Review: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy #3) 
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
To Be Published: February 25th, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Find: Goodreads
One war.
Too many deadly battles.
Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely?

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya's throne?

Rousing and affecting, Jaron's adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion with The Shadow Throne.

There's always worry that the final book in the series won't be able to live up to everyone's expectations, but Jennifer A. Nielsen is able to dash away any doubts with this last book, offering everything needed to satisfy fans of the series and more. The Shadow Throne is by far the best book in The Ascendance Trilogy.

I tend to do most of my reading before bed, which in hindsight is actually a really bad habit because if a book is really good, I can kiss any chance of sleep that night good bye. The Shadow Throne was no exception. With war finally arriving in Carthya's doorsteps, Jaron's pushed to the limits as he travels from one end of his kingdom to the other to fend off every attack King Vargan has in store for him. With such fast-paced action, there weren't any parts where I could just put the book down and take a breath. I just had to know what happened next.

I'm finally beginning to see Jaron really own his title as the Ascendant King. From the beginning, Jaron's always been clever, stubborn, and he always has an eye for the bigger picture. If there's something Jaron wants, he's ready to go for it through any means possible. Still, Jaron could be really annoyingly abrasive at times, especially in the previous books. His general attitude has always been, "I am always right." Although it's clear he cares for Carthya, I also didn't get the impression that Jaron really wanted to be the Carthya's king until this book. He finally steps it up, and it's amazing how much Jaron grew up in The Shadow Throne.

It was also nice to see Jaron and Roden's friendship develop more as Jaron places more of his trust in Roden while Roden builds up his own confidence. Most of Roden's growth, however, happened off-screen, and I wish Jennifer Nielsen focused a bit more on the side characters half as much as she did for Jaron. Imogen was another character who suffered from lack of development. While I liked her in The False Prince and The Runaway King for her strength and unwavering resolve, she didn't appear much in this last book.

The Ascendance Trilogy is considered a middle grade series, so we don't really get the same depth and details as we would in a young adult/adult high fantasy series, and there were some parts that really glossed over the atrocities of war. Things tend to fall into place quite conveniently. It might not be enough to satisfy more hardcore high fantasy readers, but it's a quick, fun read, and it's a perfect series to introduce to younger readers, especially elementary/middle school kids.


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