Themes Explored: independence, tradition, magic, assassination, arranged marriage, coming-of-age, running away, broken hearts, deception, loss, motherhood, politics, family dynamics, political tensions, small town life, self-reliance, romance, prejudice
Synopsis: 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 does not. Her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to a prince she has never met. On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets. (Goodreads)
Review: The Kiss of Deception is the first book in the Remnant Chronicles. So far three books are planned, one has been published, and the next installment, The Heart of Betrayal, comes out in July of this year. This novel has a lot going for it: an interesting heroine, two complex anti-heroes, an intriguing world, and world building. However, the narrative succumbs to the horror known as a love triangle. This romantic tension never works and only wastes pages. The Kiss of Deception is no exception. But the story is still intriguing so I am willing to overlook the nauseating addition of most overused plot element in the young adult genre.
When I first picked up this novel, I struggled to get past the first couple chapters. The narrative took an interesting turn at the end of the second chapter, so I decided to keep reading. While this is not the greatest young adult fantasy novel I have read, the story is intriguing enough to keep an interested reader occupied. I have high hopes for the sequels. One of the problems with The Kiss of Deception is the opening third of the narrative. The story is told via flashbacks and is filled with rather irrelevant information, such as how Lia chose her name. And it took me awhile to relate with Lia. After all, she flees from an arranged marriage without a single thought as to how this will affect the security of her country. She craves the freedom to choose her own husband and too be lived for herself, not her title. While these reasons are understandable, the narrative takes a long time to reveal where these thoughts came from. It eventually turns out that her brother married for love and without this piece of information it is hard to understand where Lia obtained these notions. Especially since her parents married for politics. However, Lia is also a believably strong heroine and matures over the course of the book.
As with most fantasy novels, the magic system is not overly or well developed. For instance, Lia is a first daughter, so she theoretically has a gift of foresight. However, the narrative never explains why only first daughters possess this skill. Over the course of the story, it becomes clear that Lia possess some part of this gift. But her partial skillset is never explained or explored in depth. Hints about her gift are woven throughout, but Lia continually ignores them. And this really annoyed me, I wanted some concrete answers. The point of including magic in a narrative is to flesh out a certain dimension of the world. In order to do this, the magic system needs to be somewhat fleshed out and explored. Otherwise, the reader is left scratching their head and wondering what is supposed to be happening. Some of the magical system is explored in Deception and some of my questions are eventually answered. However, I really hope the next couple of books continue to add depth to the magic side of the story.
Then there is the issue of the love triangle. Lia has two admirers: Rafe and Kaden. One is an assassin, and the other is the Prince she jilted. One thing I like about the book is that Pearson does not identify who is whom until the very end of the book. So there is this intriguing mystery about who is there to kill Lia and who is there is drag her back to the altar. Pearson gives both the assassin and the prince a handful of point-of-view chapters and these help to add depth to their characters. Hover, neither one is overly developed. Sure we are given their reasons for acting in a certain way, but the narrative never delves deep into their motivations or desires. Also, while Lia is obviously attracted to both characters, she takes little-to-no time in deciding which one to pursue romantically. I thought the whole scenarios was rather ridiculous and the relationship progressed way too quickly. And for the majority of the narrative both Rafe and Kaden appeared incredibly similar. Towards the latter half of the book, Pearson finally gave them both some distinguishing non-physical characteristics. But I wished these descriptions had come a little sooner. Anyways, I did enjoy the whole mystery about trying to figure out who was the assassin and who was the prince. I thought this was an interesting way to introduce some dramatic tension into the story.
Overall, this is an interesting book and I am looking forward to the sequels. However, the narrative moves at a slow pace and it takes a while for the story to reach a climactic moment. If you enjoy a slow burning novel, The Kiss of Deception is worth checking out.
The Kiss of Deception, Henry Holt & CO, 2014, ISBN 9780805099232