The False Princess
by Eilis O’Neal
Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 25th 2011
Summary: Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia’s led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it’s revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she’s ever known.
Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks. But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins – long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control – she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.
Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor’s history, forever.
A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.
The False Princess was a pleasant surprise for me. I picked it up expecting just a fairy tale and finished it thinking, “I REALLY like this book.” Eilis O’Neal is a strong storyteller. First off, I’m glad the cover image for the final book is different from the first ARC cover which I didn’t care for much. This one is much more appealing. (My copy looks similiar to the CD cover image) Despite my initial hesitation, once I got past the first page of The False Princess I did not put it down.
The fantasy begins with Nalia, princess of Thorvaldor and her childhood friend Kiernan seeking for a hidden gate in the surrounding palace walls. Nalia is sixteen, quick to trip over herself, shy and some what quiet. Kiernan, her sidekick is a tease, quick witted and constantly happy. The two are inseparable. That is,until, the King and Queen make an announcement that Nalia is not really the princess but merely a stand in- an imposter, switched at birth. Nalia’s role was to protect the real princess who lies hidden away to avoid a prophecy that she would be killed. Now Nalia must step down from her acting role and become nothing more than a mere commoner, Sinda Azaway.
Sinda is pushed from King’s court to live with her aunt in the tiny village of Treb. Her one living relative is cold without affection for Sinda. Feeling completely alone, Sinda turns to a local boy Tyr with his “unruffled smoothness and silky voice.” All the while Sinda has two new emotions raging inside of her. A force welling up that she does not understand a longing for what she left behind in the city…Kiernan. If he is truly just a friend why did she feel so conflicted?
“But Kiernan and I weren’t like that, I thought, confused. We were just…friends, even if we had been friends so long that neither of us could remember a time when we weren’t. Even if we were so close we could sometimes finish each other’s sentences or say a joke in the instant before the other did,. Even if, every time I thought of living a life without him it was like stepping of into darkness with no lantern and no chance of very finding one again.” p. 49
Sinda’s inner conflict plus a breach of trust by village boy Tyr lead her back into the city of her royal upbringing- Vivanskari. There a dangerous plot to usurp the King’s power and crown yet another false princess are unfurling. Who is the real heir to the throne? Can Sinda resolve her feelings of inadequacy to save her kingdom?
There are so many twists that you’ll be reeling trying to keep all of characters straight. The one constant through the plot is Kiernan. He is a ray of sunshine. He stays with Sinda through all of her travels and is faithful to the end. I thought the plot was well paced and characters were interesting. Though I will say so many Princesses left little room for fully developed personas. I at times had a hard time identifying with Sinda because of her constant lack of confidence and blindness to Kiernan’s feelings. Her doubtful thoughts became a bit repetitive for me hence the 4.5 stars.
Overall, thought I was moved by O’Neal’s writing and the sweet spark of romance that develops. The False Princess is a winning pick for tween and teens who read fantasy. It’s a good match for readers who enjoyed Shannon Hale, Brightly Woven by Alex Bracken and The Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry. I will be picking up anything else written by Eilis O’Neal and will pass this book on to my children. Thanks to Egmont for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Visit the author and read more about The False Princess online at http://www.eilisoneal.com/