Release: January 25th, 2010
Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.
Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks. But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.
Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.
Review: Magic? Check. Appeals to my love of fairy-taleish stories? Check. Great protagonist? Check. A dash of romance? Check. Awesome mystery? Double check. Need I say more?
But in case you do want more, I shall oblige. The False Princess starts off with a surprise that comes as a blow to Sinda - formally Nalia, the princess of Thorvaldor. Considering the circumstances she's in a bit of shock, but she takes it much better than most of us probably would. Her growth from this point to the very ending is one of the things that makes this novel special. Her life gets turned upside down, and yet she makes the most of it and changes gradually to become a character that I enjoyed reading about.
O'Neal expertly makes this story seem realistic and very vivid. From the small villages and their hardworking residents to the large cities with their bustling, busy scholars, O'Neal made everything come to life and jump off the pages - especially the magical aspect of the story. The supporting characters hold this novel together (I especially loved the villain - which is weird, I know). Almost all of the characters were unique and memorable, especially one that gets introduced later on. I don't think I've ever quite read a novel where I enjoyed almost all of the characters before, but I loved most of them in O'Neal's story.
The False Princess is a story that proves to be engaging, endearing, and truly magical from start to finish.
Highlights: Betrayal, magic, lies, engaging writing....How can you go wrong? O'Neal wrote this story wonderfully, it was impossible to set aside. There were twists and turns, and "no way!" moments. I never quite knew what to expect but I was not disappointed.
Lowlights: It would have been nice to see the romantic interest to have a bit more depth to his personality, but I did like how the relationship between them made sense (ie: it wasn't some random "I just met you two days ago and I'm instantly in love with you now" relationships, for which I am grateful).