Book Review: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Shadow ThroneThe Shadow Throne
The Ascendance Trilogy #3
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, February 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-28417-2
Hardcover

Oh how I’ve missed these colorful characters! Jaron’s wit sharpens with anger and whenever he and Roden are in the same country, Jaron fairly idles at anger. Admittedly though, his previous journeys seem to have smoothed out some of his rough edges and forced a bit of maturity. From the first leg of adventure when Jaron, Tobias and Roden were yanked from the orphanage in The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, Book I) , to Jaron’s capture by pirates in The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, Book II), this young man has had no choice but to learn quickly, fight hard and follow his heart in order to survive.

The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy, Book III) is quite simply, the quintessential conclusion. Still nursing a broken leg, courtesy of Roden, the young king has no time to focus on healing as his arrival home brings the news that his land of Carthya is targeted for immediate attack from three countries, each coming from a different direction. Compounding the horror, the very girl who captured Jaron’s heart has been taken hostage and is being held by one of the threatening countries. Clearly none of this is a coincidence, but with no time to consider the bigger plan, Jaron rapidly begins barking out orders, only to be reminded that he is no longer alone. Jaron had only recently learned the value of trusted friends. Always open-minded, but now quicker to be flexible, Jaron acknowledges that to conquer, they must divide.

True to nature, first implementations of his new kingly power were unprecedented and shocking. Releasing his betrothed Amarinda from their arranged vows to then declare her a princess of Carthya was unheard of. Knighting the charming chatterbox Fink was ridiculous. The boy couldn’t lift a sword with both hands.

When Jaron’s tiny group scattered, his enemy makes the ultimate move. With diabolical focus on the strength of friendship, love and loyalty; Jaron’s nemesis gleefully informs separated individuals immediately whenever a companion has been captured or killed. Details are not spared. Will the youngsters, so strong and cohesive together, find the strength and will to survive solely, in spite of the aching emptiness?

Ms. Nielsen impressively combines ferocious battles, brilliantly clever tricks and traps, quick thinking and scintillating dialogue with kindness, empathy and loyalty to end the attack on Carthya. In doing so, many mysteries meandering through the trilogy are resolved without a perceived need to answer each and every question ever raised along the way.

To me, Ms. Nielsen has a unique, uncanny ability to reveal more than generally meets the eye, without deliberately and emphatically lecturing. Immersed in her words, I’m wide open. I feel eager to take everything in, mull it over; carefully consider all facets and options. I’m far enough removed to view an entire picture, yet close enough to be totally vested. I’m highly entertained, amused and delighted. Simultaneously, impulsively…I’m reflective. Always, I’m hopeful and happy when visiting the world created by Ms. Nielsen.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2015.

Book Review: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Runaway KingThe Runaway King
The Ascendance Trilogy, Book Two
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, March 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-28415-8
Hardcover

Before the ink was dry on my glowing review of The False Prince, (the first in the Ascendance Trilogy), I was deep into The Runaway King.  This is the second book in the Ascendance Trilogy and it is absolutely everything that I hope for in a continuation.

We met King Jaron earlier, when he was Sage (aka Prince Jaron) hiding away in an orphanage.  He was stubborn, argumentative….a total wise-guy, but he had a pure heart.  Now, his identity established, Jaron will rule Carthya.  He only needs to survive the attempts on his life and thwart the pirate invasion to do so.

On the eve of his family’s funeral, Jaron learns that he has 10 days before the Avenian pirates, supported by King Vargan, wage war on Carthya.  His army simply cannot prepare to defend his country in such a short time.  His only choice is to stop the invasion.  Thus begins a suspenseful adventure, packed with action and intrigue.

While The Runaway King features thrilling sword fights, death-defying escape attempts and fool-hardy challenges, it also demonstrates strong-will, resolve and determination.  All along his journey, Jaron is forced to evaluate the few people close to him.  There are false loyalties, and they must be weeded out.  Friendship needs to be re-established with Roden, the ferocious, vendetta-seeking enemy consumed by his desire to destroy Jaron.  Above all, Jaron must protect those that have supported and assisted him along the way.

To me, Jaron is the ultimate character for a Middle-Grade book.  Outwardly, he appears flippant, arrogant and condescending.  He may truly possess and exhibit those characteristics, but they are not the ones that define the person he is.  Rather, the reader gets to know a determined young man that must pursue that which is right.  With a heart so pure and true, Jaron is driven to protect those he cares about and the country that he loves.  He is a fine example of a true hero.

The Runaway King was just released in March, so I have no idea how long I will need to wait for the conclusion; but I am confident that, however, long; it will be worth the wait.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2013.