In this first book in a purported trilogy, Sage is taken from an orphanage by the scheming Conner and taken to his luxurious mansion with fellow orphans Roden and Tobias. The reason? The entire royal family of Carthya has been murdered, with the exception of Prince Jaron, who was on a ship that was attacked by pirates when he was about ten, and has never been found. Conner wants to groom a boy to pretend to be the prince, ostensibly to prevent a war between Carthya and a neighboring kingdom. The boys have a variety of skill levels, education, and attitude problems, but Sage is the worst-- he is constantly fighting against Conner, running off, and being a brat about his new found fortune, mainly because all the boys know that whomever is not chosen will surely die. Despite his contrary personality, Sage develops some allies in the maid servant Imogen and the trainer Mott, who both try to help him, and manages to attract the positive attention of the princess Araminda, who is supposed to marry Jaron's brother, and since he is dead, will marry the boy Conner chooses to be prince. When Conner finally does make his choice, long forgotten secrets are revealed that change the entire game.
Strengths: Even though I didn't want to read yet another medieval fantasy, I was oddly drawn into this one. Great cover. The fact that it will be a trilogy and not something longer makes me somewhat inclined to purchase this.
Weaknesses: Sage is really bratty. The reasons for this are clear later in the book (which I don't want to spoil), but I wanted to slap him on multiple occasions, which is never good.
Dolamore, Jaclyn. Between the Sea and Sky.
Esmerine is thrilled to finally become a Siren, an honor that not many in her merfamily have had. Her sister, Dosia, is a Siren, but has recently run away, and the entire family is worried that she has married a human and is not doing well. Esmerine is the only one able to sustain walking on human legs long enough to go looking for her, and she also wants to go on land and try to find her childhood friend, Alander. Alender is a Fandarsee, or winged creature, who runs a book store and agrees to help Esmerine find her sister. The two take off across their Georgian era countryside to try to find her, and fall in love in the process.Strengths: Hubbard's Ripple is wildly popular, so I picked this up at a Book Look to make my mermaid fans happy.
Weaknesses: No boy will ever pick up this book, even though Alander figures largely. I was disappointed in the lack of living underwater scenes, and somewhat confused by where there were "subtle echoes of Pride and Prejudice". The biggest weakness? See RANT...
Slight Rant:Why are there sooooooooo many fantasy books, when what I really need are funny, realistic fiction books? Wait, wait-- I know. Even though there is a very small percentage of students (especially boys) who read fantasy books, those readers tend to love to read and buy their own books, and tend to be higher acchievers academically, and therefore more likely to grow up and write books. I personally wrote seven chapters of a medievalish/time travel fantasy called Alexander's Avenger before realizing that there were very few readers for it.
Even Nancy Gilson of the Columbus Dispatch had this sentence in her review of The False Prince: "Just in case there's room for another medieval adventure trilogy for young-adult readers, Jennifer A. Nielsen is happy to fill the bill. "
Out of about 720 students at my school, I have maybe 50 who are AVID fantasy readers, and maybe another 50 who will read fantasy if it's new and interesting. About eighty percent of the ARCs I get seem to be fantasy. It seems off balance.
Apparently, few ball players (aside from Tim Green, Mike Lupica, and Rich Wallace) grow up to write books. Hardly any skateboarders do. If I am still buying copies of books by authors who are long dead (Thomas Dygard), something is wrong.
This is also why Jordan Sonnenblick is so brilliant. He writes what students want to read, but is talented enough to sneak in some Life Lessons that teachers will like, in a way that students don't mind them. Oooh! Mr. Sonnenblick! Write a book involving either football or skateboarding next! Just remember, no "we are building a skate park but having trouble with the community thinking we are all threats to society" theme. Overdone.
Just like the vast majority of medievalish fantasies.