Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.
Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks. But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.
Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.
The False Princess starts off as a sort-of reversal of the Cinderella story, with the Princess being stripped of her royal status and sent to live in a humble cottage in the village, with an aunt who resents this intrusion of her solitary life. Sinda's education as a princess proves to be useless to her as a village girl and Sinda is left feeling incompetent and lonely.
After suddenly discovering that she possesses strong magical abilities, Sinda heads back to the city to find someone to train her, and there she accidental uncovers a plot against the throne, and against the real Princess Nalia. Sinda takes it upon herself to save the princess, along with the help of her best friend Kiernan.
The False Princess was a wonderful story that I throughly enjoyed, from beginning to end. The characters were engaging and well developed and the story was exciting and well paced, making it impossible for me to put the book down.
I really enjoyed seeing Sinda develop from the meek and quiet young woman in the beginning of the story, to someone confident and strong, willing to take control of her own destiny. And I loved Sinda's relationship with her best friend, Kiernan, and seeing it develop into something more, as the two characters struggle to adjust to the new circumstances they each find themselves in. I'm a sucker for a good friendship story, as well a good romance, and O' Neal manages to incorporate both.
The story itself kept me riveted with all of it's unexpected twists and turns, making it so much more than the simple fairy tale it had reminded me of in the start. The only fault I found with the book is the way that Sinda so accurately guesses at several of the key pieces to the mystery, based on very little evidence. The mystery seemed to come together for her a little too easily, which disappointed me a bit.
The False Princess is Eilis O'Neal's first novel and I sincerely hope that there will be many more to follow.