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Book Review: Captive Kingdom

Seven years after the Ascendance Series presumably came to a close, a fourth book has been released, picking up just after the end of the third book.


Picture of the original three books in the series.

Pick up this book if: you like witty and ingenious thrillers with an incredible amount of inspiring resourcefulness.

Don’t pick up this book if: you get annoyed with self-sabotaging characters whose good intentions sometimes blind them to their own faults.

Ok, I have been so excited to read this book! The original trilogy is one of my favorites I have ever read. They are just such a fun combination of adventure, wit, and emotion. The characters are incredible, and the plot never ceases to amaze me. I’m serious, I’ve read the book several times, and I’m still blown away by the way things fall into place.

Then, the second book in the series only gets better. And the third. So, needless to say, I was incredibly excited when I learned that there would be a fourth installment in the series. The third book was published seven years ago, so it was quite a shock to hear that Jennifer Nielsen was coming out with a sequel to the series.

My brother’s girlfriend pre-ordered the book for his birthday, and told me a few months in advance. Those months were difficult to wait through. Then the book arrived, and I had to wait through several more weeks as my brother was too busy to read it. Finally, during Thanksgiving break, he told me I could read it first since he had work all week. In an effort to be a good sister and get the book back to him promptly… I read it in 12 hours!

Because I loved the first three books so much, I had high expectations. This book met those expectations. It fit so naturally with the others in the series. The storyline and the writing seemed as if they were concurrent with the original three. In fact, there were even some places where I was a bit frustrated with the characters’ lack of progression, but that was likely because I have matured in the past seven years. Meanwhile, it felt like the characters picked up exactly where they left off. There were elements of this book which reminded me a lot of parts of the past three books, while other elements reminded me of some of my other favorite books!

Spoiler Alert:

Reading the Captive Kingdom, I felt like a lot of my favorite elements of the original three books were w

ell-captured. Just like the others, this book has plenty of twists and turns, some of which can be attributed to Jaron.

The novel starts with Jaron, Imogen, Mott, Amarinda, Fink, Tobias, and Roden on a pirate’s ship traveling back to Carthya. When they come under attack, panic ensues. There are motifs from the other books right off the bat. Roden, Tobias, and Jaron all claim Jaron’s identity – this time in an effort to keep him safe (at least, on the part of Tobias and Roden since Jaron is never very concerned with his own safety).

Once again, Jaron drives his friends away with his self-sacrificial attitude and his inability to trust anyone else for fear of seeing them hurt. Of course, he also drives his enemies up a wall with his unflinching confidence and pride. He retains his quick intellect and nimbleness which allow him to surreptitiously gain an upper hand in seemingly impossible situations.


There are other moments throughout which reflect the other books, such as Jaron and Roden’s fight in which Jaron is on an injured leg (which was inflicted by Roden) and at one point has only a stick to fight with. Oh, and they are fighting for the position of pirate king again… and nothing is as it seems. There is also a moment where Jaron is climbing a precipitous face with innumerable injuries and he escapes death through sheer force of will.

Something else that struck me was the way this book reminded another favorite series of mine. The Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson bears a very close resemblance to several parts of this book. The first book in that series also takes place solely on ships (pirate and otherwise) and an island. Once on the island, there are native people, pirates, and other groups of people all looking for a semi-magical item – in both books. Peter and Jaron fall into the same sort of archetype of a roguish boy with a good heart who is surreptitiously talented at undermining their enemies.

The humor in this book also reminds me of the Percy Jackson series at times. Both Percy and Jaron have the same sort of confident yet self-demeaning humor which I find so intriguing.

Some of the more slapstick humor in this book reminds me – now I know this is a bit of a stretch – of the humor in Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Anyway… I know this blog has kind of devolved into a stream of consciousness of me sharing all the directions this book made my mind go (and also sharing my nerdy side in the process) but hopefully, if you are still reading, you have also read the book and you may have some thoughts of your own about the direction of the novel. If so, I’d love to hear what you think! Drop something in the comments, and keep reading!

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