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Also, take a look at the Guys Lit Wire blog for pics of happy high schoolers with new books.
The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen.
This is the sequel to last year’s amazing Cybils-award winning book The False Prince. It will therefore be hard to avoid spoilers, but I’ll do my best. Sage, now known by his real name, Jaron, is now king of Carthya. That hardly means that all is well. As the story opens, the kingdom is finally having the official memorial service for the rest of Jaron’s family, who were murdered before the start of the first book. Before he can get to the service, Jaron deals with an attempted assassination attempt by his former friend Roden, who’s now joined the infamous pirates. Immediately after that, there are some not-too-veiled threats from the king of neighboring Avenia, which would clearly like to annex Carthya. Even his official fiancée, Amarinda, doesn’t trust him. His best friend is Imogen, but even now, he can’t trust anyone enough to tell her what’s going on or why he feels compelled to push her away. Because of course his first reaction knowing that the country is in trouble and his advisors don’t trust him is run towards what he feels to be the source of the problem and try to solve it single-handedly. In this case, that means taking down the pirates.
I felt a little torn about this book. On the one hand, I had very strong feelings of “what in the world do you think you’re doing, you idiot?! Go ask for some help! And have some respect for your own life!” (He won’t, and he doesn’t.) There also can’t be quite the same level of double narrative going as there was with the first book. On the other hand, Jaron still isn’t going to share all his secrets with us, and he is a smart and resourceful person. He’s still got plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and Nielsen does a very good job of making things come out good enough without being perfect. If you haven’t read the first book, go read it first. If you have, this one is well worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of tricksy plots or pirates. I’d say this is aimed at older middle-grade students, with lots of appeal for teens and adults as well.