"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis
This review isn't posted at Christina Reads YA, but you can find others (plus discussions and giveaways).
I don't usually review MG titles, which is why this isn't my typical review, but I would definitely recommend this to MG and younger YA readers! And older readers who are looking for something akin to The Thief but want more action and a more delineated plot. (Side note: is this MG? It was on the NYT Bestsellers List for MG, but I believe Sage is 14. And I think audiobooksync is considering it YA. I don't know which classification I'm to believe, but I'd probably give it to MG readers first.)
Here are the things that kept me from fully engaging with the story:
-World-building: In the beginning, you don't know much about Carthya, so why should you care? Why should you care about installing the prince and a civil war? It takes a huge risk in that unless you identify with Sage, you might not care.
-Sage's attitude towards the servants. He does occasionally apologize and his attitude towards Imogen kind of balances that as well... but in the beginning, I thought of orphan Harry Potter who would not treat anyone (besides bullies) poorly. Not like the haughty Tobias, who Sage is more like than he'll care to admit. And obviously this is explained later, but that doesn't excuse the rudeness to the lot of them.
-Predictability, which is why I recommended for younger readers. I was kind of bored in the beginning because I wanted something a little bit different. This is different, but I could also see where it was headed. ((That didn't mean, of course, that it was any less exciting. I kept listening to find out if I was right and to see what happened to dear ole Sage, to whom I eventually connected.))
-Lack of female characters. Which is mentioned in the synopsis but *shrug* I can still want more than SPOILER the orphanage owner and the romantic interest(s) END OF SPOILER and a few other vague mentions.
-Some things about the audiobook are a bit weird. SPOILER Why does the head regent sound like he has a French accent? (???) END OF SPOILER Maybe that's just me, but I nearly laughed aloud when I heard him. Cregan, one of Conner's men (who you meet from the start--not a spoiler), also sounds like the guy from Pirates of the Caribbean - the one who calls Elizabeth Swan "poppet" and whose name I can't remember. The exaggerated villain voice might appeal to younger readers, but again I nearly laughed.
Other than that? Everyone else was pure awesomeness, and I appreciated the effort on the part of the narrator, who sounds much older than I expected, to distinguish their voices and attitudes. Conner sounds exactly as I imagined: like a scheming, haughty douchebag who will do anything for his country--very well done--and the emotion in Sage's voice was also top-notch. The narrator also got me full on-board with Sage because of that. Tobias, Roden, all the characters.
If you can get over those few things that I mentioned earlier, you're all set for this book.I actually liked this book more than The Thief. I found the quiet, steady guard Mott more palatable and developed than Pol; the haughty, hungering orphan Tobias more understandable than Ambiades; the villainous group leader Conner more of what I wanted from the Magus (Roden: Sophos doesn't work, though I did also find Roden a more compelling side character). While I liked Gen more as a protagonist, I can't deny that Sage has his own kind of appeal too. (Other Thief reminders: political antics, fighting countries, an elicit scheme, a cast nearly full to the brim of male characters on some quest.)
ANYWAY: if you like high fantasy or fast-paced adventure stories that have the competitive bent of The Hunger Games, or are a fan of The Thief, try this one out! Sage is a hero worthy to rival many of those in MG and YA lit. Clever, witty, strong, cunning, cocky, heroic: He's all those things and more, and if you're a fan of Gen, you'll likely also be a fan of his kindred spirit, Sage. I am definitely going to follow this one into the sequel. Thanks for letting me listen, audiobooksync & Scholastic!