Age: Young Adult, Middle Grade
Rating: 4 stars
Rating: 4 stars
Rosie Thinks: Although this book has been out since 2012, for some reason this is the first time I'd ever seen it on Goodreads. I knew this for a fact, since the summary hooked me in straightaway and made me ditch the other book I was reading halfway through. And this book certainly delivered!
To save a kingdom on the brink of civil war, Conner, a nobleman, recruits four orphans to compete to become the lost prince. It starts off quite Anastasia-like, but the characters and the plot soon move well beyond that. It is told in the perspective of Sage, one of the orphans competing. Unlike the others, he struggles to be free of Conner's not-so-altruistic machinations. He's rude, poor-mannered, a thief, incredibly intelligent and I loved him so much as an MC! With the twists and setting, telling this story in first person POV could've killed it easily for me, but somehow it worked. Sage's voice was always quick, witty and hilarious, but it didn't detract from the sometimes sombre tone of the novel.
I was a bit wary when I saw this novel marked on Goodreads as not only YA, but also Middle Grade. I am happy reading YA, but Middle Grade would be getting a bit too young for me! Thankfully, it didn't come across as a book written for children, even though it still would probably be suited for Middle Grade, despite the dark themes sometimes.
The fantasy side of this story isn't so pronounced - the world-building wasn't very detailed, beyond what was needed for the storytelling. Instead, Nielsen focused more on the characters and weaving a fairly intricate web of lies. Sage is a perfect liar, but this becomes more of an endearing quality than a fault, if that is even possible! The other characters are all well characterised, with very few of them falling into stereotypical roles. I really enjoyed reading this and am so happy the summary didn't let me down!