Friday, May 9, 2014

Review: The Shadow Throne - Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #3
Genre: Young Adult, adventure
Published on February 25, 2014
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 336
Read From: 4.30.14 - 5.3.14

One war. Too many deadly battles. Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely? 
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?


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I LOOOVE the cover art! I have always loved the art for this series. It's shiny and simple and has pretty gold colors. This may be my favorite because it's gold on red, and I love that combination. But it's also one cover that takes some interpretation, since there is no physical key in this book. I realize it symbolizes a sort of "key to the kingdom" thing, but still - the one cover that took the most interpretation.

Characters: Jaron/Sage (sorry, but he will always be Sage to me) is, of course, still a wonderful protagonist who I absolutely love to follow around. He's snarky, he's smart, he's got an incredible amount of luck, and he never lets on to his enemies that things aren't going the way he planned. He's got confidence, the art of the bluff, and I just love characters who are so terrifically competent. I love seeing how much Sage has matured, too, from the boy he was in the last two. He's still quite into pranks and snark, but there is a definite maturity to him now. We get to glimpse what sort of man - what sort of king - he'll be in the future. I came to really like Amarinda in this one, too. I never disliked her; I was just worried that she would create a love triangle. But she really showed her strength and intelligence in this installment. While I will always like Imogen with her practicality and spunk, Amarinda may in fact be my favorite out of the two. And as always, Mott was just awesome. If I ever need a body guard, I want someone like Mott. Vargan, the principle villain, doesn't really make to any of my villains lists, other than he's realistic. And realism is always good. He's a conqueror; he has no interest in governing his lands fairly; he just wants to add on to his fortune.

The Romance: I loved the romance. It was done the way a love triangle (and I hesitate to call it an acutal love triangle) should be. [Major spoilers] Amarinda is love with Tobias, and it's eventually settled that Sage and Amarinda are quite fond of one another, but as brother and sister, and nothing more. [End spoiler] I loved it! I just loved how everything was resolved! It was perfect. I didn't hate anyone and it didn't many any of them look silly and flighty and undecided.

Plot: An all-out invasion of Carthya has begun, and Jaron/Sage is at his wit's end about what to do. He will not give into Vargan, but with so many neighboring kingdoms against him and a beaten home army, Jaron may have no choice. Then Imogen is kidnapped, and against his advisers' wishes, he goes after her. But Jaron has infamously good luck - and with a prayer to the saints, it will continue to hold. This was epic. It may not feel like it, because really, the whole invasion is rather short-lived (at least, it feels like it). But there are so many hair-raising moments when I actually wondered if Sage's luck would hold out this time. The Author has never had trouble putting Sage through a helluva time, but I seriously couldn't believe how brutal she was to him in this one! I am all for characters going to through trials and tribulations - and even sometimes being brought to the breaking point, if not pushed over it entirely. But it's never a fun process to read, however necessary it is to the plot. The Shadow Throne tore my heart out and did a merry little jig on top. I hated seeing Sage broken to the point where he couldn't even muster enough energy to be defiant. He didn't give in, but he wasn't openly stubborn, either. Jennifer A. Nielsen, you broke my heart into such tiny little fragments! It's not every Author who can do that! Oh my gosh, the feels this book gives you. Never mind the smashing plot that consists of even more twists and turns - and Sage not always letting the Reader in on what he's planning - let's just think about the feels!

Believability: No complaints. This Author has always been quite good about realistic injuries and the like. Sage wins a few battles with hairbrained ideas, against impossible odds, but history actually has a few moments like that. And he didn't win every time. In fact, Sage's army spends a lot of time losing.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. I love Sage's narration; he's funny, he's matter-of-fact, he's just great. A lot of people have complained in past books about how it doesn't make sense that the Reader would be kept in the dark about Sage's plans if we're in his head. Normally, I would agree. But Sage is also dramatic, and if you take it from the standpoint that Sage is telling - or writing - this story (which is, realistically, what a first-person narration would be), keeping his Readers in the dark makes sense. It's not quite so dramatic in this one as it was in The False Prince, though.

Content: None, other than lots of beating Sage up and slaughtering soldiers. But not like The Thickety. ;-)

Conclusion: I have to admit that I did suspect part of the twist - involving Imogen - though I seriously doubted whether or not the Author would do that. She killed and injured a lot of characters in this book; I didn't trust her to create a safety net for any of them. And that's why the twist worked. As for the big finale twist . . . . it came as a surprise. Sage had me going for quite a while. The Shadow Throne is the furthest thing from a disappointment. Sage withholding so much from his Readers is a bit of a suspense technique that sort of, just barely works, so I kind of have to fight with myself to ignore it has a rough point. But overall, I still loved this book, this entire trilogy, and I cannot wait to see what this author has planned next!

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-boy read, ten-and-up, great for fans of medieval-based worlds, snarky protagonists, battles, and awesomeness. ;-)

Others in The Ascendance Trilogy:
1)The False Prince
2)The Runaway King
3)The Shadow Throne


  1. Wasn't she just terrible to Sage in this one??? Oh my gosh. But yet, so so awesome. :) Glad you enjoyed it! I am soooo excited for her new series. Maybe even more excited than I am for sequels for other books I've already read haha ;P

    1. Oh my gosh, simply horrid! But very awesome, of course. :) I like Authors who are capable of doing what needs to be done to their characters, no matter how cruel. I'm excited for it, too!!!

    2. It always makes me feel better about trashing my own characters ;) I was also very happy to see a more mature Sage in this one. I almost wish we could see him as king. This is a series that, while I LOVED the way it ended, and I was very happy, I would also enjoy seeing it go on.

    3. I wouldn't be surprised if maybe she picks it up later when he's older. Or maybe does a "future generations" spin-off series? It's like with THE ARCHIVED: I would love to see a series when Mackenzie and Wesley make Crew together.

    4. That's exactly what I want too =) I'm really hoping she might advance the third book to a few years later.
      I would like to see a book with maybe Sage's children. I don't always like that ploy, unless it is a family saga series, but with these books I think it would turn out really cool.

    5. Sage a father . . . . Actually, I can picture him as being a really good one - oddly enough. For some reason, I always have a hard time imagining characters I knew as youths being parents.


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