Review: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #2
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Reading Level: Middle Grade
Pages: 352
Source: Gifted
A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE!

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!
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Caution: this review will contain spoilers for the huge reveal at the end of book one because it's unavoidable and integral to the plot of book two. Read at your own risk.

Can I just begin by saying that Jennifer A. Nielsen will forever be among my favorite high fantasy authors? I think it easily explains why I was looking forward to this book so much. However, with that in mind, I have to say I was disappointed in the sense that this novel didn't live up to my expectations. I was so desperate for it after reading book one that I simply expected this one to blow me away too. And while I greatly enjoyed it and can say it definitely wowed me, it was not on the same level as book one. I'm also really happy to report that this book does not suffer from sequel syndrome.

I think that I initially struggled with this book because I didn't like Jaron. He's not the snarky boy we met in book two. He's a royal now and he's incredibly bossy and inconsiderate. He was always inconsiderate, but he held his best friends close. In the beginning of this novel he was incredibly judgmental. While many of his suspicions proved to be true throughout the novel, I hated the lack of old Jaron. Luckily, he emerged later in the novel and made it all the more enjoyable. The second half of the novel was better because of Jaron's lovely attitude and snarkiness returning, as well as the fact that the plot picked up because of his new journey to save his country, Carthya. The beginning of the novel was spent meeting the people in his court and adjusting to his new life, so it seemed extremely slow to me in comparison to what I've become accustomed to expecting from Jennifer A. Nielsen.

The plot of this book mainly focuses on war. Carthya has only a single ally and more than enough enemies. And then there's Jaron who seems to have the entire world against him, including most of his advisers and his subjects in his kingdom. Yet, for some highly respectable reason, he goes to great extremes and risks his life and health once more in order to protect his kingdom and its people despite the fact that they don't respect him. I really loved this part of the book. But, as one would assume, with a book that focuses on a war that's brewing there's a lot of politics involved and that is what made the beginning so slow. Once we left the world of politics behind and entered the adventurous part of this novel, I couldn't put it down. And while politics played a large part of the overall underlying plot, I just don't like when such a thing is shoved in my face.

There was great character development in this one. I won't be naming any names but people from Jaron's past return in compeltely unexpected ways that had me flipping pages at lightning fast speed. And then there's Amarinda--Jaron's future wife in order to seal the alliance with her country. I also greatly enjoyed Harlowe and Kerwyn because it was nice to see two adults who never wavered in faith and did not judge the way that many true authority figures do in young adult literature these days. While Mott was undoubtedly the most loyal friend I've ever seen, he's not an elder individual that holds true power. With that being said, I love Mott as always despite the fact that he was more prominent in the first half of the book instead of the preferred second half.

This middle grade novel is meant for an older crowd that prefers action sequences and tricky scheming. It has very small underlying romantic themes, but they rarely appear and are not in your face. While they're an interesting plot point, they're not huge contributors to the overall storyline and I greatly enjoyed that. I know, surprising from a romance lover.

This book is perfect for anyone of any age and should not be judged by its higher middle grade marketing level. It has me eagerly anticipating the final book in this trilogy after its ending because I know that Nielsen has only just begun taking us on a fantastic ride.

4 stars

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  1. I didn't read the review since I'm planning on reading the first book and didn't want to run into spoilers. But I'm glad you liked it!! This series looks great. While I don't read MG often, I'm definitely going to pick up The False Prince.

  2. I know my comments are usually better than what this one will be, but all that I can think to say is this: I really, REALLY need to read this series, and in a hurry! Thank you for your awesome review!

  3. I need to read this asap. Krista is so not reading the first book in the series before me. I actually got the first book because I read your review of The False Prince. As far as fantasies go, I think we like similar ones :)