The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

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.

This is technically YA but I’d definitely have to say it’s aimed at the younger demographic.  Maybe that’s why I had a harder time connecting with the characters than I should have.

I can’t honestly fault the plot.  It was fast-paced and interesting enough to keep me reading.  There were lots of unexpected twists and turns and I like how Eilis O’Neal turns some old tropes on their heads.  I thought The False Princess was just going to be another mash-up of fantasy tropes when I picked it up but I’m very glad I was wrong.

The only thing I was disappointed about was the characters.  The main character Sinda seemed like she had everything going for her: she was fierce, determined and generally easy to relate to.  Except, I had a really hard time connecting with her on an emotional level.  Sure, I wanted her to succeed and unravel the mystery surrounding her role in the succession, but I really couldn’t feel her emotions.  When she was sad I felt the same as when she was happy and in love.  Part of it is that this is a first novel so O’Neal doesn’t quite have that ability to write emotion into the story but the other part may be the target demographic.

Basically, The False Princess is an average novel that I would recommend to teens in the 12-14 age group.  O’Neal doesn’t talk down to her readers and the characters face some really terrifying obstacles on their way to uncovering the mystery.  I think younger readers will find Sinda and the others far more sympathetic than I did.  With all that said, this is not a bad novel and I’d even call it good.  It just wasn’t for me.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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