This is one of those times where a book hit me just right, and it was just what I was in the mood for at the time of reading it. I was craving something fluffy and maybe a tad predictable, yet comforting, after reading some downer books about tough subjects. And this perfectly fit the bill. I’m not the target audience for this book, at all, but I still really enjoyed it. (I would have been obsessed if I’d read it when I was a kid.)
The premise here is that our main character, Sage, is a fourteen year old orphan in a made-up land. One day, Sage, fresh from stealing a giant roast of some sort, is sold out of the orphanage he’s living in to a noble named Conner, who is collecting orphans for some seemingly nefarious plan. Turns out the orphans are Conner’s bid for the throne. The royal family has been poisoned (the king, queen, and their first born son, Darius), and the regents are trying to keep it quiet for now until a new king can be chosen, so that civil war doesn’t break out. Conner’s plan is to train up one of the orphans, who all look very similar to one another, to pretend to be the lost second son, Prince Jaron, who died at sea after his ship was attacked by pirates four years before. Conner knows for a fact Jaron is dead, but since a body was never found, he knows he can bring *a* Prince Jaron back to the capital, and thus secure his own power and essentially rule the kingdom by proxy.
What follows is a surprisingly satisfying game of political intrigue played between the orphans and the nobleman. Sage is a fun protagonist. He’s kind of a smart arse, and he’s very clever and sneaky. It’s fun to watch him try to win Conner’s game while not giving in and fully becoming Conner’s man. He’s also very emotionally conflicted. He doesn’t *want* to be king, but it’s pretty clear that the boys who aren’t chosen won’t be leaving the competition alive. Conner’s secret will be protected with murder.
SPOILERS I will admit that I knew before I even started the book that Sage was obviously the lost prince Jaron. I figured that he would have some sort of amnesia, or have been too young remember, or he would have repressed the memories. But the way she plays it out is a little more interesting than that. Sage turns out to be an unreliable narrator. He knows he is the prince the whole time, but the narrative is written so that we aren’t let in on the secret until he’s ready to let us know. This made it a little more interesting, to see the ways she wrote around it, had him think thoughts that could mean two things at once. Regardless, the predictability of knowing the twist didn’t at all hinder my enjoyment of the book END SPOILERS.
If you’re in the mood for some smart middle grade fluff, you could do a lot worse than pick this up. I read it in only a couple of hours.
Read Harder Challenge 2018: The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series.