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Book review: Jennifer A. Nielsen’s “The Runaway King”

Back in the first half of 2012, Jennifer A. Nielsen came out with “The False Prince,” the first book in her new series named “The Ascendance Trilogy.” In it, we are introduced to the young orphan Sage as he finds himself drawn into a plot that intends to install an impostor on the vacated throne of the kingdom of Carthya.

With its blend of political maneuvering, interesting characterizations, and the witty, wisecracking, and wonderfully fleshed-out voice of Sage providing the narration, “The False Prince” became a runaway hit. The New York Times called it “a page turner,” while Publishers Weekly called it an “impressive, promising story” in a starred review.

It’s no wonder that its sequel, “The Runaway King,” was eagerly awaited for by fans. But with so much acclaim and goodwill attached to the book that came before it, will “The Runaway King” live up to expectations, or will it prove to be a victim to the sophomore slump?

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Book review: Jennifer A. Nielsen’s “The False Prince”

Jennifer A. Nielsen is no stranger to epic plots and lovable anti-heroes.

For instance, her “Underworld Chronicles” series features such a formula. The first book in the series, “Elliot and the Goblin War”, charmed readers and reviewers alike as it told the adventures if Elliot Penster, a boy who finds himself in the middle of a war between Goblins and Brownies. Kirkus called “Elliot and the Goblin War” a “quickly addictive page-turner”, and it spawned two equally liked sequels, “Elliot and the Pixie Plot” and :Elliot and the Last Underworld War”.

With “The False Prince”, published by Scholastic, Nielsen is taking that tried and tested formula and setting it in a much darker and deceptive world —  a definite departure from the world the “Underworld Chronicles” introduced to readers. Will going dark work in Nielsen’s favor? Or would it have been better off if she had stuck to her roots?

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