Book Review: The Kiss of Deception (or, Why I Should Always Review a Book Before I Read its Sequel)

the kiss of deception

“My dress streamed behind me, now wedding me to a life of uncertainty, but that frightened me far less than the certain life I had faced. This life was a dream of my own making, one where my imagination was my only boundary. It was a life I alone commanded.”

Details & Synopsis

Title: The Kiss of Deception

Author: Mary E Pearson

Series: The Remnant Chronicles, Book One

Publisher: Square Fish

Release Date: June 2, 2015

My Rating: 4/5 stars

We meet Princess Lia as she is enduring the application of her wedding kavah, a ceremonial henna-like temporary tattoo representing the joining of her kingdom, Morrighan, with that of her intended, Dalbreck. All the while she is planning her escape with her friend and maid, Pauline. They plan to travel to Pauline’s hometown of Terravin to start a new, simple life in the inn of Pauline’s auntie, Berdi. Lia is excited to live the life of a free, hard-working woman, and for a while that’s what she has.

“Then, maybe most beautiful of all, surrounding the bay were homes and shops that crept up the hills, each one a different color: bright blue, cherry red, orange, lilac, lime, a giant fruit bowl with the Bay of Terravin at its heart, and finally dark green fingers of forest reached down from the hills to hold the multicolored bounty in its palm.”

Unfortunately for Lia (but fortunate for us, because it adds a wonderful layer to her personality), she can’t help herself. She’s willful, a touch arrogant, and she delights in sticking it to authority. Before she steals away, she perpetrates a last act of defiance against one of her childhood tormentors, the Royal Scholar, by stealing two old tomes he’s hidden in his office. She doesn’t do this for any reason other than to flip him the bird, and it’s this act that has resounding consequences for the life she is set on building for herself far away from the palace.

In addition to enraging her father’s cabinet, she’s intrigued her intended husband, the prince of Dalbreck, who feels like he must see the woman who so bravely and defiantly left him at the altar. His pursuit is joined by an assassin from another kingdom, Venda, who has been charged by his leader, the Komizar, to make good on this opportunity to sour things between Dalbreck and Morrighan and to further their own aims.

Of course, wacky love geometry and hi-jinks ensue, and all the while we’re treated to the unfolding of an absolutely gorgeous origin story, a mythology so beautiful and lyrical that I almost would rather that have been the focus of the book. Lia unravels secrets, loses and finds a great many things, and learns about her place in the tale of her country and its namesake, Morrighan, and in the deepening of political intrigue and larger, more magical machinations.

“His voice was warm and slow and reminded me of the gentle rumble of a distant summer storm — so inviting at a distance.”

My Thoughts

Strengths:

  • Female relationships; the friendship between Lia & Pauline, Lia’s memories of her mother and aunts, the family Lia & Pauline find in Terravin with Berdi & Gwyneth, the solidarity of the vagabond women, and a mythology built around the love of women for other women (Gaudrel, Morrighan, Venda).
  • The mythology and overall world-building. Sometimes I read fantasy, and this especially applies to fantasy with a strong romantic element, that feels like the author spent most of his or her time building a central relationship and then the world around it and to suit it. This book didn’t feel that way. The mythology is so rich and interesting, and the world exists apart from the characters. I really got the sense that Pearson created this world lovingly, with attention; there are poems, lays, stories that just feel so real and which are beautiful in their language and imagery. I like the magic of the Sight & concepts of the Siarrah and the First Daughter, and the Ancients’ ruins gave me a delicious shiver.
  • The twist(s), and one revelation in particular, which I won’t spoil. 😃
  • The writing. Pearson is a talented writer, and I caught myself highlighting a lot of her descriptions because they were so lyrical and gorgeous.

Weaknesses:

  • The love triangle, even though I sort of liked it. Love triangles almost always feel contrived, and though this one worked in this particular story, it was not immune from that feeling that some things were forced to make the relationship geometry work. I can’t deny part of me is almost always a little embarrassed reading about men competing for women in grand, manly displays, like when Kaden & Rafe grapple in the log contest.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. I liked it so much that when I finished I immediately bought the next book in the series….which leads me to the parenthetical addition to this post’s title, “Why I Should Always Review a Book Before I Read its Sequel.” I regret that I didn’t stop and write this review before starting Book Two, because I feel very differently about the sequel and that feeling has probably colored my review. Still, I’ll look fondly on this first book in the series because it was just so darn enjoyable. I had a blast reading it, imagining the colors and sounds and sights of the world, and I even enjoyed Lia’s love triangle to an extent, because of the hidden prince and conflicted assassin dynamics. So, highly recommended! 😃

Let’s Discuss!

Have any of you read the Remnant Chronicles? What’re your impressions about the turn the series makes in the sequel? Should I give the 3rd installment a shot, or will it erode my love of the series even more than the 2nd?

And can you in good conscience recommend only the first book in a trilogy, when that book ends on a cliffhanger and you know people are going to continue on to a not-as-good sequel?

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