BOOK REVIEW: 'Hunger Games' And 'Harry Potter' Publisher Scholastic Introduces New YA Series With 'The False Prince'

The story of four boys competing to impersonate a lost prince and prevent a civil war is a winner in the tradition of the company's other YA hits.

With a track record that includes Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Scorpio Races and The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Scholastic has an eye for what YA readers like. The publisher's newest book, The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, is another winner.

FIRST READ: 'The False Prince' by Jennifer Nielsen

Scholastic is touting the novel with the great tagline: "Four Boys, One treacherous plan, An entire kingdom to fool."

The story follows Sage, a young orphan who is taken from the home for disadvantaged boys where he lives by the nobleman Bevin Connor. Sage soon learns he and three other boys have been chosen to participate in a contest to choose someone to impersonate the long-lost Prince Jaron. Connor needs a new prince to become the new ruler of Carthya and prevent a civil war since the king, queen and crown prince recently have been murdered. The regents of Carthya are scheduled to meet in two weeks, and Connor wants to introduce "Jaron" to them at the meeting.

The boys find out that it is a contest to the death and that Connor intends to make the winner his puppet so he can really rule Carthya. The competition becomes fierce as the contest barrels to a conclusion. Without giving away the plot, the story twists and turns to a surprising conclusion. The book is a great thrill ride that keeps readers hooked from the first page to the last.

The False Prince is more Harry Potter (minus the magic) than Hunger Games. The lack of the supernatural allows Nielsen to keep the reader focused on the political intrigue, scheming and court conspiracies at the center of the story. Even though the novel is set in a mythical kingdom, it feels "real," with authentic characters, a convincing sense of danger and a genuinely high-stakes plot.  

The story of an ordinary kid thrust into extraordinary circumstances and transformed by the experience is a familiar theme in YA literature, but Nielsen handles it deftly. Sage is one of the strengths of the book. Often surly and reckless, he is also bold, courageous and decent. He's a three-dimensional character and a hero worth rooting for.

The False Prince is the first in what is planned as a three-book series titled The Ascendance Trilogy. Scholastic Media, the sister division to Scholastic Trade Publishing, acquired the movie rights and is developing an adaptation.

Interested? Read the first chapter of The False Prince here.