Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Book Review: The Runaway King (Jennifer A. Nielsen)

Note: Spoiler for the first book.

It’s been only a few short weeks since the orphan Sage revealed himself to be the missing Prince Jaron of Carthya. Jaron is now king, but that doesn’t mean anyone likes it. His regents are discontent with this new development, as Jaron doesn’t quite seem like king material. To make matters worse, the kingdom is being threatened, and Jaron can’t seem to rally his regents to back him up to fight and protect his kingdom. When the regents demand a steward in Jaron’s place, Jaron knows he needs to take matters into his own hands in order to stop Avenia and the pirates from destroying Carthya.

The Runaway King picks up shortly after The False Prince, and the conflict of the story begins within the first chapter. We learn the source of the conflict quickly, and it’s the start of Jaron’s goals. The plot is tense and engaging, with plenty of action and a liberal dose of Jaron’s witty sarcasm and saucy behavior. At the end when the action seems to be winding down, finally, for characters to breathe, they and readers are jerked onward by a sudden twist, enticing us into the third and final book.

Jaron is as sarcastic and saucy as he was in the first book. He tends to come across as a king who doesn’t seem to care about things as much as he ought, and his sarcasm and sass irritate more than they do amuse. But when it comes down to it, Jaron is a king who would do anything for his kingdom, even if it means dying for it. He assumes his street orphan name once more and joins the pirates, and even when things aren’t at all in his favor, Jaron refuses to run. He sees his plan through, even when even he admits it’s a really, really bad plan. And behind the sarcasm and the immense courage, Jaron is afraid. He hides it for the most part from everyone but his closest friends, but with a first-person POV we see that he is terrified at times. He even hates his plan, but as king he knows it’s something he must do in order to protect his people.

The villain, Devlin, is a good one. He doesn’t really stand out, but he’s ruthless and rough. He shows a little bit of admiration for Jaron’s gutsy mouthing off. Another villain, Roden, stands out a little more. He’s after revenge, and he’ll even challenge the pirate king to get at Jaron himself. His own development later on is interesting, and while it did seem a little sudden, it still makes sense.

While this character wasn’t in the book very much, I still loved his scenes. Mott is the one person who could probably get away with scolding the king for being a stupid, incorrigible boy. He’s as loyal to Jaron as Jaron is loyal to his kingdom, but while he’s respectful, he doesn’t let that keep him from being straightforward and bold with his king. His and Jaron’s relationship is strong. Jaron lets himself open up with Mott, letting his friend see his fear and his moments of humbleness (one wouldn’t think of the word humble to describe this boy!). And in turn, Mott continually affirms his loyalty to Jaron, and offers him his advice and counsel (whether or not it’s taken).

Like in The False Prince, this fantasy story has no traces of magic. It is quite clearly set in another world, but it has no magic, no wizards or spells. The political intrigue and strategy takes the place of magic, which plays a role in the suspense and gives Jaron and the plot a time constraint. It’s an interesting approach to fantasy I haven’t read before, a world without magic, but at the same time it’s fascinating.

Violence/Gore: There is an assassination attempt on Jaron’s life. Jaron gets into a lot of rough fights, and he’s wounded more than once. A character breaks the leg of another. Characters are murdered but nothing is described in detail.

Profanity: Only referenced.

Sexual content: Jaron and Imogen make it appear as if they’re hiding in the bushes for romantic purposes while trying to escape the pirate camp. One serving girl at the pirate camp makes it sound as if Jaron had done something inappropriate with Imogen, who had warned the girl away from him.

Other: Liquor is consumed. Jaron steals from a man who gave him a place to sleep and eat. He also tells a few lies, usually to conceal his true identity.

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