December 09, 2010

Review: THE FALSE PRINCESS by Eilis O'Neal

Young Adult Fantasy
Egmont USA
Hardcover, 336 pages
Releases January 25, 2011


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.

The ARC cover
The cover: I was drawn to the original ARC cover (see right) because of the unique coloring of Sinda's dress, as well as the strange look on her face, which made me want to know why she stared off the cover in that peculiar way. However, I like the final cover better. I find books with partial faces (especially those that hide the eyes) very mysterious. These type of covers nearly always get a second glance out of me. Also, there's something about the set of Sinda's lips and chin in the final cover that portrays her inner-strength far better than the original.

The book: At first I was hesitant to read THE FALSE PRINCESS because of the kingdom's name - Thorvaldor. I put that name together with the genre and expected the book to be full of unpronounceable, multi-vowels-in-a-row fantasy names. You know the type: Eaoymmx. Thomaldanorfius. Something crazy like that. And while there were unique names, they weren't of the crazy, totally-made-up, subscribes-to-no-language's-rules kind. They were original, creative names.

PRINCESS drew me in from the first chapter. I enjoyed the magical system within the book, which was structured while remaining dangerous and slightly wild. The book had a subtle fairy-tale vibe to it, and I loved the way Ms. O'Neal does not hesitate to make her darlings suffer.

The one thing that bothered me was minor: the book dated itself. I no longer have it in front of me to reference, but I believe it took place in the 1100s. I would've preferred it remain a vaguely medieval, vaguely European story; dating it made historical facts and anachronisms run through my brain, blurring a bit of the make-believe fun.

I enjoyed following Sinda's journey as she learned her true identity, fell a few times, and picked herself up, building a new, better life in the process. The romantic aspect of the book was believable and well-earned. The mystery kept me guessing until the end, and the ending was satisfying without being too "neat." I'd love to read a sequel or a companion novel set in Sinda's world.

Especially recommended for: Fantasy-lovers; those who love novels about princesses (or royalty in general), mistaken identity, and overcoming seemingly impossible odds.

ARC courtesy of Star Book Tours.


Deborah Burns said...

This ones been added to my list! Thanks for the review.

Krispy said...

This sounds interesting. From the cover, I might not have picked it up, but now I'll keep an eye out for it. :)

Shayda Bakhshi said...

This sounds like something I would've loved when I was younger, which means I'd probably enjoy it now! I like a bit of intrigue in my princess novels. Thanks for reviewing it for us!

Samantha VĂ©rant said...

I like the new cover -- not that it matters in the long run --- because of the fabric in the background and the necklace. I don't know. Since I live in France, I'd have to be really drawn into the story to order this. Great review, but...

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