Title: The Kiss of Deception
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publisher: Square Fish
On-Sale Date: June 2nd, 2015
Length: 512 pages
Title: The Heart of Betrayal
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publisher: Square Fish
On-Sale Date: August 2nd, 2016
Length: 496 pages
Title: The Beauty of Darkness
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
On-Sale Date: August 2nd, 2016
Length: 679 pages
*I was as careful as I could be, but it was impossible not to include some spoilers since this is a series review. Spoiler alerts are included, but I may have missed one.*
The Kiss of Deception: Princess Arabella…she goes by Lia, runs away from a political marriage taking her friend Pauline with her, because she desires her own life and real love. She doesn’t know that the prince she’s supposed to marry and an assassin follow her—both with very different intentions. There is a rivalry between Rafe and Kaden immediately, but Lia intrigues them both. When it comes time, the assassin can’t bring himself to do his job, so he does the next best thing.
The Heart of Betrayal: Lia and Rafe are taken prisoner in Venda, a place across the continent, and forced to play a dangerous game with the Komizar—ruler—if they want to make it out alive.
The Beauty of Darkness: Lia and Rafe escape the Komizar’s clutches only to find many problems ahead of them, one in the form of Kaden. Can he be trusted? What state are the kingdoms in now? The answers leave Rafe and Lia running to their home kingdoms of Dalbreck and Morrighan. They haven’t seen the last of the Komizar and the princess, prince and assassin are going to have to work together if they want to survive. END SPOILER.
The greatest part of my day these past couple of weeks have been when I updated my friends and family about what was going on in these books. I told everybody. I’ve had so many conversations where I couldn’t contain my words and was yelling about what I’d read. I was so exuberant with my storytelling that everybody was dying to know what happened with the princess, the prince and the assassin. It was the best feeling to talk about these books, because they made me so happy. The surprises were endless and I couldn’t believe what was happening next or why or how it was going to work out, but I had to find out. I cared so much about what happened to these characters and the series was so exciting to read.
The Kiss of Deception tricked me more than any book I had ever read and I'd never been more impressed. SPOILER ALERT: I thought the prince was the assassin and the assassin was the price, so when the assassin threated Lia I was confused because I didn’t understand what the prince was doing ONLY TO REALIZE HE WASN’T THE PRINCE IN THE FIRST PLACE. I can’t even explain to you how I felt; I scream just thinking about it! I had to go back and reread all the male point of views and I'm convinced this was done on purpose! END SPOILER.
The story was about so much more than a princess who ran away from a political marriage. Love was very important to Lia and she was going to find it on her own terms. Lia also found herself part of a centuries-old prophecy that foretold a battle between her and an unquestionably powerful enemy. So, a princess who wanted to choose her own path and find real love was predestined for something much larger than herself. This aspect of the storyline unfolded over time; it wasn’t rushed, Lia changed and grew into her role because of every thing that was thrown at her. Pearson weaved intricate histories alongside Lia’s storyline that explained Lia’s role as the story progressed. While Lia was the focal character it was good that the story used multiple points of view—Pauline, Kaden, and Rafe—because it gave clarity to certain situations and made the boys more likeable when you saw the reasons behind their choices.
Lia was the hero and she shined. She was headstrong and the belief she had in herself was beautiful, but it took time for her to completely trust herself. All Lia wanted was to be listened to and loved, and she changed when she received those things. Lia became an even brighter character because she took that attention and affection and passed it on to others. She was incredibly empathetic and kind, and people gravitated toward her because of those characteristics. Throughout the series Lia learned to make herself heard instead of waiting for someone to listen to her. She practically never played it safe or took the easy way out; she made the difficult decisions that needed to be made and didn’t care if she chose the more difficult path as long as it was the right one. She put herself in danger because she recognized that other things were more important than what she originally wanted at the beginning of The Kiss of Deception. Amongst everything, Lia found the love she longed for and it was wonderful to read. Their relationship was effortless; they connected so quickly, and even when they fought, they fit together. I was on the edge of my seat when the series because I didn’t know how this relationship was going to work out, and I desperately wanted it to.
Kaden was a remarkable character; he was loyal and lost, loving and aggravating. He was a threat that I never viewed as a threat. He was broken, waiting to heal, because he was lied to and betrayed by those he cared about most. I didn’t want to like Kaden after his actions in The Kiss of Deception, but I couldn’t hate him. I felt that there was something more to him, and there was so much more revealed about him in the later novels that added even more dimension to his character. I couldn’t have anticipated how Kaden would change throughout the series. He always believed that he fought for the right side, but Lia made him question that. The uncertainty changed everything for Kaden. It was through Lia that his kindness shone through. SPOILER ALERT: However, when he joined forces with Lia in The Beauty of Darkness I didn’t trust him right away, because Kaden was torn in the previous two books about where his loyalties lay. He flipped between love and his sense of duty, but he had opened his heart to Lia in such a way that he couldn’t go back. END SPOILER.
THIS ENTIRE PARAGRAPH IS BASICALLY FULL OF SPOILERS: Kaden and Lia’s romantic relationship added so much trouble to each novel, because there was an uneven love triangle from the beginning. There was only a short time when I thought that Kaden and Lia would possibly be a couple, because it was always obvious that Rafe was the one in Lia’s heart. But Kaden had feelings for Lia too and this caused turmoil for everybody because Kaden battled between two parts of himself—one that loved Lia and one that was loyal to someone who posed the greatest threat to her. Kaden didn’t have much of a choice in who he sided with at the end of The Heart of Betrayal, because things happened so quickly that he acted before his mind caught up to his actions. I didn’t think that Kaden chose who he wanted to be until the final book, and I thought Lia’s friend Pauline played a big part in that. Pauline was someone who trusted Kaden and he destroyed that trust early on in the series. Kaden wanted to build that trust up again after he saw himself through her eyes, and he didn’t like what he saw. Kaden continued to make choices about what kind of person he wanted to be throughout the rest of The Beauty of Darkness, and the outcome was superb.
Rafe did stupid, reckless, wonderful things for Lia in every single novel. He loved fiercely and he amazed me countless times. Rafe had so much faith in his soldiers and there was great comradery between them. I loved his men almost as much as he did, because they were always there when you needed them. They served as pillars of strength for Rafe and Lia, and added some lighthearted moments to otherwise dreary times. Rafe had such a strong resolve and determination; however, he was prone to making quick judgments that put him in precarious situations. Rafe made many difficult and unpopular decisions throughout the series out of devotion [SPOILER ALERT] to his country and to Lia. He placed himself in the middle of all the madness because it meant he could protect her. END SPOILER. Rafe’s comrades informed him that he was crazy, but he thought with his heart, and I couldn’t ever fault him for that. SPOILER ALERT: He was wonderful with Lia; he joked with her, fought with her and treasured her.
Rafe and Lia had survived so much together, but at one point in The Beauty of Darkness they had to go their separate ways, and I was miserable and aggravated. I yelled at them, but they didn’t listen to me. I was so mad when I was reading, because I knew something bad was going to happen, but it wasn't what I expected. I sympathized with both arguments, but I was mostly frustrated with Rafe because he was so thickheaded. I wanted them to be together—they lived through hell and they deserved to have each other—and it bothered me because I couldn’t comprehend either Lia or Rafe leaving the other behind even when duty called. However, for that very reason, they were strong characters because neither would sacrifice their beliefs for the other person. END SPOILER. They wouldn’t sacrifice themselves to be what the other person wanted, but they made other sacrifices to defeat the Komizar and uproot his evil.
The Kiss of Deception, The Heart of Betrayal and The Beauty of Darkness couldn’t have been more captivating and addictive with shocks around every corner. I read on my lunch breaks and when something catastrophic or amazing happened, I ran back into work and told everybody because I couldn’t contain myself.
I felt a lot of conflicting emotions at the end of The Beauty of Darkness. The very last moment of the series was one I had highly anticipated, but the mood felt different because I was reminded of the losses that occurred throughout the books. I felt that there was a lack of passion missing in that final moment that I wanted to be there. I was swept away by what had happened previously, and was overwhelmed by the choices that were made and the sacrifices that occurred. I wanted it to be a completely happy ending but knew it had to be at least partially bittersweet. Still, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to any of the characters.
My heart was (and still is) so full of admiration for Lia, Rafe and Kaden. Their experiences made them incredibly strong and thoughtful people, because they lived through perilous situations, insurmountable loss, navigated countless deceits, and still rose to every challenge. Not only were they complex individuals, but they were also compassionate and I treasured them.
The Kiss of Deception Rating
The Heart of Betrayal Rating
The Beauty of Darkness Rating