review: the false princess by eilis o'neal

Author: Eilis O'Neal
Publication Date: 01/25/2011
Publisher: EgmontUSA 
Pages: 323
Source: Library

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. (goodreads)
Full disclosure: I only took the first paragraph of the goodreads synopsis. You can read the entire thing by clicking on the above link.

This was one of those books that I would have loved knowing even less about going in than I was given. When I sat down to read it I felt that the flap had given me too much information and although it didn't stop me from really enjoying this book it's the reason for not providing the full synopsis and will be a reason for a slightly more general review rather than touching on specifics as I like to.

I love a good high fantasy novel. The thing about fantasy is that it's not as far-fetched a reality as paranormal or even potentially dystopian YA might be. There was a period of time where kingdoms and princesses, taverns and court politics were reality. The familiarity of it makes it easy to slip into and the world building and storytelling make it unique. Within the first couple pages Naila finds out that she's indeed Sinda, not a princess at all, and has to leave. To be honest, I was wondering for a page or so what else could happen now that Sinda wasn't a princess - but her story was only beginning at that point.

After Naila became Sinda she was at a complete loss: she didn't know who or what Sinda was supposed to be. All she knew how to be was a slightly clumsy princess. (Note: I feel like lots of female characters are clumsy lately? Is it just me?) Her growth was the best part of the book. Once Sinda stopped trying to be Sinda-As-Princess-Naila she started to figure out how she could define herself by herself rather than using a set of pre-defined terms. One of the reasons I really enjoyed her is that as a reader I could clearly see her progress from the beginning to the end. At times I was frustrated with her but that's natural with anyone and I could see her learning from those moments to really step into her own and they in no way made me like her less.

Sinda was able to cultivate meaningful relationships with others despite her misgivings with herself, and her continuing friendship with Keirnan was really honest and their evolution was well paced. When a relationship goes too fast it doesn't seem that believable to me but this was slow and realistic. And even though the characters were fabulous and their progress stole the show there's a big underlying mystery that kept me guessing until the last few chapters. The book ended in a perfect place - no crazy cliffhanger or frustrating 'what if'. This book is not a part of a series and stands well on its own.

I feel as if it were hard to put my enjoyment of this book properly into words but I encourage you to read it. If you like fantasy, a good mystery and well-developed characters then I think this could be a book for you. If you have any questions I'd love to answer and clarify for you. If you've read The False Princess I'd love to read your review or know what you thought. A great debut and I'm curious to see where else O'Neal goes with her writing.

2 comments on "review: the false princess by eilis o'neal"

Jenny wrote: Wed May 25, 04:00:00 PM

I've wondered about this one. Now I'll have to check it out. I'm just glad it's not a series, everything is a series!

kaye (paper reader) wrote: Thu May 26, 11:52:00 PM

That's the first thing I thought too - NOT A SERIES. Okay, so, truthfully, I love a good series. However, I am incredibly impatient in waiting for a story to be completed so having a good stand alone book is just what fairy? ordered.

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