Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson

 A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.
Kindle Edition, 492 pages
Published July 8th 2014 by Henry Holt 

Thank you to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for approving me for an ARC for review.

The Kiss of Deception was not your typical YA high fantasy.  Lia is a feisty young princess engaged to a "stuffy old prince" she has not met, and promptly runs off from her kingdom to hopefully never be seen again.  She travels across her country with her maid and friend, Pauline, to a peaceful city by sea.  Aiming to start a new life, she assimilates into village life.  Unbeknownst to her, two young men have followed her to the village: one the stifled prince she left at the altar, and the other an assassin sent to kill her.

With the story alternating between Lia and the two men as narrators, what makes the story so different is that the reader is never quite sure which man is the prince or assassin for a majority of the book.  The reader knows one is the assassin and the other the prince, but Lia is in the dark entirely believing them to be a trader and a farmer.  There were moments where I as the reader thought I knew who was who, but at the same time I tried not to get too invested in figuring it out because that is part of the fun of reading this book: being surprised at the reveal.

The aspect of not being sure who the narrator was added a special something to The Kiss of Deception.  It took the idea of the unreliable narrator to a different level, though it also added a layer of frustration to the story.  In addition, it created a barrier between the reader and the characters that prevented getting attached to the characters.  The reader knows the entire time that both male characters are deceiving Lia, but Lia doesn’t.  The difference in distrust from the reader to the main character changed the reading perspective.

Lia, however, was a character easy to root for.  She is feisty and impulsive and just wants a normal life.  She is tired of being told what to do and doesn’t want to be a pawn for her father’s diplomacy, thus running from her own wedding.  What was interesting about Lia was how she surprises everyone by knowing she simply wants a peasant’s life and then falling into it easily and proving it -- she doesn’t get discouraged by chores or not having money.

While the story had a great premise, interesting storytelling, and fun main character, I still found myself bored with the details in the book.  The pacing felt slow, overly long at times, and I would’ve preferred a bit more flow in the reading process.  The book definitely picks up after the reveal of the two male characters.  It will be interesting to see if and how the author continues this way of storytelling, but I almost hope she doesn’t.  I felt that it held the story back and was the cause of the odd pacing and occasional drag.

Regardless of the minor hang-ups I had with pacing, I still very much so enjoyed The Kiss of Deception.  I would recommend it to anyone who loves high fantasy and those who might still be getting their feet wet in the genre.  It has great world building, full fleshed characters, and a great love story with a big dash a deception all laced throughout.  

Final Thought: Almost 4 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads.