Series: Deception's Princess #1
Published by Random House on April 22, 2014
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Some lies lead to true adventure. . . .
Maeve, princess of Connacht, was born with her fists clenched. And it's her spirit and courage that make Maeve her father's favorite daughter. But once he becomes the High King, powerful men begin to circle--it's easy to love the girl who brings her husband a kingdom.
Yet Maeve is more than a prize to be won, and she's determined to win the right to decide her own fate. In the court's deadly game of intrigue, she uses her wits to keep her father's friends and enemies close--but not too close. When she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the son of a visiting druid, Maeve faces a brutal decision between her loyalty to her family and to her own heart.
Award-winning author Esther Friesner has a remarkable gift for combining exciting myth and richly researched history. This fiery heroine's fight for independence in first-century Ireland is truly worthy of a bard's tale. Hand Deception's Princess to fans of Tamora Pierce, Shannon Hale, and Malinda Lo
Okay, sure. That cover is just screaming Brave (on purpose I can’t help but think). I can tell you, though, that there really aren’t many similarities between the two. This is straight historical fiction with no more magic in it than a book set in the misty, mythic hills of Iron Age Ireland perhaps cannot help but imbue.
Maeve is the youngest daughter of the High King of Ireland and a valued prize for any of the dozens of ambitious lesser kings. Though, clearly, she is not going to resign herself to such a fate without a fight. Maeve’s characterization was a delight to behold. Witty, courageous, and fierce, but with a tenderness and vulnerability as well. She’s talented and capable yet she makes mistakes. She’s fully drawn and one of the realest characters I’ve encountered this year. I loved her.
The most enjoyable aspect of this book is watching Maeve weave her way around court with her clever mind, good humor, and high spirit. And I have to give the girl credit: when the stakes are high and tough decisions need to be made Maeve is a gal who gets things done. Even if it’s at great cost to her. Even if it breaks her heart.
And I really appreciated that this is not a story that shies away from the more brutal aspects and inherent cruelties of this Iron Age society. There is plenty of illness, deceit, betrayal, and the hard, senseless deaths of beloved characters. And Maeve, darling Maeve, keeps going. She gets through it with shoulders strongly squared. This is a girl living in an awfully misogynistic environment and yet she does what she can at every turn to buck the system and fight back. There’s even a really awesome reversal of the Damsel in Distress trope in here. :D
What kept me from enjoying this book more was the very slow pace. I think perhaps I was expecting there to be, if not a high adventure, then at least a strong political plotline (this book is called Deception’s Princess-I thought there would be a lot more deception). Instead it’s more of a detailed study on 1st Century Irish life. And it’s not to say that this is bad; it’s often fascinating. The book is thoughtful and poignant in its contemplation of the lives and struggles of these people. It just wasn’t what I wanted out of this particular reading experience.
Here’s an example: perhaps fully one third of the book is dedicated to Maeve discovering the the care and keeping of wounded animals with her friend Odran. Maybe if you’re more of an animal lover than I am you would enjoy this more? Ha, perhaps I just have a cold and twisted heart? Heartwarming and touching as it is, I just sort of scratch my head at why it takes up so much room in the plot.
And I get that this is Ireland in the 1st Century CE so there is going to be a strong current of societal misogyny. But at times it seemed to be laid on too thick. We already understand the restrictions and struggles of Maeve’s society. We know that women are considered inferior in almost every way. Once that’s established it’s really not necessary to encounter disparaging comments on nearly every other page.A little more subtlety here, for me, would have gone a long way.
Still, it was an enjoyable read and I recommend it for those who like fully realized gray characters in a very detailed historical setting. There is definitely strong crossover appeal for fans of low fantasy with historic/political undertones in the vein of Half A King as well. And if you just plain love to read stories about young girls who fiercely and wittily battle the tides of an unfortunate fate then this is a story that cannot be missed.