The Kiss of Deception

by Mary E Pearson
First sentence: “Today was the day a thousand dreams would die and a single dream would be born.”
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Content: There’s some illusions to sex, but nothing explicit. And there’s some violence, but nothing graphic. This one has been languishing in our Teen (grades 9+) section, but I think I’ll move it to YA (grades 6-8) with all the other pretty-dress-covered fantasy.

Lia is a princess of the land of Morrigan, a First Daughter. Which means that her life, as much as she hates it, is not her own. Per custom and religious tradition, First Daughters have arranged marriages, for political gain. And so, Lia is being married off to the prince of a neighboring kingdom, Dalbreck. Whom she has never met. And whom, because he’s just doing what his father wants, she will never have any respect for.

So she runs away, the morning of her wedding. Escapes to a small, coastal town with her maid, and disguises herself as a barmaid. She figures she’ll happily live out her life there. But, there are people on her trail: an assassin from another neighboring “barbarian” country, and the prince himself, who (of course) is nothing like Lia thinks he’ll be.

There are a lot of “of courses” here: yes, there’s a love triangle (but it’s handled well). Yes, she gets caught out. Yes, there’s a smattering of magic and religiousy folklore;  Pearson has developed a whole religion and a prophecy, though I have to admit that I skipped a bunch of that. But, in Pearson’s hands, none of that seemed trite. I really liked Lia as a character, from the get-go: she knew what she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to take it. She was independent — there was none of that stuck-up royal stuff you often get in these sorts of stories — and thoroughly confident in her decisions.

And so when the story takes a left turn — the assassin ends up kidnapping Lia and dragging her back to his country — I was giddy with delight. The book is good, but the last third, after Lia is kidnapped, is great.  No, the story didn’t wrap up; the sequel is coming out in July. But, this is a series definitely worth reading.

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