The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy #2)FeaturedHot
Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?
The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!
I was a little worried about where this book was going when Imogen left the storyline. I always loved the connection between her and Sage and was disappointed to see her disappear so early. But have faith ladies and gentlemen, she re-emerges! The tension between these two characters adds an extra element to the storyline without delving into the romance sphere. I enjoyed the fact that both of them are faced with a very difficult decision and that there is no easy way out.
In this novel, we also saw the expansion of some old characters and the addition of some interesting new ones. Jennifer Nielsen just doesn't do bland, one dimensional characters and each person that we meet, adds a little something special to the plot. Oftentimes, the characters that we might have overlooked or dismissed at first - turn out to be the most important in the end.
This author continues to astound with her ability to seamlessly weave details together to create a plot that is rich and full of surprises. Having many years of reading experience under my belt, it is often all to easy for me to notice the foreshadowing of what is to come. Things that seem obvious to me (I am discovering) my students have often overlooked - leading to them being surprised at the plot twist and me having figured it out from the 5th page. This is the one series where I can depend on my being just as surprised as my students. In both books, I have been taken aback by the way pieces that appeared to come from several different puzzles finally dropped into place to create one complete, and beautifully detailed, picture.
Yet again I need to commend Jennifer Nielsen for creating a series that contains enough danger and suspense to keep readers of all ages interested, but without approaching the issues of violence that would be inappropriate for a younger reader. Teachers and parents take note: THIS IS A BOOK THAT APPEALS TO BOTH GIRLS AND BOYS! Let's get those (sometimes reluctant) boys reading!
All the big players from TFP are back in some capacity, as friends and conspirators and spies and villains. Jaron is still the same dangerously cocky youth pulled from the streets, but with a big exception: he is now the king. And the fate of his kingdom rests on his shoulders.
As in TFP, Jaron's narration is the main driver of the story. If he was a girl, I'd say he's sassy. Actually, who cares. He's sassy. He is a swaggering, secretive, sassy boy with a savior complex and trust issues. He comes brimming with strengths and shortcomings, and a lot of the time, he is his own worst enemy. His convoluted plan probably does not need to be nearly as convoluted as it is, but since he's determined not to show his hand to anyone -- even those that could help him -- he sets himself up for difficulty. It can be frustrating, especially as other characters are telling him this is a fault and he's refusing to listen -- but at the same time, it's incredibly true to the character. Everything he does makes sense to him, and that's the most I can ask from any character in any story.
The supporting characters came and went throughout the story. Probably one of the most important was Imogen, his friend from TFP. Her moments are some of my favorites, as she is smart and strong, yet isn't afraid to use her perceived weakness as a female to her advantage. Her friendship with Jaron isn't fair and isn't balanced, and really, he doesn't deserve her. Yet she's there anyway, and he appreciates her for it, in his own way.
The action is plentiful, and there's never that long of a break between tussles and sword fights. Jennifer Nielsen's depiction of the action is vivid and allowed me to play the fights out in my head like a movie, which isn't easy. I did find a couple of the scenes toward the end a bit far-fetched, but I'm willing to suspend my disbelief a bit. The things Jaron does are not impossible -- I don't think -- just improbable. I can deal with improbable.
There's only one character motivation head-scratcher moment, and it's toward the end. A character switches sides, and it seemed a little too easy. It wasn't nearly as large a twist as the first book in the series, but it was still unexpected, and I'm not sure it was foreshadowed sufficiently. It's a fine line to walk, revealing enough details to make the twist believable, without tipping your hand. I feel like this book was almost there, but not quite.
However, those minor complaints aside, I still very much enjoyed this story. It's the kind of book and series I imagine would get kids -- boys and girls alike -- excited about reading. It's clever and funny and has enough action and heart to interest a wide variety of readers, with a fabulously well-developed protagonist and intelligent plotting. Whenever the conclusion to The Ascendance Trilogy hits shelves, you can bet I'll be at the front of the line.