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.
I must just be in a mood for princesses lately, because it feels like I’ve read quite a few books with princesses in them. Have I gotten tired of it yet? Hell no! I adore princesses, actually– I like them when they’re snooty, when they’re nice, when they’re disguised as commoners or even when they’re boring as mud. Probably this is because I want to be a princess, myself– the nice kind, who does a lot of charity work and has a lot of cats and occasional adventures.
Princesses just seem to have more fun than other kinds of royalty, and that comes out hardcore in The False Princess. True, the protagonist, Sinda, isn’t a real princess in the “of royal blood” sense, but she embodies the ideals of a princess at heart and that’s all that matters, really.
I really liked Sinda. She has her problems, and she’s stupid in certain emotional/romantic areas, but she’s nice and intelligent and she’s (eventually) not afraid to get out there and do things herself. She even rescues herself instead of waiting for her romantic interest to do it! Sinda’s a fully fleshed out character who goes through immense personal transformation and at the end of the book it’s obvious she has a bright future. And maybe more adventures as well!
The story was very exciting, full of intrigue and emotional hardship. There were a few places in the story that were so intense I had to fling myself through the next few pages to see what was going to happen next. I had a great time with The False Princess! I liked it, for the most part.
However, it pains me to say that I have some issues with it that’re keeping me from rating it higher than a “borrow.” I don’t know if it’s because it’s Eilis O’Neal’s first full book and these are some of her growing pains or if it was something else, but a) some plot points and secondary characters were made out to be a big deal in the beginning of the book, but then they were rather quickly dropped and forgotten in the second act, and b) there are several plot inconsistencies that confused me. The biggest inconsistency was that of the villain, who doesn’t seem to be all that clever as Sinda and the other characters make them out to be.
The villain makes at least four major mistakes, any of which should have been enough to bring them down long before the denouement. The most obvious mistake– and you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve read the book– was the thing with the lineage charts. Would a very clever villain, one who’s been plotting an evil deed for over two decades, really have let those charts– which expose the whole plot, mind!– sit around untouched for who knows how long? Then, after Sinda finds out about the villain’s plot, the villain just lets Sinda wander around the town untouched for four days? Please. Those are rookie mistakes, and it makes the villain a heck of a lot less scary, which ruins the ending scenes with the heroine-villain confrontation.
There were some other problems with secondary characters not really being full people, and with Sinda’s romantic ending being a bit slapdash, but my biggest problem was with the villain. The issues I had with that whole part of the story– which is a BIG part!– made it hard for me to give it a solid rating. It’s a good first novel, but I wish it had been GREAT.
Basically: Worth buying if you don’t mind some first-novel speedbumps, if you like stories with good female characters, and if you like princesses. Worth borrowing if you’re worried about the speedbumps but like everything else.
If you like: Ella Enchanted, best-friend romances, and high fantasy with wizards and swords, you’ll like this book.
Read: January 24, 2011
I like the ARC cover a bit better than the final cover. The ARC cover had a full-on portrait of Sinda, which I like more than the “cut off at the eyes and it’s more mysterious” sort of cover that’s proliferate in YA books now. But I could see why they changed it: the brighter colors are more exciting. Plus the little necklace with the portrait is kinda interesting.
Note: Author photo lifted from author’s website.