Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Tags: middle grade, YA, fantasy, magic, political conspiracy


Princess Nalia gets the worst sixteenth-birthday surprise ever when it is revealed that she is not the real princess, but a commoner decoy for the real princess, placed in the castle because of a prophecy that foretold of the danger befalling the princess before her sixteenth birthday. Stripped of everything she has ever known, including her name and her best friend Kiernan, the girl now called Sinda tries to adjust to her new commoner life with her aunt, who is not at all happy about her new relative.

When the emergence of a long repressed magic within her forces Sinda to return to the royal city, she stumbles upon a dark conspiracy behind the throne that only she can stop. With Kiernan’s help, Sinda undergoes dangerous journeys and evades the hands of powerful enemies in order to save her country’s future.


Reading the jacket synopsis, I thought this book was going to be yet another “princess finds out she’s not the real princess and attempts to make a new life for herself” tale. Happily, however, THE FALSE PRINCESS is all that, and more. It is an engaging light fantasy that will charm you no matter how well read you think you are in this genre.

Past the first chapter, the plot of THE FALSE PRINCESS moves at an entertainingly brisk pace, as it follows Sinda into the country, back into the city, and in and out of nervewracking situations. The time that Sinda spends with her aunt feels a little forced, her attempt to fit into her new life glossed over, but this makes sense when you consider that the most exciting part of the book occurs when Sinda returns to the city and discovers the conspiracy.

THE FALSE PRINCESS is at its core a fairly standard “quest” tale, but contains so much spunk and personality from its characters that it transcends the trope and makes it appealing to even readers who don’t usually read fantasy, readers who prefer character-driven novels. Sinda changes from a timid royal into an initiative-taking heroine, a brave girl who takes on tasks even knowing that the odds are stacked against her. Kiernan is a wonderful supporting character, utterly dedicated to Sinda, with a playfulness that offsets the darker tones of Sinda’s quest.

THE FALSE PRINCESS is a friendly fantasy read that would be a perfect gift for younger readers who’ve enjoyed the works of Gail Carson Levine, Diana Wynne Jones, and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s fantasy novels. It’s definitely a cut above other light fantasies I’ve read recently, and I would definitely recommend it to a readers looking for exactly that!

Similar Authors
Gail Carson Levine
Margaret Peterson Haddix (Palace of Mirrors)
Mercedes Lackey

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - It totally doesn't capture Sinda's spark of life, but I do like it slightly better than the original image. This cover will possibly appeal more to older teens.

EgmontUSA / Jan. 25, 2011 / Hardcover / 336pp. / $16.99

Sent by publisher after accepting review pitch. Thank you, Jenny and Regina!


  1. I am currently reading this, only about 3 chapters in, and I already like it.
    I'm glad that the plots move forward at a reasonable pace already.
    Thank you for your review :)

  2. I really loved this book when I read it, I thought it was just awesome

  3. I really liked this book. What an awesome main character.

  4. I really enjoyed this book. I liked seeing your thoughts on it! I think some of the elements were too mature for younger readers, but definitely nothing too bad for younger tweens, really... I'm also ambivalent about the cover, but I love the coloring!


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