This highly enjoyable medieval fantasy from Nielsen (the Underworld Chronicles), set in the medieval kingdom of Carthya, centers on 15-year-old Sage, an angry and pugnacious orphan, who is unexpectedly purchased by Conner, one of the king's regents. The entire royal family-king, queen, and heir-has recently died under mysterious circumstances, and to prevent civil war, Conner is collecting orphans who might believably be substituted for the dead king's younger son, who was reported lost at sea years earlier. Sage is soon engaged in a deadly, winner-take-all contest with two other boys to earn the right to impersonate Prince Jaron. Sage is deftly characterized through humorous first-person narration, quickly establishing himself as a beguiling antihero: "I'd never attempted roast thievery before, and I was already regretting it," he says when readers first meet him. "It happens to be very difficult to hold a chunk of raw meat while running." Secondary characters are equally fleshed-out. First in the Ascendancy Trilogy, this is an impressive, promising story with some expertly executed twists. Ages 8-14. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Gr 5-8-No one knows that the king, queen, and heir to the throne of Carthya are dead. Conner, a king's regent, chooses three orphans to vie for the role of Prince Jaron, the remaining heir, presumed dead, but whose body has never been found. In two weeks, Conner plans to reveal that he has found the missing prince. The boys are thrown into a brutal rivalry, knowing that if they are not chosen, death will soon follow. No one's true intentions are clear, especially those of wily Sage. One of the orphans, he subverts authority at every opportunity, yet never gives up his quest to become the pretender to the throne. On the day of the announcement, a truth is revealed that changes everything for Conner, the orphans, and especially Sage. Fast-paced and exciting, this book will appeal to readers who enjoy intrigue mixed in with their adventure. Although the twist at the end is predictable, the events that precede it are not. The characters' motivations may not always be clear but they remain consistent. Full of machinations and surprises, this book will keep students reading until the last page and eager for the second in the trilogy.-Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.