A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The False Prince, the first book in a planned fantasy trilogy, is fraught with real danger for each of the characters. The exciting, page-turning adventure is told from the point of view of Sage, a young liar and thief who immediately gains reader sympathy despite his seemingly weak moral character and eventually proves that he has redeeming qualities. There's some violence: One boy is murdered in cold blood in front of others, Sage is imprisoned in a dungeon and chained and whipped, and there are some injuries in swordplay.
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What's the story?
Sage is used to starving and stealing to survive, but the real danger begins when he and two other boys are bought so that one of them can be molded into the Prince of Carthya, who was lost at sea and presumed dead. In a two-week training course, the boys learn what it takes to be a prince, and irreverent Sage isn't having any of it. At night he explores secret chambers; during the day he sleeps through his lessons. Still, there's something about Sage's brave recklessness that keeps him in the running, despite his lack of skills. As the deadline to choose a false prince nears, the suspense grows, and the plot twists enough to keep readers captivated until the very last page.
Is it any good?
The action in this page-turner doesn't let up from the moment Sage is caught running from pursuers on the first page after stealing a roast to feed his fellow orphans. His sarcastic humor and determination to stay true to himself, even at a risk to his own safety, make him a likable character whom readers will root for.
That said, there are some minor irritations for experienced fantasy readers. For example, Sage is a narrator who keeps things to himself -- he tells us he explores the castle at night, but he doesn't tell us what he finds until the big reveal at the end. And some language rather jarringly takes us out of the medieval setting (the repeated use of the 20th-century word "paranoid," for example). But these are minor quibbles in a complex and interesting story with well-developed characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how, in the opening scene, Sage is stealing a roast so he and the other hungry orphans can eat a good meal for once. Is it ever right to steal?
Sage doesn't want the other two boys to die, but if he's to survive, they'll have to. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose between yourself and your friends?
Sage chooses to be imprisoned in the dungeon rather than give up his rock. Is there any object that has such great personal value to you? Why?
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