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.

You know those books where for every positive there is a negative, and for every negative a positive? Welcome to The Kiss of Deception (where the main deception is that it isn't fantasy at all, but I'll get to that in a second).

Con: Dearly do I wish I could award The Kiss of Deception a higher rating than this, because it is, in essence, a beautiful book. But when I end the book with a thought that knocking two hundred pages off it would have in no way affected the plot, that's when I know the pacing issues are serious enough to warrant the 3.5 stars I've chosen to give it. Not only do the principal characters spend more time traveling on horseback through uninteresting landscapes for chapters on end, but they do so in repetitive monologues that might prompt a more impatient reader to abandon the book entirely - or at least continue to put it down repeatedly in favor of other, more fast-paced reads.

Pro: However, the entirety of the events in the book are delivered in such beautiful, lilting prose that no doubt had many readers copying entire passages down for later re-reads. In terms of writing style, Mary E. Pearson is in the highest ranks - not just in YA fantasy, but overall. The narrative is bold, clever, poetic and interesting even where the plot is not. In terms of aesthetic and cultural impact, The Kiss of Deception is a 5-star read all the way. It's a shame not all the elements deliver.

Con: Equally as troubling as the pacing for myself was the protagonist's overall character. Princess Lia comes from a fundamentally selfish place when she chooses her own happiness over the futures, destinies and peace between two warring kingdoms. She does this fully aware that her actions will result in deaths on all sides, and across the borders. And she does this out of fear that her arranged marriage would be to an aged, unattractive prince. Following a lengthy stretch of time where nothing whatsoever happens, Lia comes to realize the gravity of her actions and - in a dramatic and entirely expected change of heart - chooses to go back and make good on her original promise, thus rendering the first half of the book completely redundant. Surely she would have known that people would die? But the catch is that Lia doesn't really care until it is someone close to her whose life is lost, before she regrets her impulsive actions.

Pro: On the plus side, the situation which arises out of the whole sad, sordid mess is easily the first truly interesting twist to the story, and one that holds solid promise of a more action-packed sequel.

Con: As is the common trend in YA, this book, too, was seemingly incomplete without a needlessly dramatic love triangle and not one but two instalove-type connection which arise out of nowhere. Lia's relationship with Rafe was about as unbelievable as her relationship with Kaden, as was their roaring animosity - considering all these people have just crossed paths for the first time and know precious little about each other.

Pro: Again, having said that, this dramatic back-and-forth actually brought forth the single most enjoyable and entertaining aspect of the book - a truly beautifully-crafted plot twist which had many heads spinning and which was the original reason why I picked this book up in the first place. Even expecting it, this particular twist did not leave me disappointed. It was the one promise The Kiss of Deception really lived up to.

Con: What is also hard to understand is how and why this book is marketed or considered fantasy, when so far there has been nothing to support this. This is not a negative per se, more of a confusion when the reality doesn't match the expectation. The world Mary E. Pearson has created is far from uninteresting - it has all the potential to become a fantasy world - but so far it has read like really imaginative historical fiction.

Con: Another common trope nowadays is the sort of non-ending which The Kiss Of Deception also featured, where one book clearly sets up the sequel without wrapping up any of its crucial character or plot arcs, or giving the readers much in the way of closure.

Pro: Having said that, does that make me anticipate the sequel all the more? Yes, it does. Well played, author/editor/critique partner/whoever made this call. Well played.

Also, I think I would very much like to read a book of straight-up poetry from this author, where issues of pacing can't arise. There is no doubt in my mind that I'd enjoy it immensely, along with many, many others who feel as I do about Mary E. Pearson's incredible talent when it comes to words.


The Heart of Betrayal, the sequel to The Kiss of Deception, is due to come out later this year. Leave us a comment below and let us know how you enjoyed the first book in the series, whether you'll pick up the sequel and - most importantly - how about that plot twist? Or if you are mortally opposed to blog comments, thankfully we are in no way opposed to social media of all kinds, so feel free to message us on any of our accounts below. We (mostly) don't bite. Strangers.