Written by: Mary E. Pearson
Published by: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: July 8th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.
In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.
On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.
The Kiss of Deception was one of my most-anticipated fantasy books releasing this year — and not because of the synopsis and cover (which, while good, both scream “love triangle”). No, this book grew into its “most-anticipated” status because everyone loves it. Out of 26 of my Goodreads friends who have read it, 14 rated it 5-stars, and 12 rated it 4-stars. That’s right, not a single 3-or-below rating. This is unheard of.
So yeah, I was properly excited. High fantasy, people loved it, give it to me now. And I did really enjoy it.
Lia is a very strong main character – probably one of the most believably-strong characters I’ve read in a while. She’s put in a terrible position, being forced into a sham and an agreement marry a prince she’s never even seen, let alone met. So she decides to take matters into her own hands and run away to start a new life – completely aware that running away means leaving behind her pampered royal life, and she is all for that. She’s willing to work hard in order to make her own way, and that’s fantastic.
Now, a whole bunch of potential issues crop up with the “running-away-from-an-arranged-marriage” situation – arranged marriages are awful, but when the marriage could potentially save an entire kingdom? Idk, I like the character to wrestle with this decision – she’s decided to let her country fend for itself, it should be tough. At first, Lia just runs away to escape the marriage and doesn’t think too hard. She’s made her decision and sticks with it. But she grows tremendously, and goes through periods of doubt about whether she ever should have abandoned her kingdom, which I appreciated.
As for the assassin and the prince, both who are trying to find Lia for their own reasons… Argh! I can’t say much about them. I really liked both of their characters, though I would’ve really liked more development (more on that in a sec). There really wasn’t what I’d call a “love triangle”. Yes, these two guys are potential love-interests – but Lia obviously favors one over the other, and she spends almost no time trying to “decide” between the two of them once she starts to get to know them.
The main thing that really threw me off in this book, was the way the characters’ identities are hidden from us. The Kiss of Deception is written from three perspectives. The main narration is Lia’s, but there are also chapters from the assassin’s and Prince’s POV’s. Lia’s narration is un-labeled, but subheadings indicate chapters from “The Assassin” or “The Prince”. We don’t even learn their names, until they give them to Lia. One is Rafe, and the other is Kaden. But which is which???? Because once you have some names to deal with, the chapters get really intense. Lia still narrates, but we also have narration from “Rafe” and “Kaden” — which includes no details to give away which is the assassin or which is the Prince… BUT! We still also have chapters from “The Assassin” or “The Prince”, which don’t give away names! AHHHH!!!! *cue hair-pulling*
This drove me insane. You don’t find out who’s who until about 60% through the book. I’m not a reader who likes to actively speculate about plotty things while I read – I’d much rather just find things out when the author tells them to me outright. So having to deal with NOT knowing who was who? Torture. The chapters are, essentially, from five different POV’s representing only three people… The chapters from The Prince/Assassin/Rafe/Kaden forced me to search for little details while I was reading, ANYTHING to indicate who was who. I made my guess pretty early, and was actually correct, but this didn’t even help; with every passing POV, I kept doubting myself, trying to sort out all the details in my mind, and it was just… not how I like to read a book.
I also think this took away from the character development, or at least, it took away from the feeling that you’re getting to know a character as the book progresses. Because for 60% of the book, you don’t even know who half the characters are. The chapters from “The Assassin” or “The Prince” dealt mainly with the characters’ motivations – because they could talk about their background and why they were interested in Lia. “Rafe” and “Kaden” dealt solely with emotions (without any of that background knowledge) and Rafe’s and Kaden’s views of one another. This type of split-perspective is unique, yes, but it also killed any kind of complete picture I was trying to form in my head of either of those characters.
Being a character-oriented reader, this was not ideal for me. Some people might find the final “reveal” mind-blowing, depending on what their guesses were about Kaden/Rafe/Prince/Assassin, but I just saw it as an enormous relief. Thank God the torture was finally over!!
*sigh* Okay, so, I know I’ve written too much already, but I really haven’t seen a lot about the POV’s in many reviews, so I felt like I needed to address it, and my issues with it. I did have a couple other “ehh” issues… First, I felt like the beginning dragged, and not just because of the POV issues. Not a lot of plot-related stuff happened, just a lot of setup, really. And then once you hit 60%, the action picks up, but this wasn’t really my favorite thing either… There’s a lot of traveling and running away and attempted escapes and more traveling… I felt like the last 40% could’ve been cut down quite a bit.
Gosh, it sounds like I really didn’t like this book… and that’s not the case! 3.5 stars is not a bad rating. My hangups over the POV, and then what I felt like could’ve been a much-compressed “ending” (the final 40%), really skewed my feelings about this one.
I really liked Lia, and I loved the teasers we got of the magic system… And the world itself is awesome! I loved the worldbuilding, and am super excited to learn more about it in the sequel. Did you know this is technically set in a post-apocalyptic America? OH YEAH. “Post-apocalyptic fantasy” (idk, is there an actual category for this?) is one of my favorite things ever, so when I realized that, I was over the moon.
So, yeah. I did enjoy this one, and considering how many other people loved it, I’d 100% recommend checking it out.