by Mary E. Pearson
Princess Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia, more commonly referred to as Lia, is the First Daughter of the House of Morrighan. This means that she has the gift of knowing, a sort of psychic power. Or, it should mean she has the gift, but Lia hasn’t seen a sign of it in herself. This is hardly high on her list of concerns, however, as she plots her escape with her servant Pauline to avoid the arranged marriage to the prince of Dalbreck. They run to Terravin, a small town some way away from the castle, and they begin an almost idyllic life as barmaids at the local inn. They are pursued, however, by an assassin from Venda, a neighboring kingdom that wants to undermine both Morrighan and Dalbreck, as well as Lia’s would-be husband, the prince of Dalbreck. The main story is told from Lia’s viewpoint, but there are also chapters from both the assassin’s viewpoint and the prince’s viewpoint. They enter Lia’s life together while she works at the inn and take on alternate identities, Rafe and Kaden. The identities are also kept a secret from the reader, however, so there will be chapters from Rafe of Kaden as well as from the assassin and the prince. The assassin and the prince chapters are used when the character does something very telling that would give away which was which. Although it’s possible to figure out who is who, it did add a bit of fun to the book. Overall, however, I disliked having the prince and assassin viewpoints. It gave the reader a lot information, and the story relied heavily on other elements of the book to keep the reader interested such as, writing style, general plot development, and especially romantic tension. Although the writing style and general plot were pretty good, the romantic tension brought the book way down for me. First of all, the assassin falls in love with Lia, who he is supposed to be killing. The justification for this was really shaky. I’m not sure there really was justification; it felt more like a plot device than something his character would do and a good example of insta-love. The prince was pretty much expected to fall in love, and I was okay with his romance. He was there because he wanted to know who this girl was. She was daring enough to run away from a life she didn’t want, and as someone who also wasn’t looking forward to the arranged marriage, he was fascinated by her. Another annoying thing about having Rafe/Kaden and assassin/prince viewpoints was that, to keep the identities hidden, Rafe and Kaden couldn’t be fleshed out too much and acted very similarly. Unfortunately, they both act like lovestruck men with little thought except for the girl, and oddly, neither one acts (though they do have a few thoughts) as though they mind that Lia is clearly showering both with affection. This part of the book was really tiresome, and the characters frustrated me.
About two-thirds of the way through, however, Lia finally realizes what her rash decision of running away has caused - mainly, now Dalbreck is mad at Morrighan because her marriage was supposed to cement an alliance between them, and their separation means they are weak before the force of Venda. This is where it starts to pick up. The identities of Rafe and Kaden become known, so they get fleshed out, and the world also gets some character. Lia works to figure out why her gift isn’t manifesting, she travels some, and all the characters start doing more. In the first part of the book, none of the characters seemed to be doing anything. Lia, of course, is trying to do nothing, but the others just keep putting things off. Also, everyone who needs to is able to find Lia and knows who she is even though the point of her running away was to leave the royal life behind.
This is a 2.9. I can’t quite give it a 3. The characters bothered me too much even though I liked the concept and the main plot and I really couldn’t stand the romance. It was like reaching into a box of Valentine’s Day chocolate. It’s chocolate, so you think you’ll really like it, and I like fantasy and the ideas in this book, but upon biting into it, you discover it has the filling that you usually give away. For me, that’s coffee or coconut. It looks so appealing, and it is still chocolate, but that filling is hard to get around. It might be just right for some people though, so pass the book along. And it’s Valentine’s Day chocolate because that love triangle is so dominating.
(Also, I don’t think this cover is the one used on published books, but I like it way better than the one with the girl staring off in the distance.)