May 27, 2015

The Runaway King (Ascendance Trilogy 2)

The Runaway King Cover

by Jennifer A. Nielson
book review rating 4 out of 5

IN THE SHOCKING final revelation of The False Prince, Sage reveals that he is the rightful heir to the throne of Carthya – Prince Jaron Artolius Eckbert III. In a strategic and impossibly difficult decision that no parent should ever have to make, the late King Eckbert secretly hid Jaron away in the neighboring country of Avenia where he would remain safe until the day arrives when Carthya calls for his return. That day has come…

The Runaway King, Jennifer Nielson’s second installment in The Ascendance Trilogy, continues Jaron’s story without falling into the second book syndrome where the story slows dangerously toward boredom as it sets up for the final installment. Quite the contrary, The Runaway King stands up as an exceptional page-turner on its own.

Newly crowned, Jaron feels the insurmountable pressure of kingship. He narrowly misses an assassination attempt on his life, struggles to hold on to his reign as regents vote for a steward, and desperately tries to prevent war with King Vargan of Avenia. Above all, Jaron must confront his greatest threat – pirate King Devlin. To do so, he reprises his former identity as the orphan Sage to travel to the pirate stronghold. With the help of Fink, a mischievous waif, he infiltrates the ranks of the enemy pirates. Once inside, Jaron begins a soaring rollercoaster ride ending with a cliffhanger of a new danger.

Beneath all the action, an excitement of a different sort also comes to fruition when new characters are introduced, and current ones become even more entangled. In The False Prince, it was absolutely heartbreaking that Jaron accepted the request of his father, without argument, to continue the fraud of his demise. At the age of 9, he was kept away from the castle to endure hardships in an orphanage, privately longing for his father at a distance, yet determined never to speak to him again. Ms. Nielson heals some of that heartache by introducing the kind Master Harlowe, who provides the paternal love missing in Jaron’s life and the moral compass to remain true to himself in the face of adversity.

There is also a delicious hint of a love triangle. Imogen, the mute kitchen maid, turns out to be not so quiet after all. She understands Jaron in a way no other’s do, and easily matches his intellect. Unbeknownst to them, their sacrifice to see the other person safely out of the pirate camp subtly blossoms into a sweet, if forbidden, romance. This begins a new conflict of the heart because Jaron is betrothed to Imogen’s dear friend – the beautiful Princess Amarinda.

This story would not be complete without the amazing dialogues. Descriptions be warned: You may be gleamed over. Words are exchange like a master chess player to provoke, entice, and trap. Like a brilliant chess player herself, Ms. Nielson skillfully delivers an exciting story to conclude with an introduction of an unexpected new threat! Oh, I’m blissfully checkmated.

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