Thursday, July 7, 2011

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Clumsy and quiet, Nalia may not be the ideal princess, but she has spent all her sixteen years preparing for her role as future ruler of Thorvaldor. But her world is turned upside down when the king and queen reveal a bloody prophecy made at her birth, and the effects of that prophecy: she is not the true princess. She is a stand-in for the real Nalia, put in place to protect the heir to the throne.

With the time of danger passed, the true princess will return to court, and Nalia - now known to be Sinda, a commoner with no means of her own - is sent away without a second thought. But Sinda cannot adapt to life with her frosty aunt, especially given she has no knowledge of cooking or keeping a trade, and when she discovers uncontrollable magic inside her, she returns to the capital city. There, she reunites with an old friend and discovers that there is more to the princess switch than she could have dreamed possible.


How many twists can you put into a single story? When I first picked this book up, I thought I had it figured out: a girl finding out her life isn't as privileged as she thought and trying to live with her new circumstances, perhaps picking up love on the way.

Technically that is so, but O'Neal deserves much more credit than that. Just when I got comfortable with a turn the story had taken, Sinda learned some new revelation that completely revised the rhythm of the plot. And every one of those steps was important, too - we couldn't have skipped any of them.

And poor Sinda! When she was sent away from the palace, from her life, I thought she took it pretty passively. I know I would have demanded some answers. But as soon as a character pointed this very fact out to her, she made an effort to take charge of her life. I loved it. She grows so much throughout the novel, and her relationships with the other characters, especially her friend Kiernan and the real Nalia, made her real to me.

O'Neal has written a stunning first novel and I can't wait to see what else she comes up with.

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