Publication Date: January 25, 2011
Magic, princesses, hidden identities, wizards, conspiracies, figuring out who you really are - The False Princess packs a lot of topics into a fantastic story.
Nalia, the royal princess of Thorvaldor, spent her time at court studying or with her best friend Kiernan. Just after her 16th birthday, Nalia learns that she isn’t the princess - she was just filling in for the real princess. A prophecy stated that the princess would die before she turned sixteen. The true princess had been hidden away and now that the prophecy has been proven wrong, she can be brought back to court.
Now Nalia is Sinda - daughter of a weaver from the small village of Treb. She goes off to the country to live with her aunt. But, living in the small country village, Sinda proves inept at the most simple tasks. Soon she learns that she has magic and goes back to the city to try to get into the Wizard’s College. Once back in Vivaskari, Sinda finds herself in the middle of palace intrigue and much more.
I love reading fantasy when the world building is spot on and the characters feel like real people despite their fantastical abilities. The False Princess had both of these elements. Ms. O’Neal does a fantastic job with the world building. The difference between Vivaskari and Treb was tremendous, but both locales felt real and I could picture them clearly. My only (very tiny) complaint is the lack of a map of Thorvaldor, especially since Sinda travels quite a bit, it would have been nice to see exactly where each place was in relation to each other.
The secondary characters were a lot of fun to read - especially Kiernan and Philanthia. Kiernan was one of the only people who welcomed Sinda back to Vivaskari. And no matter how Sinda treated him, he always stood by her side. Kiernan wasn’t a push over, he simple believed in Sinda more than she believed in herself. Their relationship was a grounding force for both of them, and I really enjoyed watching it evolve throughout the book. Philanthia, the unorthodox teacher and source of wisdom, was one of my favorite characters. There was always another layer to her - more for the reader to learn about her. Even Sinda continued to uncover more and more about Philanthia as situations came up where she needed advice. The rapport the two of them built was fun to read.
The situation Sinda finds herself in could have been one note, a “woe is me, what should I do” story. Instead there is a great twist that allowed her to really shine and save a country while discovering who she really was - more than a simple country girl easily cast aside by the people she thought were her family. Sinda has become one of my favorite heroines. I love her journey and her realization that she can be the hero.