Book Two of the Ascendance Trilogy
By Jennifer A. Nielsen
Available now from Scholastic Press
Warning: THE FALSE PRINCE has a bit of a twist, and I'll try to avoid it, but be wary of reading this review if you haven't read the first book.
Jaron is now the king of Carthya. War is imminent. There are few people that he can trust - even fewer in positions of power. He must marry Amarinda, but he neither knows nor loves her. She's not very excited about it either considering the fact she cared for his deceased older brother. When the pirates threaten Jaron, his regents decide he must go into hiding. Jaron decides to go into hiding with the pirates themselves to take them apart from the inside.
THE RUNAWAY KING has more action than THE FALSE PRINCE. THE FALSE PRINCE had quite the finale, but most of the book was a tense build-up to the climax. The structure of THE RUNAWAY KING is entirely different. Most of the familiar characters are back, though many of them are far less important than they were in the first book. This, the middle book in the trilogy, is really Jaron's show. He's making his bid for power and he'll only keep the crown if he can pull it off. Also, it's his show because he's too dumb to trust his real friends. (Luckily, they trust him.)
My favorite part of the novel was when Jaron fell in with an Avenian thieves' camp. Jennifer A. Nielsen did a wonderful job of developing Carthya in the first book and she used the second book to give a glimpse of the Avenian perspective. It's not very nuanced since this is a middle grade series, but I appreciated that not all of the Avenians were terrible, irredeemable people.
I think fans of THE FALSE PRINCE will be very satisfied with THE RUNAWAY KING and eager to read the third and final book in the Ascendance Trilogy. Nielsen keeps the pages turning. THE RUNAWAY KING is full of danger, Jaron staying alive through a combination of his cleverness and his more physical abilities. And just when it seems like he'll be triumphant, things boil over.
Nielsen's classic style of fantasy appeals to me now just as much as it would have when I was younger. The Ascendance trilogy is perfect for fans of Megan Whalen Turner (though it does skew a little younger). It has derring-do, suspense, epic battles, and a touch of romance and friendship. It's full of action, but it's action driven by the memorable characters.