The king, queen, and crown prince have been murdered, but their deaths have been kept secret from the people while the noblemen try to figure out who will take the throne. Four years ago, the second prince, Jaren, was killed by pirates while out at sea, but the body was never found. Conner, a nobleman, secretly gets several orphan boys who are all of similar age and appearance to how Jaren would look if he had lived. Conner hopes to train one of the boys to be able to pass as Jaren and take the crown. And with death awaiting any boy not chosen, the stakes are high in this competition. The book follows Sage, one of the boys chosen.
I really loved all the plotting and scheming that went on in the book as everyone tried to outmaneuver one another for control of the throne. Everyone had their own scheme going, with some more elaborate than others. It was fun to watch everything unfold.
However, I'm torn on the plot twist. On one hand, it meant that the book utilized a plot device I adore, but don't get to see very often—the unreliable narrator. There's something fun in thinking you're reading one story, only to discover that the person you've been trusting to tell the story can't be trusted, meaning you have to reevaluate everything you thought you knew.
On the other hand, I found the plot twist to be pretty obvious. While this book had an unreliable narrator, I was able to guess immediately that he was unreliable and why. It's the kind of plot twist that is so typical for this type of story that when I started giving a synopsis of the story to my mom, she guessed the plot twist after I had only said two or three sentences. So I didn't really get the chance to appreciate Sage's unreliability as a narrator. Plus, to maintain his secrecy, the book would have random time jumps where Sage would be doing one thing, and then it would suddenly be a while later with no explanation for how he got from one place to another. The first time it happened, I thought I had skipped something. Those time skips just made it more blatantly obvious to me what was going on.
Despite figuring out what was going to happen pretty early on, I really did enjoy the book. The characters were interesting. And watching a well-executed scheme play out is just a ton of fun. I am curious to see where it's going to go next because I actually felt like it could have been a standalone book. It would have left some things open-ended, but I was still satisfied enough with the ending that I wouldn't have minded. But I definitely won't complain about a chance to see more scheming.