The end of a series many times brings bittersweet feelings to readers and the author alike. As Utah author Jennifer Nielsen wraps up her Ascendance Trilogy when the final book, “The Shadow Throne” (Scholastic, $17.99, ages 10 and up), is released on Tuesday, Feb. 25, she has some of those feelings.
“It was very hard to say goodbye in this series, sort of like saying goodbye to so many friends," wrote Nielsen in an email interview. "As excited as I am to share this book with the world, I also know it’s sharing a bittersweet moment with readers."
Many readers, both young and old, have connected with the main character, Jaron, who spent part of his youth in an orphanage before unpredictably ascending to the throne of Carthya after the king, queen and prince are killed.
As a narrator, Jaron is unreliable, often withholding information until later in the story to explain his plans. That is part of his charm, Nielsen explained.
“I think once readers began to understand that Jaron was willing to keep secrets from them, that they’ve become more aware of just how many secrets he keeps. And they understand he always has a trick," Nielsen wrote. "For those who figure it out before the other characters, I believe there’s an amount of satisfaction in that, which is great."
However, it’s not just readers who are surprised by Jaron’s revelations; even Nielsen is sometimes caught off guard by his secrets.
"In 'The Runaway King,' I didn’t anticipate how meeting Harlowe (one of the king's advisers) was going to affect Jaron. He was deeply affected by that meeting, and so was I,” Nielsen said.
Jaron is often compared to another character in a popular young-adult fantasy series. Gen, from Megan Whalen Turner’s “The Thief,” is resourceful, sneaky and charming. Though Nielsen, a fan of Whalen’s series, recognizes their similarities, she points out that there are significant differences in the two series and characters.
“Gen is much more of a planner than Jaron, who is more impulsive and reckless in his plans. I think Gen is more of a romantic, while Jaron is more mischievous,” said Nielsen. “And I think in a sword fight, Gen probably has greater talent, but Jaron is more tenacious, so it’d be interesting to see who wins in the end.”
Nielsen has heard from readers around the world about their love for the series. Several parents and teachers have shared with her that the Ascendance Trilogy was the first book some of their reluctant readers have ever finished. A reading specialist told her about a boy with severe dyslexia who was struggling through the first two books.
“I think it’s so important for young readers to find a book or series that ignites their passion for reading, especially boys whose interest in reading wanes as they grow older,” Nielsen wrote.
"The Shadow Throne" begins with war at the doorstep of young Jaron's kingdom of Carthya. Imogen, Jaron's friend, and Jaron's bodyguard, Mott, are captured; the Carthya army doesn’t have faith in its captain, Roden, who is Jaron's friend from the orphanage; and Jaron seems to be out of plans.
King Vargan of neighboring Avenia will do anything to get Jaron to surrender his kingdom. With the stakes at their highest, it’s up to Jaron to come up with a strategy to save his kingdom and the people closest to him.
This final book in the trilogy is cinematic, exciting and dynamic. Just as in the first two books in the series, "The False Prince" and "The Runaway King," Jaron continues to keep information secret from the reader, leaving cliffhangers and seemingly impossible situations in nearly every chapter.
There are twists and turns to discover while still finding surprise and suspense.
Jaron continues to develop his relationships with his friends as well as his relationship with his throne. He often finds himself in conflict with his desires and his duty to his kingdom. Once a naïve, arrogant boy prince, he finds himself risking himself for his friends and discovering love in unexpected places.
“The Shadow Throne” is a gripping conclusion to the series and is sure to satisfy readers.
It does include several battle scenes that are generally described and not detailed, and Jaron does what he can to stop the suffering they cause. The language is clean and appropriate for readers age 10 and older.
"The False Prince" and "The Runaway King" have both been nominated and received multiple awards and honors. "The False Prince" was on the New York Times' best-seller list for Children’s Middle Grade books. It also received the 2012 Whitney Award for the Best Middle Grade book. "The Runaway King" is one of five finalists for the 2013 Whitney Award in the middle grade category. The Whitney Awards recognize books by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Nielsen's next project is “The Praetor War,” which is scheduled to be released next year. The new series takes place in ancient Rome with an escaped Roman slave, some stolen magic and a war to control the fall of the kingdom.
If you go ...
What: "The Shadow Throne" book launch and book signing
When: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.
What: Authorpalooza with 40 area authors, including Jennifer NielsenComment on this story
When: Saturday, March 1, 1-4 p.m.
Where: Barnes and Noble, South Towne Marketplace, 10180 S. State St., Sandy
Emily Ellsworth is a blogger at Emily's Reading Room, online at emilysreadingroom.com, a blog dedicated to promoting a love of young adult fiction that includes book reviews, author interviews and more about the latest in young adult fiction.