THE CAPTIVE KINGDOM, Book 4 of 4: The Ascendance Series, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Scholastic Press, Oct. 6, 2020, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 10 and up)
All hail Jennifer A. Nielsen. The New York Times bestselling author is back with the fourth book in her Ascendance Series, The Captive Kingdom.
In a peaceful Carthya, Jaron leads as the Ascendant King with Imogen beside him — but the peace he fought so long for is not destined to last.
On a routine sea voyage, Jaron’s ship is brutally attacked, and he is taken hostage. The mysterious captors and their leader, Jane Strick, accuse Jaron of unthinkable acts. They are also in possession of some shocking items — including the crown and sword that belonged to Jaron’s older brother, Darius. The items unearth a past Jaron thought he had put behind him.
Though it seems impossible, Jaron must consider: Could Darius be alive? And what does Strick want from Jaron? Against his will, Jaron will be pulled back into a fight for the throne — and a battle to save his kingdom. —Synopsis provided by Scholastic Press
It’s been six and a half years since the world last heard from the kingdom of Carthya. The Shadow Throne gave readers a fine conclusion. By all rights, Nielsen could have left things at that. Thank goodness she did not.
The Captive Kingdom drops readers right back into that world. Six years after reading the third book in the series, and I was immediately swept back up. I’m sure the book would be better if read in succession, but Nielsen does a fantastic job of providing background without it feeling like a recap. I now want to go back and reread the whole series again so that I can savor the nuances.
The best part of The Captive Kingdom is Jaron. Nielsen is so in tune with his voice that you can’t help but feel this was not only a story she wanted to tell, but a story she had to. On his face, Jaron is bold and full of bluster. He’s cocky and appears reckless. Yet there’s a humility beneath the surface that makes him endearing.
Nielsen is adept at creating tension and mystery. Even though Jaron is telling the story, Nielsen has written it in such a way that he never lets anything slip, even when his plans are unfolding.
If you’re new to Nielsen’s work, you should start at the beginning of the series (The False Prince). If you’re a returning fan, a reread wouldn’t hurt, but isn’t imperative. This is a strong series that will appeal to readers across the board.
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