The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic, 2012
This book will be one of my you-must-read-this recommendations when school starts this fall.
Part Prisoner of Zenda, part Count of Monte Cristo, The False Prince is a grand adventure that kept me listening continuously and avidly. Nielsen has written an old fashioned tale of revenge, conspiracy, mysterious identity and betrayal. The book works as a stand alone story but will be part of a planned Ascendance Trilogy. For the audio version that I listened to, narrator Charlie McWade provided a competent performance and kept the story moving along.
Thirteen year old Sage is an orphan, a thief and a smart mouth who has learned his street smarts the hard way. A conniving noble named Connor acquires him from the orphanage and along with three other youths from around the country, sets out to teach them the skills they will need to impersonate the long lost prince of the realm. Knowing that the young prince is dead, lost at sea, Connor seeks to place an impersonator that he can control on the throne. He maintains that he is a patriot and trying to save the country from civil war. Only one of the boys can go forward as the heir so the boys are pitted against each other to earn the spot. To lose the contest though means death for the others as the secret can never get out. To win has its own dangers because if the false prince is discovered he will be guilty of treason.
Sage is caught up in a game of politics, power and intrigue. There is no magic in this world, no ring of power, no invisibility cloak to help him. This is a story that echoes Robert Louis Stevenson more than JKRowling.