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Review: Deception's Pawn by Esther Friesner

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Deception's Pawn
Esther Friesner

Series: Deception's Princess #2
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Hardback: 368 Pages
Publication: April 28, 2015
by Random House BFYR

Maeve, princess of Connacht, seems to have won her freedom. Her father, the High King, is finally allowing her to explore the world beyond his castle. But Maeve soon discovers that being the High King's daughter doesn't protect her from bullying or the attention of unwelcome suitors.

Struggling to navigate a new court, she must discourage the advances of her father's rival, who is vying with her host's son for her hand in marriage. Maeve is a pawn trapped between these two boys. Her bold defiance will bring her to the brink of disaster, but her clever gamble may also lead to her independence. Though she faces danger and intrigue, Maeve will also discover what kind of person-and queen-she's destined to become.


Warning: contains some spoilers from the first novel in the duology.

I loved Deception's Princess because it stepped out of the constraints of the brave, independent, kickass girl trope that is all too common in YA lit today. While Maeve is a courageous young woman who isn't afraid to fight for herself, she has proven to be clever and relational-oriented. She uses a daughter's wits to fight when she cannot use a son's weapons, and she has been shown to be close to her friends and family. In Deception's Pawn, however, the character that has been built for her in Deception's Princess falls apart, and Maeve becomes another foolhardy girl who charges recklessly into situations and somehow gets through tough situations that could have easily gone bad.

Determined not to be her father's pawn, Maeve has entered fosterage to gain greater freedom. Whereas I found Maeve a mature character in the first novel, Maeve feels youthful and headstrong in the sequel. She often acts based on her emotions instead of relying on the wits that she espoused in the first novel. For example, despite the gossip floating around, she continues to hang out with a young man alone outside of the walls because of her personal desires (to learn how to fight and to hang out with Ea, the kestrel she loves). She is also hopelessly naive in her interactions with the foster girls and continues to consider them her friends for much of the novel in spite of their contradictory behavior.

The characters and their relationships lose depth. The foster girls are extremely shallow and focused on (1) self-preservation and (2) getting a guy. If they take an interest in the other girls, it's because they have their self-interests in mind. Considering how the novel is told from Maeve's perspective, I  would understand if Maeve taking a superficial interest in the other girls led her to portray them shallowly, but she actually takes an interest in them. Furthermore, Maeve doesn't interact consistently with any one character; as a result, the other characters tend to come and go at random. There isn't a consistent plotline that involves any one character. I find it problematic that the guy who forces a kiss on Maeve ends up being the most reliable character at the end. Other guys (and girls) that ought to have been reliable end up being shallow, cowardly, and inattentive. I'm especially disappointed in Odran. I understand that his love with Maeve in the first novel was youthful and naive, but his reaction to the changing dynamics of their relationship was poor. This was very, very disappointing.

The ending was very cheesy and unrealistic. First, Maeve resolves conflicts with different people rather quickly and unsatisfactorily. I know things won't always wrap up cleanly in reality, but the way things stand at the end of the novel, the characters remain superficial. Second, given his actions thus far, I highly doubt that Maeve's father would go and give her what she wants especially without her having to bring it up. What it is I won't say because I don't want to spoil the ending.  He's a guy who does things because he has an agenda, not because he wants to do someone a favor. (Third:) What I did like is that Maeve stands up for herself and gains the freedom and independence that she desires. Furthermore, she is shown to be a strong woman who does not need a man but rather stands equal to men in a traditionally patriarchal society.

While Maeve's pursuit of freedom is admirable, her character is too youthful and naive to make her "success" realistic. While she wants to be independent, she does not exhibit the wisdom and skill set necessary to be a leader among her people. That said, she is a young woman in the process of learning more about the world, and I do believe that she has the charisma to be a strong leader. I just wish that she showed more growth in this novel, for she showed a lot of potential in the first novel. As it is, Deception's Pawn is a disappointing follow up to the first novel.

Content (contains potential spoilers):
  • Maeve runs away from fosterage to live with Odran. They make out with fiery passion, and it is implied that they have sex. Some of the other foster girls have lovers; it is implied at least one of them has sex with her lovers.
  • The foster girls can be very mean. The bullying among the foster girls gets pretty bad. For example, some of the girls sit on top of Maeve so that it is hard for her to breathe, and they stay there until she cries. In the past, the bullying got so bad that a girl ran away never to be seen again (it's highly likely that she died out there).
  • Two guys get into a (physical) fight over Maeve.

A copy was provided by Random House for review

  1. Deception's Princess
  2. Deception's Pawn

  • Kissing
  • Sex (implied)
  • Bullying

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