The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Title: The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy #2)
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen (twitterwebsite)
Pub. Date: March 1, 2013
Source: Publisher (Thank you, Scholastic!!)
Summary: Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?
Genre: MG, Fantasy
Rating: star-half-64

I had arrived early for my own assassination.

With that, The Runaway King jumps right back into where The False Prince left off. Jaron is crowned king of Carthya and just a few weeks later the funeral for his family is held. However, even though it’s a somber affair, Jaron can’t let his guard down. War is looming between his country and the neighboring Avenia and the arrival of the Avenian King Vargan leaves Jaron cautious and alert.

An assassination attempt sets the wheels in motion: the regents believe Jaron is too young and reckless to fulfill his duties and begin discussing appointing a steward to take the throne until Jaron comes of age. Naturally the regents want the power for themselves and Jaron isn’t foolish. In order to stop the vote to remove him from the throne, Jaron must track down the pirates and face their king Devlin – the pirate who tried to murder him four years ago. In order to do so, Jaron once again adopts the name Sage and leaves the comfort of his castle for the harsh forests of Avenia and Tarblade Bay.

As much as it pains me to admit it, The Runaway King is a prime example of Second Book Syndrome. I gushed over The False Prince and wrote what amounted to a love letter for a review. I couldn’t believe my luck when Scholastic sent me an ARC for the follow up and couldn’t wait to dive right in. Unfortunately, while it was a decent book on its own, The Runaway King is no match for its predecessor.

Hurt – that was the effect I seemed to have on those closest to me. Maybe what I’d done over the past several days had been necessary for Carthya, but there was always a price for my actions. This time, it had cost me the dearest friendship I had.

Jaron (you beautiful, lovely boy) returns, but it feels as though he’s a completely different person. Whereas he was rude and obnoxious and snarky in The False Prince (WITH REASON!), I just didn’t get that in The Runaway King. Yes, he was rude and obnoxious, but this time he was mean for the sake of being mean and more often than not, his actions were towards characters who didn’t deserve it. A father figure is introduced and how does Jaron repay him? By robbing him blind and leading a band of thieves to his manor. Poor Imogen was dismissed from the castle without so much as a goodbye or an answer to her myriad questions.

I couldn’t believe that Jaron could change so much in the three weeks between the first book and this one. Jaron was right: hurt was the effect he had on people. I know I certainly was upset he was no longer the clever, witty boy I had grown to love.

The Runaway King introduces new characters and I met them with mixed feelings. Fink hovered on the brink of intolerable the entire time. Other readers see him as a precious little boy, but I wasn’t having it. The pirates were enjoyable, but they were nowhere near the murdering, pillaging band of nightmares they were set up to be. Their king, Devlin, was the closest to what their reputation claims, but the ending was so ridiculous I couldn’t handle it.

Amarinda plays a larger role in this novel, but I’m still feeling indifferent toward her and the sort-of-but-not-really love triangle needs to go. Jaron and Imogen have finally confessed their feelings for one another (♥ and made me all kinds of happy), but they know it can never work out between them. Jaron is already set to wed Amarinda and Imogen is little more than a servant girl.

Don’t get me wrong: The Runaway King isn’t a bad book. This is more a case of me setting my expectations so high and being letdown. Fans of The False Prince will be sure to read this one, but don’t go into The Runaway King expecting another mind-blowingly wonderful novel. Despite my disappointment, I am without a doubt pumped for the third and I’m hoping the conclusion will be amazing.

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5 thoughts on “The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

  1. Small Review says:

    I’m sorry you were disappointed, too. I feel like there was so much more potential with this book, but Jaron just wasn’t Sage. The end was ridiculous, but I liked Jaron’s attitude a little more by then so that helped make it more fun for me. I agree, I wish there wasn’t a love triangle. They always complicate things in ways that don’t need to be complicated. I feel like I’m being forced to make choices I don’t want to have to make. I hope Jaron is more Sage-like in the next book. I have hope!

  2. Rashida Saima says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t like the second book as much as the first. I, however enjoyed it as much as the first. Jaron wasn’t the boy he had been under the name of Sage. I loved him still through-out the entire second book. I don’t know why you didn’t like it because I loved it. I mean even though he changed he still had his crazy tricky tricks up his sleeve. I liked the ending because of the suspense. SPOILER (if you haven’t read The Shadow Throne) Also in the 3rd book Jaron and Imogen do get married and she becomes his queen so I really don’t see what was not to like. I did leave me with one question though. In The Shadow Throne Amarinda and Tobias get married, so they’re basically in love. I remember in The False Prince it was said that Amarinda had come to love Darius as well and they both looked forward to the marriage between them. Did her feeling change from Darius to Tobias or was it that she loved Darius just as she loved Jaron, as a brother? Or does she still love Darius? I still haven’t figured that out but other than that I thought the entire series was absolutely amazing.

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