Book Review: The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal

13 Apr

Title: The False Princess

Author: Eilis O’Neal

Publication Date: January 25, 2011

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: EgmontUSA

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Summary (from Amazon): 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.

Review (caution, very limited spoilers): I was drawn to this book from the first time I read the description while standing in the aisle of my loca Barnes and Noble. The story of deception, of a girl who has believed she’s the princess only to learn all at once that it was a lie and she has to leave the only life she’s ever known drew me in and practically begged me to give it a chance.

This book had such a promising plot line, but the narrative style fell short. Sinda often disappears into her head for long rambling thoughts that close you off from the character’s and the world around her and don’t allow you to fully engage with her world. We’re left with mere glimpses and one sided development of other the other characters in the story which leaves you feeling that the story was not fully fleshed out. When you are introduced to the character of Mika, a girl who captures and engages the reader in a way that is far more satisfying than Sinda has ever managed, you find yourself a bit angry at the author for not giving this fascinating character more page time.

From the beginning I had sympathy for Sinda, but she frustrated me all the same. I could never understand how she simply allowed herself to be cast out, without protest, of the only home she ever knew, away from the parents she had loved since infancy and the one person she called friend. I wanted to see her fight and rage and call them on the absolute unfairness of it all (after all, she had every right to her anger), but she simply went meekly to the carriage and let them take her away. At that point it was as if she simply shut down and accepted that this was how it was.

While she came a bit more into herself once discovering magic she still felt far too hesitant to be the heroine that carried the story. Honestly, had Sinda not discovered the magic within her I think she would have simply melted sadly away into the pastoral life she lived with her Aunt and it felt like her magic was simply a way for the author to avoid that fate rather than a true gift given to her character.

If you’re looking for a book to satisfy you after you’ve read the likes of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling or Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games trilogy this wouldn’t be the next step. But if you’re looking for a fun and simple fantasy book to take you away for an afternoon this is worth checking out.

Have any of you read The False Princess? I’m curious to read your thoughts on the story!


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