The Runaway King is the sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's The False Prince — and the second book in the wildly popular Ascendance Trilogy. Aimed at readers ages 10-14, I've heard lots of great reviews, including positive feedback from teachers who read The False Prince with their class and due to the insistence of the students, ended up reading the entire trilogy! Kids love it. It's that good!
Summary: Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumours of a coming war have spread through the castle and Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?
I truly believe Nielsen proves her talent as a writer with this book. It topped The False Prince in every way. You can just feel Nielsen's love and belief in the story, and the result is a much more powerful and well-written book.
Jaron's adventures in The Runaway King are action-packed, extremely thrilling, and full of wit, daring, and danger. For most of the novel, readers will remain on their edge of their seats. Good luck to teachers sticking to a strict reading schedule. I had trouble setting this book down. I'd hate to face a classroom full of kids eager for more when Jaron is duelling pirates or rescuing friends from certain doom.
My only criticism is the same as what it was for The False Prince. I struggle a little with the believability of Jaron's resilience and abilities. I do realize that I am an adult reader and this fictional story requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. But sometimes, Jaron's survival, his ability to conquer his enemies, and his ability to escape any means of confinement borders on the ridiculous. Nevertheless, young readers will love the action and suspense. Jaron's character is incredibly stubborn, impulsive, and a little reckless, which makes him interesting and exciting.
The False Prince is great. The Runaway King is even better! Jennifer A. Nielsen belongs in the hall of fame of "medieval"/fantasy/adventure writers like George RR Martin and Christopher Paolini. The Runaway King will leave you breathless. Thank god I read it after the release of The Shadow Throne. I don't think I could have waited for the follow-up to this amazing middle grade novel!