Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 319
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

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.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.


We're on the road to nowhere

The story starts off quickly enough with Sinda having the news of her non-princess status broken to her in the very first chapter. This is good. 

What wasn't so good was the 100 page digression that happened next. As if that weren't frustrating enough, this is a digression of suck. I don't mean to say that it wasn't well written, because it was (the whole book is), but rather that this period in Sinda's life sucks. 

And you guys know me, right? I like happy sparkly things, not dreary sucky things.

Sinda takes about 100 pages to wallow in the facts that she's useless when it comes to non-royal tasks, she has no friends in the village, and even her aunt doesn't like her all that much. Oh, and she learns she's a pushover who does nothing but meekly sit back and take whatever life throws at her without making a peep. Yay.

Sure, this is an important lesson and is the impetus for the whole rest of the book. But Sinda learning this lesson is the sole point of the 100 page Detour to Sucksville and I can't help but pout over the fact that this section was so long and dreary and all for just that tiny, little lesson. 

The gigantic chapters didn't help make this section go by any faster, either.   

Oh there you are, Good Book!

If you're like me and the word "impatient" is an understatement when describing you, then please try to push through that beginning. Because after all the Blah, Blah, Blah of the first part, there's actually a really awesome story here. 

After Sinda's disastrous time with her aunt, she decides to go back to the village by the castle and see if she can get accepted into the college of wizards. This is when the story gets better. 

I loved every single character introduced from this point on, particularly Sinda's eccentric tutor (a lady wizard! We hardly ever see lady wizards!), Kiernan (love interest, we do meet him earlier), and Orianne (princess that replaces Sinda). 

They each had such sweet personalities, though I wish they were a little deeper than they were. Orianne and the lady wizard were such intriguing characters, yet I feel like I only scratched the surface of getting to know them. 

The romance was also of the type I prefer. No, there wasn't any hate turned love, but it was a slow burn. There's no insta-love, broody stranger, or love triangles in sight! It's just a sweet, slow realization between two people who have been friends all their life. Kiernan's loyalty and devotion to Sinda was the kind of sweetness that makes me want to clasp my hands to my chest, sigh, and let out a big AAAWWW.

The plot made me happy

Usually it's the characters that keep me reading, and while I did like these characters, what really kept me hooked in the story was the mystery. Most of this latter part of the book is spent with Sinda and Kiernan as they search for all of the clues to piece together a plot that is over a decade in the making. 

Eilis O'Neal wove such a fantastic story with all sorts of twists and turns. Do you like courtly intrigue? Vengeance? Prophecies? Dastardly plots? Murder? Oh boy, then are you in for a treat!

What's even better is that I didn't ever feel like I had read this story before. Everything was so fresh and original while still comfortably slipping into the beloved and familiar world of YA fantasy. 

But wait, it gets better: NO CLIFFHANGER! Not only that, but there isn't even a sequel. Just this wonderful standalone story that wraps up perfectly and left me totally satisfied. (But if there was a sequel, I would totally read it.)

What I wish happened

If the 100 page detour in the beginning was completely cut out and those pages were instead used to flesh out the characters just a little more, then I would have Special Shelf-ed this book.

Looking at what the book actually is though, the characters were just a little too undeveloped and, well, you can see how hung up I am over that slow start. I also wasn't 100% in love with Sinda. She was a little too weak and filled with low self-confidence for my tastes, even after she learned her lessons.

This is a debut though, so I have no doubt things will only improve from here for Eilis O'Neal. I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for whatever she publishes next and I really hope it's another fantasy--the genre could use more authors like her. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The False Princess that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.


  1. I loved Brightly Woven, and I've heard quite a few good things about this one, so I'm planning on reading it eventually. It also doesn't hurt that I have a copy sitting on my shelf! lol. I'll make sure to push through the first 100 pages. Thanks for the warning!

  2. Definitely a problem that about a third of the book is a digression of suck; still I think I want to give this a try as I do adore books about princesses as well as sweet romances WITHOUT love triangles.

  3. good review. I'm glad you liked it enough for 3.5 stars. I started reading this...and enjoyed it...but then other stuff came up and I returned it to the library and haven't checked it back out yet. I will eventually... it just isn't calling to me.

    Plus, I read and LOVED LOVED LOVED dawn cook's the princess decoy and though these books are different, there is still some similarity and well....i really liked the decoy princess better.

    I'm totally with you on your e-reader comment on my net galley post. Netgalley arcs were so hard for me to get through when I just had to read them on my computer BUT!!!! then I one day discovered this free app for my iPod touch called bluefire. You download it, sign in with your adobe login and password and then using an internet browser to go to you are able to download the protected pdf files!!! It is utterly GENIUS and I have been getting through my net galley pile that much faster! Thank you BLUEFIRE!

  4. Great reivew :) I'll have to check this book out! Thanks!

    I'm having a giveaway on my blog for my sweet 16 if you want to enter! :D

  5. Natalie, Brightly Woven is one of my favorite books! Kiernan is no Wayland North (IMO), but The False Princess has a similar feel, I thought. Hope you like it!

    Bookwom1858, Yeah, it was a problem for me, but I have super low tolerances so other people might not be bothered as much as I was. It was very nice that there was NO love triangle in sight :)

    Scarlett, Oh good! I have Dawn Cook's books on my TBR! I'm happy to hear you liked her take on this storyline better. That Bluefire app sounds like a lifesaver! I wish I had a device to use it on :P

    Hayley, Thanks, and thanks for the heads up on your giveaway!

  6. Wow, 100 pgs of suckage? That's a lot to tolerate, Small! I don't know if I could handle that in pages. Is it worth while to skim those pages in order to get to the good parts? I'm wondering if I'll have a better shot at this book in audiobook format. Thanks for the heads up and warning!

  7. Sounds like a book with good potential. I agree that 100 pages would be frustrating. Patience is not my middle name either. Still intrigued about it.

  8. Thanks for the heads up, because I am impatient too, but I really want to read this book. Great review!

  9. I agree about the beginning, I kind of wish the pace had been faster on that one. But I kind of liked this story a bit more than you, maybe because I don't usually read these types of stories so I didn't have anything to compare it with, and it felt very fresh and sweet to me.

    Also, I loved the romance, it's the type I like too. And it's a stand alone, that rare breed we seldom see these days :D

    Awesome review.

  10. Sounds like a great books Small! Really great review! I missed your reviews!


  11. I really enjoyed this book and am so glad you finally got a chance to read it. Even better, you liked it!! <3 I so want more books from Eilis O'Neal, tooooooooooooo!!!

  12. Love the thorough review. I think this is one I might have to skip though.


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