I always hesitate before I read the sequel of a novel I really loved. Because I am scared that the continuation will not only not move the story along in a way I can love but that the disappointment of the sequel will also colour the way I remember the first book. However, I worried needlessly where The Runaway King is concerned. I think I may have liked it better than I did The False Prince which is saying something since I liked that one a lot.Jaron, as Sage is now known, is the King of Carthya. It is a tenuous position at most because his regents are murmuring about having him removed and installing a steward until he comes “of age.” And there is not a thing he can do about it (which I couldn’t understand since he is the king and one of the perks of that job is being able to do whatever you want to). And then there is the reappearance of his frenemy who promises to destroy Carthya if Jaron doesn’t surrender himself to the pirates. There is Imogen and Amarinda whom we don’t see too much of.The novel is quick paced, the characters are well hewn and the world building is done well. This book will and should appeal to both boys and girls. Nielson does several things very successfully in this novel. She manages to balance the quick pace with introspective moments that add substance to the narrative. She avoids making a male Mary-Sue out of Jaron/Sage which would have been very easy to do. She also manages to insert humour into bleak situations which I appreciated a lot. What I liked the most though was that she approaches romance, what little there is of it, with less melodrama and more pragmatism. As much as YA novels will want you to believe that love is the be all and end all of teenagers’ lives, no matter who or what they are, real life will tell you otherwise. I like that Jaron and Amarinda accept their situation because the events occurring around this world are already far too convoluted to introduce romantic drama into it. Also, though Jaron may have feelings for Imogen, non-verbalized ones, he is smart enough to understand and accept the reality of his situation and responsibilities that come with his position. I would have been really annoyed if in the midst of saving his country, he had decided to throw caution to the winds and asked Imogen to marry him.It could still happen in the next book but I have full confidence that whatever romance the next novel holds will have its own portion and will not take over the entire narrative. What I didn’t like, however, was Jaron’s noble idiocy at the beginning where he sends Imogen away “for her own safety.” Barf. That’s a tired trick and I’m glad that someone actually confronted him with that. The ending, though, contained an unnecessary cliffhanger. I’m sure people who have read book two will read book three so there was no need to attach that little portion at the end.All said and done, I enjoyed this one quite a lot. I can’t wait to see what the third, and presumably the last, book holds in store for Jaron and his kingdom.