(The old cover)
Princess Contessa of Costenopolie knows everything a royal should about diplomacy, self-defense, politics… and shopping. She ought to. She had every reason to believe that she was groomed to rule. But her next lesson is in betrayal…
The sudden arrival of her betrothed, a prince from the kingdom of Misdev, has forced Tess’s parents to come clean: She’s no princess. Their real daughter was raised in a nunnery for fear of assassins. Tess is nothing but a beggar’s child bought off the street as an infant and reared as a decoy.
So what’s a royal highness to do when she discovers she’s a royal target? Ditch the Misdev soldiers occupying the palace, use magical abilities she didn’t even know she had, restore the real princess to the throne, and save her own neck. But first, Tess has to deal with the scoundrel who’s urging her to run away from it all, and the Misdev captain who’s determined to thwart her plans…
Kim Harrison, author of the acclaimed Hollows series, actually started off her career writing YA fantasy as Dawn Cook. I first picked up the Hollows because I’d read and enjoyed these books – but I suspect for most of you, it will be the reverse. So if you’ve been feeling the interminable wait for the next Hollows book – or just the lack of fantasy on the market lately – or maybe you need a breather from the glut of vamps, weres, and leather – look no further. This book is a fast and enjoyable read.
The main character, Tess, has the patented Kim Harrison flare – she makes mistakes, is a loyal friend and doesn’t shy away from a fight. Not bad for someone raised to be royalty. It’s impossible not to like Tess as she transforms from a princess to an impostor, from a pawn to someone to be reckoned with.
I do have one warning for you – something about the opening of this book can come across as a little off putting. I don’t know what it is, maybe it gives off too much of that stereotypical princess vibe, which can easily rub you the wrong way. I admit I was a little dubious of Tess at the beginning, but trust me – if you keep going, it’s well worth it. There’s a slew of action and intrigue ahead, and just the right touch of romance. So if you’re in the mood for a rollicking good fantasy yarn, pick this one up. It’s a fun ride.
And for the Hollows fans – you’re definitely going to run across a familiar name in an amusingly different context. =)
Byrt Grade: A
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
The Decoy Princess is an excellent, energetic start to this series, laying the groundwork for plenty of story yet to come. For fans of action and adventure fantasy, and for those who like political intrigue without delving into the overwhelming epic complexities of books like George R.R. Martin’s series, this is a great choice. I love the concepts and potential introduced here, and look forward to future offerings.
While I can’t classify The Decoy Princess as a page-turner, I sincerely enjoyed the characters, the world Cook created, and the excitement she produced in me towards the end when I absolutely had to know what was going to happen. Ok, so I lied — it got pretty page-turning towards the end. Cook has a rare talent in that she can take a mystery and make it not confusing. The pieces really fell into place quite nicely for The Decoy Princess, yet they were in no way predictable. Dawn Cook has definitely come up with an original plotline here and her characters are ones definitely worth visiting. I can’t wait to read the sequel — Princess at Sea.
I thoroughly enjoyed Tess’ journey – she has integrity (her sense of duty impels her to find the real princess [with her “tiny, thin, perfect little ankles”] and restore her to the crown), hidden depths and skills, and an unknown magical ability (which, in the tradition of the best fantasy novels, does not come without a price). Tess begins with power, discovers she is a pawn, and then discovers power she had no idea existed.