Thursday, January 31, 2013

ARC Book Review: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Title: The Runaway King
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Rating: 5/5

Cover Impressions:
I enjoy the covers in this series, they are clean and simple.  The font works very well and I love the colors (blue, now green, hopefully red for number 3?).  My only complaint is that they don't see to stand out as much - in my classroom, I don't see The False Prince getting chosen very often unless it is because of my recommendation. 

The Gist:
Jaron has barely warmed his new throne when an assassination attempt alerts him to the danger that his kingdom is in.  The murder of his family has left him with a council that harbors deceit and an army that is ill prepared for any attack.  In order to secure the safety of his people, Jaron must abandon the throne and seek out this new threat head on.  In returning to the world as Sage, he must ask if he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save his kingdom.


I loved loved LOVED The False Prince.  See my review and my Top Books of 2012.  So there were some pretty high expectations for The Runaway King.  I was not disappointed.  I recently had a favorite student of mine as for a book recommendation.  I handed her The False Prince and told her that "You will love Sage and want to strangle him all at the same time - that is what makes him such a wonderful character".  This remains true in The Runaway King.  I am 100% behind Sage, and because of this, I often cringe, shout or throw an all out temper tantrum to rival my 1 1/2 year old, whenever he makes a decision that I feel will put him in more danger.  Sage never takes the easy way out.  He is always willing to throw himself off a cliff (often quite literally) in order to do what is right for others.  Now, that is not to say that he is completely selfless.  The boy is one of the most arrogant characters I have ever read and he will often make grandiose statements that only seem to garner him more trouble.  But, this is what makes him all the more likeable and enjoyable to read about.  Sage is kind, clever, witty and stubborn.  He captivates the reader and is easily one of my favorite characters in any series.

I was a little worried about where this book was going when Imogen left the storyline.  I always loved the connection between her and Sage and was disappointed to see her disappear so early.  But have faith ladies and gentlemen, she re-emerges!  The tension between these two characters adds an extra element to the storyline without delving into the romance sphere.  I enjoyed the fact that both of them are faced with a very difficult decision and that there is no easy way out.

In this novel, we also saw the expansion of some old characters and the addition of some interesting new ones.  Jennifer Nielsen just doesn't do bland, one dimensional characters and each person that we meet, adds a little something special to the plot.  Oftentimes, the characters that we might have overlooked or dismissed at first - turn out to be the most important in the end. 

This author continues to astound with her ability to seamlessly weave details together to create a plot that is rich and full of surprises.  Having many years of reading experience under my belt, it is often all to easy for me to notice the foreshadowing of what is to come.  Things that seem obvious to me (I am discovering) my students have often overlooked - leading to them being surprised at the plot twist and me having figured it out from the 5th page.  This is the one series where I can depend on my being just as surprised as my students.  In both books, I have been taken aback by the way pieces that appeared to come from several different puzzles finally dropped into place to create one complete, and beautifully detailed, picture.

Yet again I need to commend Jennifer Nielsen for creating a series that contains enough danger and suspense to keep readers of all ages interested, but without approaching the issues of violence that would be inappropriate for a younger reader.  Teachers and parents take note: THIS IS A BOOK THAT APPEALS TO BOTH GIRLS AND BOYS!  Let's get those (sometimes reluctant) boys reading!

Teaching/Parental Notes:

12 and up (though there are no real issues with giving this book to a younger reader if they can handle the reading level)
Gender: Both
Sex: None
Violence: Swordplay, Knifeplay, Whipping
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None


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