Seventeen year old Princess Lia is the First Daughter of Morrighan, which means she is destined to be married off to the prince of a distant land to cement alliances and share the gift of sight each First Daughter is said to possess. However, Lia wants to marry for love like her oldest brother, Walther, and knows she hasn’t ever shown a hint of the mysterious sight. On the morning of her arranged wedding to the crown prince of Dalbreck Lia takes fate into her own hands and leaves Civica, the capital city, behind to find a life of her own choosing as a tavern maid in Terravin. Two young men follow her path: one the spurned prince, the other an assassin determined to prevent the alliance between Morrighan and Dalbreck at whatever cost. Little does anyone know that Lia possesses strengths that surpass the legendary sight, and her value is far greater than just a missing royal princess.
The Kiss of Deception was one of those books that both intrigued and frustrated me because it felt a little like two different stories being mashed together. One plot line explored Lia’s self-discovery and growth as she learned more about the nature of duty and her true abilities; the other was simply a second chance love story between two people who must let go of prejudices and anger to see the person behind the facade. Neither story is bad in and of itself, but I found Lia’s journey far more interesting than yet another YA love story and would have preferred more Lia on her own and less boy stuff. Fortunately, Kiss doesn’t shoehorn the romance in just because it’s a check box for a YA novel, and the romantic entanglements play a key role in Lia’s path. I just would have loved to see a novel with a young woman finding herself without love being a main element to that development.
So, I’m critical of the romance angle of the plot, but how do I feel about our two young men, Rafe and Kaden? They’re well-nuanced characters with hidden depths, and Ms. Pearson skillfully defies expectations with how they play out in the text. Despite the set up of two young men and one young woman it’s not technically a love triangle because while Rafe and Kaden both have feelings for Lia, Lia is steadfast in her devotion to only one of the two. Even when she briefly seems swayed the level-headed heroine acknowledges that her actions are the results of negative emotions such as loneliness and isolation, not true affection. In fact Lia is probably the most grounded young lady I’ve read in YA literature in recent months, and she appears to know the difference between real love and Instalustipants (TM) even if most of her relationship develops between the lines.
Lia also frustrated and charmed me by turns; she is a seventeen year old afterall. I adored her gift with languages and natural inclination to being sharp tongued at the worst possible moment. She also appears to be an attractive young woman, but there is nothing abnormally gorgeous about her. In fact Lia looks more comfortable and natural in vagabond garb than the fancy costumes of the royal court and is willing to throw herself into the hard manual labour of running a tavern. She loves her brothers fiercely, feels distanced from her emotionally remote parents, and has earned the dislike of a few of her father’s high ranking advisors due to complete disrespect and petty thefts designed to shame the men. Lia reads like an actual person, not an archetype being slotted into the main character slot, and she’s yet another great YA heroine that makes my heart glad.
Pearson’s supporting cast also impresses given that she produces three additional well-developed women: Pauline, Berdi, and Gwyneth. Each of them manages to be strong in a unique way even when she has made some pretty dismal life choices. The women in the Tribe of Gaudrel also have personalities beyond window dressing although they don’t play a massive role in the plot of this novel. The male supporting characters also come in a wide variety of shades of grey ranging from wannabe-rapist to semi-feral, emotionally damaged tween. The only truly despicable character seems to be Lia’s father, and he has so little real description that it’s impossible to tell whether the man is actually horrible or Lia’s memories are just skewed.
All in all The Kiss of Deception is a good read for anyone wanting a fantasy novel that is more self-discovery than epic adventure although the second half ups the adventure quotient substantially. There are no immense displays of magic or flying dragons here, just a young woman realizing that she holds the ability to create lasting change if she can accept her skills and gifts and use them to the fullest.
4 Mysterious Untranslatable Texts out of 5
The Kiss of Deception will be available on July 15, 2014 wherever books are sold.