The kingdom of Carthya is in trouble. The royal family is dead, the neighboring kingdoms are starting to whittle away at its borders, and a civil war is brewing between nobles. To prevent chaos from descending upon Carthya, Conner, an unscrupulous nobleman, devises a desperate plan. What if the king's youngest son, who has been lost at sea, suddenly returns to save the kingdom and stop the invasion of its neighbors? All he needs is someone to act the part. Enter Sage, orphan, impertinent thief, and general pain in Conner's side. He is one of four boys chosen to be groomed to play the part of the lost prince. The only problem; there can only be one prince. Sage must prove his worth to Conner in this deadly charade.
The first book in the Ascendance Trilogy, this is a fantasy gem that doesn't rely on magic to tell a magical story. There is adventure, intrigue, humor, deception, loss, and even a little bit of romance. The characters, both primary and secondary, are well fleshed out in their reasons for doing things. The best part of the story, hands down, is the likeable and snarky hero, Sage. Fans of Megan Whalen Turners The Thief will see a lot of Gen in Sage, an engaging narrator whose sarcastic quips never quite tell the reader all that he is thinking. While the ending may be slightly predictable, the story has enough twists and turns to draw the reader in till the very last page. A YALSA Top Ten Read for 2013.