The Runaway King is written by Jennifer A. Nielsen. It is the second book in the Ascendance Trilogy and the sequel to The False Prince, which I reviewed here. It was published in 2013 by Scholastic. Nielsen’s website can be found here.
Note: Will contain spoilers for The False Prince.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
“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 with Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it.
As his adventures lead him into dangerous new territory, Jaron must learn to tell his friends from his enemies and decide who he can trust—if he can trust anyone at all. 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?
I remained silent until Mott cleared his throat, prompting me to begin. I looked at him and said, “If I don’t turn myself over to the pirates in nine days, they’ll attack Carthya. They’ll fight until either I’m dead, or all of them are.”
“War,” Tobias mumbled.
“The regents have made it clear that they won’t support a war.” I took a slow breath. “They believe the best way to avoid war is to let the pirates have me. That’s why we’re here, and not where the regents wanted me to hide.”
“Just because they want a steward doesn’t mean they want you dead,” Mott said.
I started to object, but Agor shoved a piece of wood between my teeth and held it there as the man pressed the hot end onto my forearm.
I screamed as it seared my flesh and tried to pull away from it, but their hold was uncompromising. A second later he was finished and someone else immediately covered my arm with a cold rag.
They continued to hold me until I’d recovered enough strength not to pass out. I lifted the rag and stared at the imprint burned into my skin, an X constructed of a sea serpent angled to the northeast and a snake angled to the northwest. The symbol of a pirate’s ability to create terror on land or sea.
“Congratulations,” Devlin said, finally releasing my hand. “You belong to the pirates now.”
Warnings: Violence, death
Recommended Age Range: 14+
What I Liked:
I loved Jaron’s character development in this book. He did some really stupid things, but at least he finally started recognizing that they were stupid. He also learned that he needs to trust his friends. So, yeah, good development.
I liked how the Roden issue was resolved. It showed how much Jaron had learned from his past mistakes. I also liked how the whole pirate king thing wasn’t as straightforward and obvious as I thought it would be.
Aw, Imogen. You’re so cute. And so obviously the love interest, princess or no princess.
What I Didn’t Like:
Honestly, the only problem I had with this book was that it’s been a while since I’ve read the first one, so I didn’t remember the characters much or at all. It would be better to read these back-to-back rather than months apart as I did.
Also, it dragged a little in places.
The Runaway King is a good successor to The False Prince. It has some fantastic character development and a somewhat inevitable cliffhanger. I enjoyed the first one better, but this one is a decent fantasy. Too bad I’ll have to wait at least a year for the final book (and forget the characters all over again).
Coming Up Next: Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce