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Book Review: The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

I feel like I’ve been talking about this book for awhile…dreaming and praying that I would  finish the Ship of Destiny and FINALLY begin this highly-anticipated YA/Fantasy novel that’s been on my to-read list for ages.

And, now here’s the review:

Book:The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Published: January 25, 2011

Amazon Product Description:
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.

Initial Thoughts

After trudging through the thick plot of Robin Hobb’s Ship of Destiny, it was a relief to read a story that was a bit simpler. And not simple in a boring way but in a very refreshing way. The author cuts right to the chase by opening the story with the revelation that Sinda is not the real princess (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler as this part of the book is mentioned in the description above. I just caught everyone who skimmed it, didn’t I? ;))

Having read that Sinda was a false princess on the back of the book cover, I was relieved I didn’t have to wait too long to read about her expulsion from the castle. Sinda’s pain at having to leave her home felt authentic- she’s adrift in who she is and what she should do with her life.

I often wondered about the connection between Sinda and her parents. She seems to miss them at times but never really mourns the loss of her mother and father. The only person Sinda seems to truly miss is her best friend Kiernan, who’s concern and love for Sinda isn’t stifled by her sudden drop in status.

But does she have the strength to re-discover who she is now that she possesses magic instead of a title?

Great Storyline but Characters Fizzle

What I enjoyed the most about this book was Sinda’s struggle to create a life for herself while deciding who she is and what she wants from the world. The journey is genuine, with a few bumps along the way. Before I go into that, I want to mention that I thought this book was mature for a young adult novel and could absolutely be enjoyed by 20-somethings and older adults.

I also loved the pacing of the book. There is a lot of traveling from place to place in the novel, but it never slowed down the plot. There was also a great balance between character development, action and magic.

As a side note, the magic in this novel is very subtle as there are no super in-depth details about how magic is wielded or developed. The magic is certainly there in the novel, but acts as more of a supporting actor than the star of the show.

Like I mentioned before, there were a few bumps in the story that had mostly to do with a lack of emotional connection on my part. Although I thought the story was filled with amazing twists and surprises, the characters didn’t jump off the pages, demanding that I love them.

At times, Sinda is weak and confused but is not truly vulnerable. Philanthra, a kind wizard who offers to help teach Sinda, is quirky and scatterbrained, but Sinda doesn’t completely trust her at first- which leaves the reader left mimicking Sinda’s turmoil.

And, although this seems a bit nit-picky, there was some vernacular of today that was used in the novel, like “truth be told ” or “to be honest” and “If I had thought (blank), then I was mistaken.” Because of the familiarity of the phrases, it took me out of the reality of the book and kept me from truly connecting with the characters and plot.

Overall

I really enjoyed the book’s overall message of self-confidence and self-discovery. After everything is taken from her, Sinda finds her true self, which was all that she had left. She pulls out of a serious identity crises to into a person who’s capable and confident of her future.

I did feel disconnected and unemotional at times, but I would definitely still recommended this book. It’s a solid first novel from O’Neal, and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.