I picked this book up largely as an impulse buy while attending a large authors-signing event at our local Barnes & Noble. The author made it sound interesting. A couple month later we finally got around to reading it (Sorry, but Brandon Mull’s “Beyonders” series came first). I read it aloud to my kids, and my wife joined in as well. We all enjoyed it, though it’s intended to be YA fantasy.
The book is about an orphan who is plucked from an orphanage along with three other boys to be used in a plot to take the throne of the country. The story is told from the the point of view of Sage, the orphan, which turns out to be completely essential to the book. No one can trust Sage, and that includes us. He lies and withholds information even as the reader, which bothered me the first time we catch him in it–was there a reason for it, or was it just clumsiness by the author?
It is all paid off eventually, however, and while the intentional deception still annoys me a little, the story would have lacked the impact otherwise. So, like many of the characters, we can forgive Sage his indiscretions in the end, but that doesn’t mean we will forget. The book is the first of a trilogy, and now that the grand secret is out, perhaps Nielsen won’t need to mislead us so blatantly in the future.
The most compelling aspect of the book is the voice of the main character. Sage is an interesting character, and while we sometimes have to shake our heads and wish he wouldn’t be so stubborn, he’s certainly the most interesting of the three–if not all the characters in the novel.
The second book is out already, so it’s officially on our kids’ list to read soon. I’m interested in reading it to see how Nielsen’s craft develops between books. Other reviewers have called out her sparse world-building, but that didn’t bother me so much. The story was rich enough for its intended audience, and considering the rather limited scope of the novel, lengthy exposition of the larger world would have been out of place. That may change in the next books, and it will be interesting to see what Nielsen does with it.
It was a good book, and worth the price. Most worthwhile were the reactions and discussions amongst our family after our reading sessions. We were all into it. And there are enough unanswered questions and plot threads hanging to encourage to come back for another visit.