approach refreshing; others will find it quite jarring.
The plot also strives to be more fun than believable. Ridiculous obstacles arise at every turn, and then convenient solutions pop up around the next corner. This does keep things exciting, but none of the plot twists get the time they deserve, and there comes a point when one begins to wonder whether the story should not have ended already. The frog prince himself makes a similar observation, which suggests Baker may actually be aware of the problem. It would have been better for her to resolve it rather than joke about it, however.
In the end, my complaints may be unique to readers who have encountered tighter and more complex books. The Frog Princess does have enough going on to keep younger readers—the intended audience—interested, and they may find that the characters’ dialogue actually makes them relatable. There are enough books in the series to indicate that someone is reading and enjoying them. If you did, please feel free to leave a comment!
Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1
Summary: Grace loves the wolves she always sees in the woods behind her house during the wintertime. But when Jack Culpeper, a boy from her school, is attacked by the wolves, the town of Mercy Falls begins to arm themselves against them. Grace’s favorite wolf is shot and transforms into a boy on her deck. The two work to unravel the mystery of Jack’s disappearance and try to build a relationship before their time together runs out.
Review: I normally avoid paranormal romances, but all the reviews extolling how haunting, achingly beautiful, and lyrical this book is persuaded me it might be worth reading. I was wrong. Shiver manifests all the flaws that make paranormal romance an artistically bereft and sometimes disturbing genre.
The book opens melodramatically, with Grace lying in the snow surrounded by wolves, calmly awaiting her death. Her complete apathy toward the situation is concerning, and she never really does abandon the attitude that life is not particularly valuable. The problems with her character only escalate after her recovery. She soon develops an obsession with the wolves who were trying to kill her, standing in her backyard for hours watching them and thinking summers are worthless because the wolves are not around. She even develops an intense crush on a particular wolf, which is disconcerting because at this point she has no idea that he is a werewolf. She is in love with an animal.
Once Sam transforms back into a human (no surprise here), the two instantly are in love. In wolf form, he had apparently fallen in love with her, as well. They immediately begin making out and become boyfriend and girlfriend. There is absolutely no build-up to this romance, and their relationship never gets any deeper as the book progresses. They make out a lot more and gush about how much they mean to each other and how they want to be together forever. Grace even decides that school, her family, and her friends are now worthless because her “real” life is with Sam. Grace is not as overtly annoying as Bella from Twilight, but she is an equally terrible role model when it comes to romance.
Other than the continual gushing, nothing much happens in Shiver. Stiefvater throws in a very loose plot about Jack, whom Grace and the readers immediately suspect has been bitten (again, this is hardly a spoiler). Because he does not seem to have found the werewolf pack, Sam and Grace go around town looking for him because he is supposedly dangerous. However, it never seems as if he is as much of a threat as the two say and their search never seems particularly pressing; even they waste time they had set aside to track him down in order to take romantic walks in golden woods and other such activities.
I began reading the book with the expectation that it was primarily a romance, so I tried my best to ignore the lack of plot. However, Grace and Sam are not particularly romantic because there is no foundation to their relationship. They are just weirdly obsessed with each other. Sam throws in a couple nice comments about wanting “to do things right,” and randomly composes song lyrics in his head, but nothing about their relationship is really convincing. Shiver can best be summarized as boring, gooey, and occasionally creepy if you actually think about what is happening.