The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Shadow ThroneInformation

Goodreads: The Shadow Throne
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #3
Source: Netgalley
Publication Date: February 25, 2014

Official Summary

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?

Rousing and affecting, Jaron’s adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion with The Shadow Throne.


Note: ARC review

Nielsen delivers big-time for Ascendance Trilogy fans in this final installment, offering a riveting and fast-paced adventure with the highest stakes yet.  No longer is just Jaron’s fate uncertain, but that of his entire country, and all of those whom he holds dear.  Nielsen has been offering readers teasers that “War is coming.”  Well, now war is here, and the question on everyone’s mind is whether a boy-king who specializes in pranks can use his courage and cunning to outsmart armies.

Watching Jaron develop his wits to plays his tricks on such a large skill is one of the coolest parts of The Shadow Throne.  Fans of the trilogy have watched Jaron grow up and grow into his new role as king, working to win respect even as he maintains his sharp tongue and playful personality.  In The Shadow Throne, he continues this maturation as he learns to turn what others see as his “childish pranks” into truly clever ruses to outsmart enemy armies whom he cannot hope to outfight.

Nielsen tries to play a few tricks on readers herself with some major plots twists, but the surprise and the suspense are executed better in the first two novels.  The Shadow Throne, rather than being as fresh and unpredictable as The False Prince, is basically a victory lap in which Nielsen pulls out all her readers’ favorite characters for one last showing.  She throws the greatest challenges of their lives at them, but readers have some idea of what to expect from these characters by now and will mostly feel delight and satisfaction in seeing their expectations fulfilled.

On a technical level, Nielsen does a fantastic job of keeping readers on track.  Because this is a book imbued heavily with intrigue, characters must make frequent references to previous events and conversations.  Nielsen skillfully weaves in commentary that reminds readers exactly what action or remark the characters are alluding to.  Readers are kept on top of all the plotting and deceits, without any feeling of unnatural authorial insertion.  One pet peeve about Nielsen’s writing: Characters constantly “withdraw” their swords instead of “drawing” them, which confused me more than once as I picture people putting weapons away, not pulling them out.

The Shadow Throne is an absorbing conclusion to the Ascendance Trilogy, and it will please fans with its adherence to the spirit of the first two novels and its resolutions to all of Carthya’s problems.  Nielsen makes sure to include the action and the witty lines her readers have come to love, all sprinkled with a bit of commentary on what it means to love and what it means to be a king.  Everything that makes the first two books is here, and Nielsen wraps up everything thoroughly, with practically no loose ends in sight.  A very pleasing finale.

4 thoughts on “The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

  1. debzbookshelf says:

    I still haven’t read it yet because my stupid Kindle keeps acting up! Amazing review; I can’t wait to read it!


  2. Small Review says:

    ok, ok, I won’t DNF. I’ve been seriously considering putting this one down. I loved the first book so, so very much, but the second was a little disappointing and so far I haven’t been grabbed by the third. But, I trust you. So I’ll keep at it. This was the review I’ve been looking for. Thanks!


    • Briana says:

      I agree the first book is the strongest. I usually finds that’s the case in series that feature “clever” characters. It’s just difficult to keep them sounding fresh and new and smarter than everyone else. The Shadow Throne succeeds mostly because Nielsen puts Jaron’s cleverness to work on something much more large-scale than usual–the war.

      I do think the book as a whole isn’t as fresh or ambitious as the rest of the series, but that it has enough good elements to keep most fans happy.


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