This is a two-part review. I’m reviewing the book and how I read it. McLuhan would be proud.
This week I dove into something I’ve never done on my own: an audiobook.
Now, that’s not to say I haven’t listened to audiobooks before. I’m sure as a child, there were some, though I couldn’t tell you what many were. I remember vaguely Hank the Cowdog.
There was also a road trip when I was in middle school where my grandparents had some sort-of romance book that seemed a bit weird for a kid my age to be listening to.
I remember the booklets of cassettes (and before CDs, we’re talking about a good chunk of space. But I don’t remember what the books were because they had a serious disadvantage compared to a good old-fashioned book: They require electricity. They were less mobile because of it (an entire book compared to a booklet of cassettes and Walkman). They required batteries or a stereo that could be plugged in. And books on tape are expensive (and still are, typically). As such, books were the only option I truly considered.
But technology is what it is. I don’t travel with books so much any more. I use my Kindle app to keep a book with me at all times. And what do you know? You can do audiobooks on phones too, though they take up an obscene amount of space.
“But Q, they’re still fairly expensive?” you ask. Ah, but there are always work-arounds. In this case, a book by one of my favorite authors (Looking at you, Maggie Stiefvater) was available, and I was interested in hearing the actor read the Raven Boys (Looking at you, Will Patton), so I downloaded audiobooks.com. Once there, I came across another book that was free, The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I had no idea what to expect except that there was probably going to be a false prince.
Much like podcasts, audiobooks turn out to be a really good way to kill time getting from point A to point B. Time flies faster than listening to music (and I listen to music all day at work, so I don’t run short on that time). I listened as I walked into and out of work. I listened during the commute. And I definitely listened on the highway. The only time that didn’t really work was when I was at home. I could listen if I was doing chores, but just sitting and listening didn’t work, unlike reading a regular book. I went through an 8-hour book in less than a week. At $15 a pop for a regular subscription, audiobooks won’t work for the most part, but I’ll keep an eye out for free options. Otherwise, it seems fine for books I’m not overly interested in reading, providing the narrator is good.
But let’s get to the book.
The False Prince
(Mostly) spoiler-free description: After the youngest prince died a few years earlier, the remaining royal family is poisoned, leaving the kingdom of Carthya poised to dissolve into civil war. To circumvent this, Regent Connor finds a trio of orphaned boys who bear a resemblance to the deceased younger prince, Jaron, in the hopes of passing one of them off as the real deal to claim the throne (a false prince, if you will; but if you think about it, if the plan works, he automatically becomes king, so the title doesn’t actually work). Our narrator, Sage, is a rapscallion with a heart of gold who’s obviously going to save the day somehow (it’s a book for teens, so you have to know he saves the day; there aren’t many anti-heroes aimed at middle schoolers).
I gave it 3 of 5 stars on Goodreads. I don’t know what it would have gotten had I read it instead of listening to it, but that’s where we’re at. I wouldn’t have read it as a book, so at least a positive(ish) review is something. It’s a first-person narrative, and in the interest of keeping things interesting, we don’t actually follow Sage the whole time. We have unexplained time gaps that get explained in retrospect so we don’t actually know the twist that’s coming. It’s not awful, but it does feel a bit lazy (that said, the same basic thing was employed in Gone Girl, so I guess I can’t really say much). If you’re looking for a middle-school reader, this isn’t a bad go.
So, of course, Sage saves the day by subverting Connor’s plan. Turns out, Connor had Jaron killed and then killed the remaining family members 5 years later. But it turns out Sage is Jaron. Jaron had bailed on the ship before the pirates Connor hired got there and was living as an orphan who just happened to get picked up for this devious plan. As the real prince, he had enough background knowledge to be able to succeed at the end without Connor’s help, and all without killing anyone (well, he killed one someone, but it was for a good cause).
I don’t know if I’ll read the rest of the series. I don’t feel any real interest to at the moment, but maybe I’ll want to kill a long road trip, and I don’t like the idea of switching between books and audiobooks for the same series. Either way, back to my normal reading habits after this. Probably.
Stay frosty, friends.