Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A Nielsen [Discussion]

Hey, y'all! So, I just finished the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and since I marathoned the trilogy, I decided to do a single post devoted to discussing the trilogy.

For each book, I'll be doing a spoiler-free discussion, followed by the rating that I gave the book (A note though: these discussions WILL spoil the previous books in the series. To discuss book two, I have to talk about book 1, etc. So, if you haven't read book 1, don't read past the spoiler free discussion for book 1. I hope that made sense...). I'll then go into a spoilery discussion. Each of these discussions was written within 24 hours of finishing the book, and before moving on to the next one.

The False Prince

The False Prince centers around Sage, an orphan boy who is very clever, snarky, and a skilled thief. Sage is collected by Conner, a nobleman with a cunning plan. He needs an impersonator of the king's long lost son, and has recruited four orphan boys to compete for the role. But Sage will soon find out that things are much more complex than he originally thought. He must succeed... his life depends on it.

While I really enjoyed this book, I did have a couple problems with it. The biggest one was the twist. It didn't surprise me. I think there were some people who were surprised by it, but I just wasn't. When I heard that there was a twist, I thought "Oh I bet it's _______" and unfortunately, I was right. I was hoping the entire time that I was incorrect and that the book would surprise me, but it just didn't. And although it didn't hurt my overall reading experience, I was disappointed in it's predictability. That's not to say, however, that the book completely lacking surprises. There were definitely several smaller things which surprised me within the book.

The brightest spot for me was the main character, Sage. Sage is everything I love in a character. If I were to sort him in a Hogwarts house, he'd be a Slytherin. He's snarky, sarcastic, defiant, and proud, but he can back it up with his wit and cleverness. He can take care of himself and he's his own person and hates being ordered around. He's just super cool. 

I really appreciated the cleverness of the world building, The lessons are used both to teach the boys information that the prince should know, and to give us information about the world that the boys are living in. I also really enjoyed the plot. The book is about 350 pages, and there was never a dull moment. Sure, the entire book wasn't super fast-paced and crazy, but I was never bored and I never felt like the book dragged at all. And the last quarter of the book was just really epic, exciting, and fast-paced. 

Overall, I thought that this was a really great book. I ended up giving it 8.5 stars out of 10. (Which is 4/5 on Goodreads)

So there's really not much else to talk about except the plot twist itself. Honestly, when I heard that there was this major plot twist, I immediately thought "I bet the main character is actually the lost prince, pretending to be an orphan for whatever reason." and the entire book, I kept hoping that there would be some other twist and that I would be wrong for once (not trying to brag, this just happens an annoying number of times) but alas, I wasn't wrong. 

What did surprise me, however, was when Latimer was killed. That was the first really exciting thing that happened in the book, and it definitely did a great job of reeling me in. I also really enjoyed the little secrets that Sage keeps, such as the "gold" rock and actually being the one to steal the sword.

I think the last fourth of the book was definitely my favorite. Tobias attacks Sage, the boys have to hide in the tunnels, and then of course all the stuff that goes down once Sage actually gets to the castle. 

Since I'm writing this before continuing on to book 2, here are some things I hope to see going into the next book:
- As much as I like the name Jaron, I really hope that we get to continue to call him Sage. I don't think it's going to happen, but I'm going to continue to hope. I guess I'll find out soon enough.
- I really, really hope that a love triangle doesn't develop between the betrothed princess, Sage/Jaron, and Imogen. We just really don't need that. Imogen's the best. End of story.

The Runaway King

Book 2 opens with a bang as an assassination attempt stirs up trouble. War is coming, and the pressure is building. Jaron soon realizes that to save his kingdom, he might have to desert it. 

This book... there were points where I couldn't even deal with this book. It was so good. Like, I went into this series expecting to be blown away by book one because of all of the rave reviews, but The Runaway King is the clear star of this show (so far-- The Shadow Throne might impress me even more, who knows?!). The Runaway King was so fast-paced and action packed, and actually surprised me a lot more than The False Prince did! While there wasn't one big twist, there were so many twists and turns that kept me guessing the entire way through, and I was incredibly impressed. 

Also, I would just like to emphasize how much I love Jaron. Like, I'm willing to say right now that he is my favorite main character that I've ever read. Granted, main characters are almost never my favorite characters in their books/series, but Jaron is far and away my favorite character in this series. He's just too freakin' awesome. He's snarky and sarcastic and UGH he's great.

I enjoy The False Prince and The Runaway King for very different reasons, because even though they both have the same mood/feel/vibe, they are very different books. The False Prince is slower, but mysterious and intriguing, and I really enjoy when books are like that. However, The Runaway King is pure adventure. It's fast-paced and exciting, with thievery and pirates galore. I think that if I had actually been surprised by the twist in book 1, I might have rated it higher, because slow, intriguing, mysterious books with world-building are my fave. But since I wasn't surprised, I wasn't as impressed, and ended up enjoying The Runaway King more.

Overall, I really loved this book. This was super exciting and I enjoyed almost every second of it. I gave it 9.5 stars out of 10. (Which is 5/5 on Goodreads)

There were several times that I almost had to laugh out loud at this book. Jaron would get himself into a situation that seemed impossible to get out of and I would be like "Well how exactly do you expect to get yourself this terrible situation this time, Jaron? You're chained up in a cell perched over a cliff, and your leg is broken. I think you're officially stuck." And then what happens? Oh, he just casually climbs out the window and scales the cliff with his one good leg and then challenges the pirate king to a duel and wins. I mean, go you, Jaron. For real, he's just too dang epic!

I have to say, this book surprised me a lot more than The False Prince, even though I had expected the opposite. I did not see the Gregor thing coming. I got really annoyed with him and was sick of him trying to get someone to reign instead of Jaron, but I didn't think that he had betrayed the King by helping Conner. I was also really surprised that Jaron convinced Roden to come over to his side. I thought that there was absolutely no chance of it, but clearly he realized that he was being stupid.

Also, I am really annoyed at the love triangle thing, but I get why it is happening. Because clearly Imogen is the right girl for Jaron (RIGHT?! They have to end up together. PLZ, Jennifer Nielsen, let them end up together) but he has to be friendly with the Princess that he is betrothed to (who isn't terrible in the slightest, but Imogen.). And I'm not sure how this is going to turn out, because Nielsen clearly wants us to like Imogen and root for her to end up with Jaron, but it seems pretty unlikely and impossible at this point. The only redeeming thing about this love triangle is that it doesn't play an extremely prominent role. Yes, Jaron is constantly worried about Imogen, but that's just it... he's worried about Imogen. They're friends, and he's concerned about her and barely thinks about the princess. It isn't even until the end that romantic feelings are brought up, and even then, it's between Imogen and Jaron, but not Jaron and the Princess. Jaron and the Princess agree that they're friends

I know I'm being pushy here, but I'd rather just see a story where Imogen and Jaron really care about each other, but struggle to be together because of the war, the troubles they're going through, and they come from different classes. That would be so much better than a love triangle, even if they didn't end up together in the end. (and for the record, my ideal scenarios go: end up with Imogen = doesn't end up with anyone > ending up with the Princess. AKA, I like both of the first scenarios equally and am not a fan of the last one.)

The Shadow Throne

The Shadow Throne opens just as war is about to break out in Carthya. King Vargan has kidnapped Imogen, and Jaron embarks upon the journey to save everything that is most important to him. 

I thought that the conclusion to this trilogy was overall beautiful and emotional. There were several moments where I found tears falling from my eyes at moments of both despair and of joy. The Shadow Throne was an emotional roller coaster for me, going from wanting to throw the book, to wanting to hug it, to being down-right confused about what Jaron was doing. 

As wonderful as this conclusion was, however, it was not without its faults. Or rather, singular fault. As I said in the spoilery discussion of The Runaway King, there were several moments throughout this trilogy where I sat and thought, "Well how exactly do you expect to get yourself this terrible situation this time, Jaron?" and then he managed to come up with this crazy scheme that ended up working. And for the first two books, I really loved this, and I loved seeing him succeed in them because it was always so epic when he did. However, in this one it wasn't really like that some of the time. 

There were a couple times when I had to kind of suspend my disbelief. Some things were a little too coincidental for them to be perfectly planned out, and sometimes I just couldn't bring myself to believe that he had come up with that plan for the scenario he was in. It wasn't an overwhelming sense of "this is stupid," but rather a slight "meh, not sure if that's really that logical," and it didn't detract from my overall opinion about the book.

The Shadow Throne was also slightly less surprising than The Runaway King. There were a couple twists that were unsurprising, but there were also several things that I didn't see coming. 

Overall, I thought that this was an epic conclusion to the trilogy and ended up giving it 9 stars out of 10. 

So, as I was saying with the "suspending my disbelief" part of my discussion, I thought that there were a few plans that were a bit too coincidental. And I wanted one of Jaron's plans to epically fail at least once. But somehow, he managed to succeed constantly, and that bothered me. It was a little too neat and tidy. Everything wrapped up very nicely, but a little too nicely. 

Also, I wasn't surprised in the least bit when we found out Imogen was still alive. Honestly, I was waiting for it. I was acutely aware that there was still a chance she was actually dead, but unless the main character actually like sees the corpse/feels the pulse/ there's a funeral or something, I don't believe that they're actually dead. Like there was a book that I read last year (no spoilers!) where character #1 claimed that she killed character #2 and I was completely convinced that character #2 was going to pop up later in the book and not actually be dead. He/She didn't, so he/she is probably dead. However, I still think that there is a possibility that he/she is not dead. We shall see. Anyway, back to the point. I expected Imogen to pop up again, because it just wouldn't be a happy enough ending for Jaron if she was actually dead. Plus, this is a middle grade series that isn't very dark, so it would have felt very out of character for this book to suddenly get really dark and have one of the main characters die.  

So, that's all I have for my discussion about The Ascendance Trilogy! I hope that if you've made it this far in the post, you've actually read the trilogy (please don't read spoilers before you read the books!!!), so let me know down in the comments what you thought about the trilogy! Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

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