The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Loved this first instalment in the Ascendance series. Jennifer Nielsen really nailed the rebellious Sage. I was rooting for him all the way in this story. From the moment we meet him, we know Sage is resourceful, cunning, daring and has a softer side. He knows how to survive, that is clear. When he is snatched by the mysterious and coldly efficient Conner, we know there is a battle of wills coming. Conner is training Sage and his fellow abductees – Ronen and Tobias- to pose as Prince Jaron, heir to the throne of Carthya. Jaron is presumed dead at the hands of pirates after being sent away by the King and Queen, who then subsequently died in mysterious circumstances. Conner wants to save Carthya from certain war and unrest by taking one of the boys (posing as Prince Jaron) to court on the day the King and Queen are officially declared dead.
The bulk of the story centres on the efforts of the boys to “become” Prince Jaron and it gives Neilsen a chance to reveal the character of each boy (and their servants and trainers) really effectively. Tobias is driven, with a high opinion of himself; Roden is acutely aware of his humble origins, but aspires to rise above them at any cost; Sage tends to act before he thinks, and is not afraid of Conner, or his sidekicks, Cregan and Mott. Along the way, Sage befriends a mute servant girl named Imogen, whom I think will become more important as the series progresses.
I can’t say much more without revealing HUGE spoilers, but I WILL say that this book proceeds at a breakneck pace, with action high on the agenda. Great characters, believeable situations and enough twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned reader on their toes. I can’ wait for Book Two. Hopefully it is not too far away!!!
For ages 10 and up.
I Made Lattes for a Love God by Wendy Harmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wendy Harmer’s latest YA novel hits all the right notes. Her protagonist, Elly (Eleanor) is a girl who has few friends at school since the departure of her best mate, Carmelita, to the farming districts of Queensland. She lives at home with her parents – Mum, who is a strung out and struggling PR agent; Dad, who is a bit of an underdog always playing second fiddle to Mum, but clearly adores her and his children; and Tilly (Matilda), who is eighteen and spreading her wings (right in front of Elly’s face). The family relationships are well drawn and I found the interaction between them believable, particularly those between Dad and the girls and the two sisters.
Elly’s Mum has been given the biggest break of her PR career. The cast of Monster Squad are coming to the town of Britannia to film the third film in the series, imaginatively titled Monster Squad 3. A cross between Twilight and High School Musical, Monster Squad has a heart throb star, Jake Blake, whom Elly pines for. When it is revealed that Mum is handling all the publicity for the movie, Elly thinks she has it made and will be hanging out with Jake in no time. Of course, things do not go to plan. First, Elly manages to get her best friend a part in the movie whilst managing to miss out on one herself. Her Mum throws her a lifeline by making Elly her PA. After she manages to get herself thrown off the set on the first day of shooting, things do not look good for Elly. Eventually she ends up working in the catering van with Rosie Di Masi and her cheerful, hardworking parents. Rosie has been the object of derision in Elly’s circle and she is dreading working with her, but slowly Rosie reveals herself to be something Elly didn’t expect and this is probably my favourite aspect of this story. My only is she making new friends she has to contend with Bianca, the inevitable jealous “popular” girl who is a perpetual fly in Elly’s ointment. Team that with her sister who starts mooning over Jake Blake, Dad who might be having an affair with one of the movie stars and Carmelita who seems to be turning against her, and Elly learns a lot about everyone in her life, but especially about herself.
In keeping with my non-spoiler policy I will not reveal much more here, but I will say that things move towards a very satisfactory conclusion, with lots of loose ends tied up and a warm fuzzy feeling as you read the last page.
Suitable for ages 12 and up.