Friesner, Esther. Deception's Pawn
April 28th 2015 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Copy received from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
In this sequel to Deception's Princess, Maeve, the favorite daughter of the evil High King is being fostered at Dun Beithe by Lady Lassaire. Maeve relishes the freedom of being away from home, but finds her fellow foster daughters to be rather tiresome. She has made her way to this location because she heard rumors that Ea, her falcon whom she thought was dead, had been nursed back to health by Kian, the son of Lady Lassaire and a popular choice for a husband among the young ladies. Maeve sneaks out to spend time with Ea and is discovered, and Kian makes a wary pact with her to train her to use a sling, get Ea to return to her, and other skills that would be helpful to a headstrong lady. SHe must keep this training secret from everyone, since it's not the sort of thing that nice girls do, so Lady Lassaire, as well as the girls, all think there is a romance going on between the two. When Bryg, the girl who helped heal Ea, sees Maeve in a compromising position with the man that Bryg likes, Bryg makes sure that all of the foster daughters turn against Maeve, committing annoying and obnoxious acts against her. Maeve doesn't have to put up with this treatment for long-- word comes that Odran, who left her to train to be a Druid, is deathly ill, and Maeve travels to be with him. While there, she has to determine whether she and Odran really are meant to be together, or whether her romantic connection will be found elsewhere.
Like all of Friesner's heroines, Maeve is unwilling to settle within the constraints of her time period. Her love of falconry, her attempts to use weapons, and her demands to be considered equal to the men she meets are all delightful and adventurous. Romance is a big part of her life, since there are few other paths open to women at the time besides marriage and motherhood, but Maeve thinks that she could combine marriage with a fair bit of adventure. Her growing relationships with Kian, Conchobar, and Odran are all different but interesting.
Much of the middle of the book is concerned with Byrg's nastiness, and I wish that this had been replaced with a more adventurous plot. High school readers might really enjoy this, but I (like Maeve) had little patience with the girl drama. Luckily, it doesn't last long, and Maeve is out falling into bogs and having adventures before too long. We do find out a bit more about her father's kingdom and the role she will play in it, but the ending is somewhat vague, which I rather like. Friesner's books usually are series of just two, so I doubt there will be another book featuring Maeve.
There are always a few readers who adore medieval fantasies with feisty girls, and this is perfect for fans of Cashore's Graceling, Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Robin McKinley and, of course, Tamora Pierce. Now THAT would make a great adventure-- now I want to go on an adventure with Katsa, Cimorene, Aerin and Alanna. What fun that would be!