Book Reviews

The Captive Kingdom by Jennifer A. Nielsen Review

Genre: adventure fiction, fantasy fiction

Age range: 12 and up

Rating: five out of five stars

Reviewed by Maggie

Hello, Readers!!!!!  Man, I was just realizing it has been AGES since TWN has done a review on a book. So, I’m here today with a review. Before continuing please note there will be some spoilers, but I have it marked off in a specific section. The book I’m reviewing today is the fourth book in the Ascendance Series by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Never heard/read of this series before? Not a problem. Check out Katherine’s spoiler-free review on the first three books of the Ascendance Series here.

Aaaannnndddd onto the REVIEW!!!!!! 

“The answer rarely includes the word ‘great,’ unless the word to follow is ‘fool,’ though I have also heard ‘disappointment,’ ‘frustration,’ and ‘chance that he’ll get us all killed.'”

Okay, where to begin? May I just add I felt like doing a happy dance after finishing the book. I felt like we got to understand more about the character, Sage, and got to see a side of him we rarely do. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have his sass. Let me tell you, he really is worse than ever!!!  The book drew us right back into Sage’s world and we got to see many familiar faces. It takes place in the year gap at the end of the Shadow Throne. Everything we’ve wanted to know is FINALLY told!!! *eekk* Also, I feel like we should totally admire how, though it’d been years after The Shadow Throne’s release, it didn’t feel like it one bit. Nielsen picks up right where she left off, not letting fans of Carthya and the amazing Sage down. And the prologue, this one started us off with, was just PERFECT for our return to Carthya.

Read the summary from Goodreads here. (If you haven’t read THE SHADOW THRONE do not read the summary for spoilers.)

There was a lot of things I liked and appreciated in this book. I loved how the characters remained as their amazing selves. Another cool thing in this book was that we got to see some of the countries on the other side of the Eranbole Sea. (Well, it was more like one and a mention of another…)

Nielsen has filled her thrilling return with action, suspense, twists you never see coming, and all topped with Sage’s unforgettable sassy nature. He never fails to let us down, throwing himself into more trouble and situations with higher stakes. Nielsen is able to keep raising that bar. And then there is Sage’s plans that he never even lets the readers in on. You’ve gotta love him sometimes. Okay, actually, ALL THE TIME, but that’s probably the fangirl in me talking. 😉

********note the following paragraphs contains spoilers from The Captive Kingdom if you haven’t read it yet, just scroll to the bottom of this post***********

Okay, I don’t normally add this section in, but I wanted to share more thoughts on the book. If you haven’t read it, continue scrolling down until we leave the spoiler zone.



So, I have some mixed feelings. I am a die-hard Ascendance Series fan and this one didn’t disappoint me in what I expected, but let’s just say, I might’ve wanted more

First off I NEEDED more Mott. Seriously, he’s like one of my favorite characters, and I wanted to see more of him. It was JUST NOT ENOUGH. (Does anyone understand my dilemma?)

And I needed way more Amarinda than we got. She’s always been one of my favorite female characters. I mean we only saw her a couple of times at the end and a few times in the beginning. Most of the time everyone’s just concerned for her life. 

Plus we didn’t get to see Harlowe AT ALL!!!! :,( That was a hard fact to accept. There was just so many new characters (which I am NOT complaining about because they were very interesting) and I guess they shoved some of the old cast a little out of the way. (Yeah, most of the things I didn’t like was just not seeing my peeps more, if you know what I mean.)

The whole twist with Darius being an adopted brother was really hard to choke down. Especially that his dad is the one who tried to kill Jaron (in the spoiler zone, we call him Jaron) all those years ago. Yeah, that’s right Bevin Connor. Okay did not see that one coming. Which, I’m glad Darius was the adopted one and not Jaron, because that would’ve just ruined everything. Though, I will say, though I was VERY surprised, it was actually really cool. I mean a little sad, ’cause of his dad being Connor and all, but still a GREAT TWIST!

I really like the brother-relationship between Darius/Jaron/Fink. I liked how Jaron decided that Darius was his brother regardless of what their blood states. It was just sooooo sweet. I’m gonna cry, I mean listen to this:

“‘He is my brother, Imogen.’ … This was not a decision I had come to lightly, but I had made my decision. … ‘It doesn’t matter! If his adoption means he is not my brother, then Fink is not my brother, and I am once again without a family!’”

Also, I really enjoyed the scene with Tobias and Darius when they both wanted Amarinda and neither would back down. It was just kind of sweet to see how much they loved her. (Though it was good that Tobias won her in the end. ‘Cause, guys, THIS IS TOBIAS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT.)

Darius being alive was just an all-around surprise, especially with the explanation, but honestly, we should’ve seen it coming. This is Jennifer Nielsen we’re talking about. 

Also, at first I was like c’mon Roden! Not again! It was like he was doomed to destroy Jaron. Until….it comes out THAT WE WERE WRONG ABOUT RODEN ALL ALONG AS ALWAYS. *slaps forehead* Man, we shoulda seen it coming.

Let’s talk about Tobais . *shrieks* I love Tobias, he is so loyal to Jaron, even when he doesn’t want to do what Jaron asks. Tobias is just one of those characters you have to love, because of how hard he tries to be strong and brave. 

“‘He probably wasn’t as strong as you.’
“‘I’m not strong, Jaron, not the way I wish I was. But I am clever, so I have a plan.’“

Tobias really needs that talk with Mott that Jaron had in The False Prince where Mott says “A strong heart will always overcome a strong body.” In my opinion, Tobias is one of the strongest characters there is. He has a really strong heart. (Anyone agree with me?)

Also I like the strong female character we got to see in Imogen. It seems like in every book she becomes more and more stronger and sure of herself. I like the relationship between her and Jaron and the uncertainty that she might walk away from him because he’s so flawed. Of course, she always looks past that and, thankfully, doesn’t dump him. *whew*

Speaking of romances, can I just say that it was super interesting. I mean Mott, of all people, actually had a woman he loved. That was a shocker. And Rodon finds a girl he really likes but she ends up being the Monarch. (Sadly, I did not see that coming.) But hey, he tried. And Imogen and Jaron’s relationship showed that even with the one you are meant to be with, you still have arguments or face conflict. But they work through them together. 

*sorry if most of this rambling is so jumbled up you can’t understand it. I literally wrote this up the night I finished the book to dump all of my thoughts down. Rereading it, I can see that there might be some areas that don’t make sense*

*************************END OF SPOILER ZONE*************************

-*me still screaming about how amazing this book was*






-If you haven’t already that is. 😉

Sooooo, have you read the fourth book? If you haven’t read any of this series, are you REALLY wanting to? How’s everyone’s NaNo/writing in general going? Don’t forget if you have any writing questions/want some tips or advice/or just need some encouragement, totally let me know!!!!!

Questions specifically for those who read the fourth book: Were you surprised with all the twists? Didn’t you just want to see more of the cast I’d mentioned? 


Oh, and don’t forget about my super secret post, it’s coming sometime this upcoming week!!! And we’re still in the middle of our series on character development. I hope to get back to it very soon. Part 4 is coming up on understanding your character’s reactions and why this is important.

Also AN IMPORTANT NOTE FOR SUBSCRIBERS TO TWN’S EMAIL LIST: In the email you received today, there is some exciting news concerning my top secret post. Make sure you don’t miss that. Aaaaannnnddddd, for those of you who haven’t heard. WE HAVE AN EMAIL LIST!!!!!!!! So, if you wanna subscribe, go ahead. (Wow, that sounded waaaay better in my head.)

Issabelle Perry is a proud Jesus follower, an extroverted writer of historical fiction, and a homeschool graduate. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, jamming to Skillet, bullet journaling, hunting for Narnia in wardrobes, or envisioning herself wielding a magnificent sword (but due to her clumsiness, let’s hope that never happens). This self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast can be found hanging out at Teen Writers’ Nook, a community of teen authors Issabelle co-founded in 2020. Her short story “Fairly Impish” was featured in Owl Hollow Press’s Change the World anthology, and Issabelle is the co-editor for Teen Writers’ Nook’s Imagine anthology and Grace A. Johnson's upcoming Christian romance anthology. What she’s probably doing right now is fangirling about her favorite books to random people or scanning the pantries for chocolate.


  • Ally M.J.

    I WANT TO READ THIS SO BAD! I’m going to my library later to pick up the first book… maybe they’ll have the others. EEK YOU MAKE IT SOUND SO AMAZING. WHY have I not READ this yet? Not a rhetorical question. Please tell me. I had to skip most of the post, because of spoilers. Thank you thank you for marking them off so I didn’t accidentally read it. So helpful.

    • Maggie

      *happy dance* Aaaahhh, I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL YOU READ IT!!! Prepare to never come back the same. (Wow, THAT sounded kind of creepy.) Oh, I sooooo hope, for your sake, they have the others. Yes, WHY have you not READ IT YET????!!!! In answer: I have NO IDEA. (Probably ’cause it’s not a super well known book. I mean a lot of people have read it, but I don’t think they’re the majority. WHICH MAKES NO SENSE BECAUSE IT IS SO AWESOME.) This whole book series is just so, so amazing, I really can’t stop fangirling over it. I hope you’ll love it. Ah, I figured a lot of people were gonna have to skip most of the post, but I wanted to make sure the spoilers were clear so, you know, I didn’t spoil anything. THANK YOU FOR READING AND COMMENTING!!!! 🙂

    • Katherine

      Hey, Ally. You’re going to love The False Prince! Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. That’s how great it is. 🙂 If you want, you can check out my review of the first three books. I don’t think I have any spoilers in it. But anyway, YES, you will absolutely LOVE The False Prince! 🙂

    • Ally M.J.

      My Library TRANSFERRED both of our copies of The False Prince. (Wow, my brain was determined to convince me that ‘False’ has an H instead of an E.) I’m pretty sure my Dad’s exact words while explaining the incident to my mom were “She was crying in the car.” I wasn’t. But I did do some pretty impressively serious sulking.
      I’m sad. 😢

      • Maggie

        NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO *continue on for about another million ‘o’s*
        WHAT? That’s totally depressing. I feel like life is so unfair, ’cause you don’t have any copies of the book and I’m sitting over here with three. (Yes, I’m obsessed.) LOL, though I can relate. Man, I’m so upset for you. 😢 That just stinks.

      • Ally M.J.

        Have I mentioned that my dad is amazing? Well, he is. He went to one of the only libraries that had The False Prince, like 25 minutes away, AND NOW I HAVE THE BOOK. At least, for two weeks. I started reading it last night at like 2:46 AM because my head decided to pursue a career in percussion. I fell asleep about halfway through, and I finished it this morning. I’m a really fast reader. I read three books last night. 😳 I didn’t get much sleep. But it was worth it, 💯%. I LOVED IT. I need the next book ASAP. And the next one. And then the fourth one. And then, and only then, will I be able to read the review.

        • Maggie

          YES!! VICTORY!! *pumps fist in the air*

          Okay, I have to agree. Though, I’ve never met your dad, if he helped you get TFP, then YES that officially qualifies him for amazing. (I can’t get my dad to read the books.) Three books, WOW!!! Mind-blowing. (Help me. I’m in a challenge to read six books in the fall season, and I have to get two and a half done before the end of November. Teach me your secrets. I NEED THEM!!!) Yes, I completely understand the feeling. I had to wait like a month and a half before I could read the second book. It was horrible. Now, I just wanna fangirl about these books with you. But for the sake of your sanity, I shall refrain from any crazy fangirl nonsense. All I’m gonna say is that SAGE IS THE BEST!!!!!

          • Ally M.J.

            SAGE is the BEST? GASP. I’ve NEVER heard ANYONE say that! 😂 But yes, he’s amazing. I think my favorite character so far is Imogen or Tobias. Not sure why Tobias, but he seems cool. Not fun of him to threaten Sage (excuse me, Prince Jaron) with that knife, but eh.
            My secret is to fast reading is *comment lost* then you take the mango and *comment lost* and then turn the vacuum on *comment lost* then a sparkly pink corgi will come and *comment lost* BOOM. Speed reading accomplished. Make sense?

        • Katherine

          YAYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m soooooooooo glad your dad is amazing and got you the book! I’m glad you were able to read it. Wow! That was fast. I read TFP in a week, but one night – THAT IS INCREDIBLE!!! Three books in one night is SUPER IMPRESSIVE!!! How do you do it???? Yes reading is always worth it.👍 Hope you get the next ones super soon.

  • Jane

    Okay WOW! I’ve already read the book but this made me want to read it all over again!! I LOVED the book and the twists were so unexpected! I think my favorite part was *SPOILERS*

    When Roden asks for a promotion:

    ‘Another beat passed, then he seemed to cheer up. “Perhaps you’ll reward me with a new title? Something more the just captain of the guard.”
    I was ready with an answer. “I’m glad you asked, because I have been waiting a long time to give you this title.”
    His eyes narrowed. “What is it?”
    “The one I offered you earlier: minister of oats.”
    No, Jarron!”
    “To late, I’ve decreed it!”
    It cracks me up every time (don’t know if that’s just me being weird or because its actually funny)
    I totally agree that there should have been more Mott and Amarinda, They’re such great characters, but I get why there wasn’t much of them, I mean, if you had all the characters In the book at the same time it’d get confusing. I read book once and it was amazing but there so many characters trying to come in at the same time, I got all the names and titles mixed up. But still Such a great book, I really hope Nielsen dose another one to continue the series.
    Anyway, great review! Keep up the great work! And good luck with your writing!😁

    • Maggie

      I KNOW RIGHT!!! I’m really wanting to read it again. The TWIST, the SASS. HOW does Nielsen do it????!!!!

      LOL, I LOVED that scene, too. As I was rereading it in your comment, I was cracking up all over again. 🤣 SAGE IS JUST THE GREATEST!!!! (If it’s you being weird, then I guess that makes me weird, too. Although, I think I’ve already stated I’m weird and crazy. 😂.)

      Yeah, it makes sense, but it’s still hard to accept. I just get too emotionally attached to these characters. (Don’t judge me. 😉 .) Actually, I’m the same way, if there’s a lot of characters I always have a hard time keeping it straight. So far, Nielsen’s working on the fifth book that’s supposed to come out next year. She says that’s all she has planned, but you never know with Sage. Although, I’m secretly hoping for a sixth book… 🤞
      THANK YOU!! As always, best of luck with your writing as well!!!

    • Katherine

      Hi, Jane! I haven’t read The Captive Kingdom yet but I’m so excited to. I know it’s going to be great with plot twists and everything. I feel like I’ve read that snippet of The Captive Kingdom before – it sounded familiar – maybe I read it on Jennifer’s blog. Anyway, it IS a funny scene. I love it. Oh, yes, Mott and Amarinda are the BEST!!!

  • Victoria

    AHHHHH! This series looks so good! I reeeaally don’t need anymore books added to my TBR but…*squeezes it in anyways* XD. There’s always room for more, right?!?!? Oh, on that note, have you ever heard of this book series called Keeper of the Lost Cities? It’s fantasy and just soooo awesome! I’d definitely recommend it in case you want to check it out! 😉

    • Maggie

      AHHHHH!!! This series REALLY IS AMAZING!!!! Haha, I know the feeling, but YES, there is always room for more books. Somewhere…
      Yes, I have actually heard a TON of people talking about this series and it looks like it will be SOOOO AMAZING!!!! I haven’t read it…yet, but I hope to get to it soon. Just gotta find somewhere on my TBR list for it to go… What is it with us and books. 😉 Thank you for the recommendation, though. Now, I wanna read it even more.

    • Ally M.J.

      Um, hi. Keeper girl over here? The new book comes out on my birthday. So, obviously, I have to love it. But seriously, Keeper is AMAZING in every way, shape and form. Which ship do you sail on? I’m Sokeefe all the way.
      Speaking of Keefe, KEEFE. He EXISTS. He really doesn’t need to do anything else to earn my undying devotion. He’s KEEFE. And Wynn and Luna? ❤️X infinity. I would rant more, but I don’t need everyone thinking I’m a weirdo.

      • Victoria

        YEEEESSSSS!!!! You and I are on the same ship, girl!!! KEEFE IS HANDS DOWN MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. <3<3 I can't get enough of that boy! Oh my word, Wynn and Luna are THE CUTEST. Lol, I would LOVE to rant more too. XD Finding other Keeper fans is the best!

        Also, HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY!!! That's so awesome how Unlocked comes out on the same day! 😀 Do you have a blog I could visit? If not, that's fine (I don't have one either…yet) ;), but I just thought I'd ask because I love getting to know new people around the blogosphere!

        • Ally M.J.

          I don’t have a blog. I would love to, but I’m not actually that interesting. YAY another Sokeefer! (Not a word but it should be.) My brothers found out about my Keeper obsession, and now they just shout “FITZPHIE!” whenever they’re being pains. I don’t think they even know what it means. Fools.
          THANK YOU for the birthday wishes! Do you have a blog I can follow?

          • Victoria

            I 100% agree with Maggie and Kathrine!!! I’m sure you’re a very interesting gal and I can’t wait to get to know you better even if it’s through comments! 😀
            *laughs* Maybe you should try getting them to read it! Perhaps they’ll have a change of heart and be sokeefing right alongside of you! 😉
            I don’t have a blog, but I am thinking of starting one so we’ll see what happens! (Although I’m honored you’d want to check it out!) 🙂

            • Maggie

              I hope you don’t mind me jumping in. THAT’S SO AWESOME YOU’RE THINKING OF STARTING A BLOG!!!!!! If you ever get one up, I’m totally gonna follow it. 🙂

              • Victoria

                Awwwww! *Hugs you both* You two just made my day ten times more brighter! I’ll definitely let you know if I get one up and running! (Oh, and I think the last two times I’ve commented I’ve spelled your name wrong, Katherine. *smacks forehead* I’m so sorry. Don’t have any idea why I did that. XD)

      • Jane

        Its so cool that the book is coming out on your birthday!!
        I’v been going back and forth on if I wanted to read the books, but SOOO many people have been recommending them and you just convinced me to read them.
        Um…you kinda lost me, but I rant about books ALL the time. Mostly with Spy School (Yes Maggie, not the False Prince, I just haven’t read it as much as Spy School) I pretty much have all the books memorized. I’m trying to forget them so I can read them again without knowing what the plot is, but so far I could tell you every one in order and with explicit detail.

        • Maggie

          *grasping heart* NOT THE FALSE PRINCE!!!????? I think I’m going into shock right now. If you never hear from me again, it’s cause I’m mourning the lack of die-hard TFP fans there are 😉 (Nah, I’m just kidding.) But I’m like THE SAME WAY with TFP as you are with the Spy School series. Actually, fun fact: I probably wouldn’t be a writer right now if it wasn’t for the Spy School series. I might’ve been about fourth or fifth grade when I first read Spy School, and it was the book that made me instantly fall in love with spy stories. Because I liked spy stories it made me start reading Ally Carter, which then led to me reading the book by her that made me fall in love with reading, and then made me read her book called Dear Ally, How do You Write a Book? Which then made me get serious about writing and start looking into getting writing advice. Which then helped me start this blog. And it was a spy story I first submitted to agents. Sooooooo, I feel like I do owe this book series a lot. (Though I’m like SERIOUSLY behind. I’ve only read up to Spy Ski School. *Spoilers* CAN SOMEONE PLEASE REASSURE ME THAT BEN AND ERICA REMAIN FRIENDS.)

          • Jane

            Don’t worry Ben and Erica stay Friends, I mean, if they didn’t it would be one of the worst book let downs ever.
            Wow that’s so cool that Spy School helped inspire you to write!
            Did you know that Stuart Gibbs released the 8th book in series, Spy School Revolution, on the same day that The Captive Kingdom came out? I got two great books from two great authors on the same day!

            • Maggie

              Phew! Good to know. Oh, yeah, that would be a BIG let down.

              Aaahhh, I didn’t know that. But that’s VERY interesting!!!! I have done very horrible with keeping up with Stuart Gibbs and the Spy School series. Like I went to check out the post you put the link to TWN on, and every one was talking about things with the series and I was so, so, so lost. I’ve gotta get back to the series.

              • Ally M.J.

                This is SO WEIRD. Nothing to do with books (a rare occurrence when it comes to me) but I’m pretty sure we’re on different time zones, because it says that you comment was posted at 9:28 PM. That hasn’t happened yet 😂. For me at least.

              • Jane

                If you go to Gibbs blog, hit 615 thoughts on he most recent post, scroll to the bottom of all the comments, there should be a button saying ‘older comments’ hit it, then scroll to the bottom and hit it again, then just scroll down a little and look for a comment that starts with ‘Clare Hutchins-‘ by Trixie (thats my name on the blog) and it should be there, then if you scroll down a little more you’ll find reply’s to it.
                hope this helps!

                • Maggie

                  Oh, yeah SUPER HELPFUL!!!!!!!! Funny, but there’s a girl who has started commenting on my blog who goes under the name “Trixie.” Perhaps she’s your long lost twin. 😉 No, I’m just kidding. If Trixie ever reads this, I’m a jokester, like a REALLY BAD, REALLY CRAZY jokester. Plus, I have no idea how to spell jokester and am too lazy to go and Google it, so my apologies jokester if I’m spelling you wrong. XD. See what I mean by REALLY BAD jokes?

    • Katherine

      Hey, Victoria! You will love The False Prince! I was in the middle of another book when Maggie convinced me to read it. So I did and I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN!!!!!!!!! It was beyond amazing!

      • Victoria

        Hi-ya, Kathrine! I actually read your review on the first three books and that made me want to read it even more! So I will DEFINITELY get them (hopefully soon)! 😀

        • Katherine

          Hey, Victoria! Thank you sooo much for reading my review!!! That makes me so happy! I hope you get the books soon, too.😉 They’re so good; you will love them. Thank you for your comment.

  • Jane

    For those of you who want to read the false prince, there’s this library app called Libby that has all of the Ascendance series and a lot of other great books right at your finger tips. Although if you really want to read the books in person I totally understand that.
    Hope this helps!!

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