I thoroughly enjoyed The False Prince when it came out last year and have been eagerly awaiting its sequel. I expected adventure and a fast-paced plot. I anticipated the continuation of richly drawn characters and unexpected twists and turns in the story. But, what really made The False Prince so fun to read, was its main character, Sage – so, I mostly was looking forward to more of his mischievous wit, reckless abandon, and total disregard for doing what was expected of him. I was not disappointed.
If you haven’t read The False Prince, pick it up before you read any reviews so you can be fully immersed in the story without any spoilers. Because, even though the final twist seems pretty obvious to an adult, the foreboding hints should keep a younger reader engaged, figuring out the story as it unfolds.
The Runaway King was everything I expected it to be, not the least of which was the development of Sage’s (i.e. Jaron’s) character as he struggles to be king amidst intense opposition and betrayal. The story begins with the newly crowned Jaron struggling to gain respect from his regents and his people, as he narrowly avoids an assassination attempt and tries to stop the obvious war advancing on Carthya. Unfortunately for him, nobody else can see the danger, and the regents ship him away with plans to name a steward to rule the country in his stead. Of course, Jaron will do everything he can to save his throne and his people - so, keeping in perfect character, he comes up with a reckless plan and sets out to see it through – alone.
This book pulls in all the elements of a good adventure – fighting, pirates, greedy kings, beautiful princesses, danger, and a main character with a wicked sense of humor. At one point in the story when Jaron has sustained a particularly painful injury, he is asked, “How does it feel?” and with utter sarcasm, he replies, “Like butterfly kisses, what do you think?” That is just a taste of his flair for getting into trouble and his typical contrary response and devil-may-care attitude.
The fun of this book is trying to figure out how Jaron will dig himself out of every danger he jumps into (including joining up with pirates) and hoping he can make things right as he burns bridges with every friend he has ever had – all while he is fighting to save his kingdom and stay alive. I am definitely looking forward to Book 3 in the trilogy to continue in this vivid world with such spunky, flawed, but ultimately relatable characters.
The Runaway King
by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published by Scholastic Press
Recommended for ages 10 and up