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The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal

 

The False Princess
Eilis O’Neal
Date:  January 25, 2011
EgmontUSA
336 pages
ISBN-10: 1606840797
ISBN-13: 978-1606840795
Lexile : 860L

 

Book Overview:

The False Princess is the story of Sinda, a girl raised as the Princess Nalia to save the real princess from death.  Only, Sinda doesn’t know that she’s not the princess until the fateful day, just after she turns sixteen, when she’s kicked out of the palace and sent to live in a no-account village as a nobody. You can’t keep a good girl down, though, and this book tells how Sinda overcomes all odds to make her mark on the kingdom she was raised to rule.

If you think this book sounds a bit like “Sleeping Beauty”, relax. Only the prophecy about the real Princess Nalia dying by her sixteenth birthday is similar to the old fairy tale.  From there on, Ms. O’Neal spins an original yarn that is unlike any you’ve read before. There are good reasons that this title is among the YALSA 2012 nominations for Best Fiction for Young Adults.

Positive Content:

Sinda is brave and resourceful.  She inspires loyalty in her friends because she is loyal, even to those who have betrayed her.  Kiernan, her best friend from her days as a princess, is devoted to her and sticks with Sinda through thick and thin.  Ms. O’Neal doesn’t overdo her settings, and she’s good at characterization.  I felt drawn to the main character from the very first, and I cared about what would happen to her.

The plot thickens right in the middle of the book, and Sinda uncovers a sinister, complex plan that involves the most powerful people in the kingdom. Knowing that she’s putting her own life on the line, Sinda takes on the “impossible” task of setting things right before it’s too late.

Content to Consider: (Spoilers)

 

Violence: INFREQUENT, NOT GRAPHIC

  • The villain kills three people: two “off-screen” and indirectly and one “on-screen” (the account isn’t gruesome).
  • The villain is killed with a sword.
  • Magic is used aggressively in a couple of scenes.
  • The villain employs henchmen to do some of the dirty work including an attack on a wizard and one of the wizard’s servants.
  • Kiernan knocks out a monk, and Sinda modifies the man’s memories using magic.
  • Sinda is imprisoned for several days in a dungeon.
  • Kiernan, trying to defend Sinda, injures a man with a dagger.
  • Sinda uses magic to defend herself and her friends from attack.

Crude, Vulgar, or Profane Language: NONE

 

Sexual Content: MILD

  • A boy from the village where Sinda goes to live befriends Sinda with the sole purpose of trying to seduce her.  Fortunately, she discovers his reasons before he can carry through with his plan.
  • Kiernan and Sinda share a few kisses.

Drug/Alcohol: MILD

  • Herbs are used medicinally and in magical concoctions.
  • One character suspects that another has had too many cups at the tavern.
  • Cider is the drink of choice.

Negative Content:

  • The initial ruse, to substitute Sinda for the Princess Nalia, was a lie that generated more lies.  The surprise revelation of the secret to Sinda, followed by her expulsion from the life she knew, was unnecessarily cruel.  These decisions, made by the most important adults in her life and the way they were carried out, cannot be defended.  Naturally, the author generates sympathy for the main character through the very unfairness of the things that happen to her.
  • Sinda’s only living blood relative is cold to her.
  • Sinda lies about her age in order to obtain living quarters in the city.
  • Kiernan and Sinda create a cover story in which they are brother and sister so that they can travel together without raising suspicions and comment.
  • Kiernan and Sinda break into a mausoleum and take an artifact from a grave.
  • Sinda tears the pages out of a couple of library books. (The horror!)  She also steals a map from the college.

Spiritual Content:

  • There are many mentions of the Nameless God, praying to him, his day of the week, and temples dedicated to him.
  • There is an oracle, a prophet of the Nameless God.  Only one oracle exists at a time, and that person gives up his or her name at the time he or she is chosen.
  • The oracle tells Sinda that the Nameless God doesn’t care about who sits on the throne, but Sinda decides later that he must care, at least a little.
  • Magic and magicians, both good and bad, are integral to the story.

My Personal Opinions:

All right, I admit it; I’m an emotional sap.  However, I was genuinely moved a few times during this book by Sinda’s predicament.  That’s saying something since I also admit that I had low expectations for a book entitled The False Princess.

If I have one bone to pick with the people involved in getting this book to the shelves, it’s the title. 

If I have one bone to pick with the people involved in getting this book to the shelves, it’s the title.  Putting “Princess” anything in the title of a book immediately rules it out as reading material for most members of a generation raised on Disney princesses and Barbie movies.  All sorts of assumptions get made, prejudices surface, and a good book may go unread.  That’s unfortunate since the author hasn’t written anything approaching stereotypical princess fare.

Other than the title, I have few criticisms to offer.  Sinda rises above the role of princess (Yay!), and that’s a true accomplishment.  Kudos belong to Ms. O’Neal for creating a complex and interesting story that’s appropriate to a wide age range of readers.

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About the Author

Kathrese McKee started life as a Systems Engineer at EDS, spent time in real estate, taught middle grade Reading and ESL in Texas, and settled down to blog and write speculative fiction for Young Adults.

As a teacher, she fell in love with books written for Teens and Young Adults. Her favorite books are “coming of age” stories about young people on the difficult road of self-discovery.

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