The Shadow Throne is written by Jennifer A. Nielsen. It was published in 2014 by Scholastic. It is the third and final book in the Ascendant Trilogy. My review of the first two books can be found here and here, respectively. Nielsen’s website can be found here.
“War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.
His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighboring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?”
This review will contain spoilers. Skip the “What I Didn’t Like” section if you want to remain unspoiled as to one of the plot reveals.
What I Liked:
I enjoyed the fact that Nielsen continued the “I’m not telling you everything” first-person POV that was so prominent in The False Prince. It’s not something you see every day, so it makes for an interesting and memorable read.
I liked the theme of sacrifice and the lessons that Jaron learned during the war. He’s definitely grown from that distrusting thief of the first book. He’s also quite witty and intelligent (most of his dialogue is just him shooting zingers at people), and seems to have a knack for setting things up twenty moves in advance. He’s a Plucky Boy Hero, but a capable one (as opposed to most, who stumble through situations because of luck and their own outrageous behavior).
So…there was no problem at all with Jaron and Imogen getting married despite the difference in social class? Granted, Jaron wouldn’t be the type to take “No” for an answer and would form a law or something that would allow him to marry her. Anyway, it was a cute romance. Also very understated and much less central than most YA romances, which is nice.
What I Didn’t Like:
I said above that I liked the POV, but at the beginning I wasn’t so fond of it. I thought it was frustrating and allowed an excuse for a lack of description. But the end was pretty cool, so I mostly got over it. Mostly.
I would like to know if anyone was surprised to find that Imogen was not dead, after all. The minute she “died” I knew, “Yeah, she’s not dead.” I didn’t believe that Nielsen would kill off her main character’s love interest, and so of course I ardently hoped that just this once, yes, she would be actually dead. Alas. It would been interesting to see Jaron move on without her.
Wait, Connor, what? What did you just do? Why? Did I miss something in an earlier book, or was this a recent development?
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Warnings: War, violence/fighting.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
“I need to smile. Tell me something not awful.”
“There might never be a better time.”
“Okay.” He grinned as a story came to his mind. “The first two days after we began walking back to Carthya, after hearing of your death, both Amarinda and I were miserable.”
I arched an eyebrow. “This is the worst good story I’ve ever heard.”
“Hush. It’s coming.” Tobias’s eyes glazed as he was transported to that day. “Amarinda barely spoke a word for all that time, and I had no idea what I might say to her. It rained that night, and she and I were forced to take shelter beneath some thick underbrush. It was cold and so dark we could barely see our own fingers, and the night seemed to last forever.”
“I’m beginning to wonder if you understand what ‘not awful’ means,” I muttered.
“Will doubt be our enemy now?” I asked them. “Because doubt will defeat us far quicker than any army could. No plan is perfect, but that’s no reason to give up. Unless someone has a better option, then we will go forward as planned.” And hope against reason that I was not leading my men to their deaths.
One of my lieutenants leaned forward. “My king, we will follow you to the end. But we’ve seen their numbers. By my guess, we’re outnumbered as much as five to one.”
I sat back in my chair and smiled. ”Only five to one? We might consider sending home half our army, then, so as not to intimidate them.”
The Shadow Throne is a good end to the Ascendant Trilogy. Jaron shows his intelligence and his ability to be a good king to the uttermost and in some rather cool ways. There’s a lack of description that I found frustrating and a “twist” that was too obvious to be surprising, but overall, a satisfying conclusion.
You can buy this here: The Shadow Throne: Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy