Fleeing an arranged marriage to a stranger, Lia, youngest child and only daughter of the king and queen of Morrighan, runs away with her friend and settles in a village at the other end of the country. There she develops a new identity, living in a cottage and working in a tavern. Soon two men show up in town: the prince to whom she was betrothed, and an assassin sent to kill her to prevent the marriage from ever happening. Their identities are secret from Lia – and, indeed, from us.
The way Pearson deals with this is probably the cleverest part of the novel. The vast majority of it is told from Lia’s perspective, but we get a few short chapters from the points of view of The Prince, The Assassin, Rafe and Kaden. Rafe and Kaden are the names the two men give Lia, but, while we know that one is the prince and one is the assassin, we don’t know which man holds which role, and Pearson keeps it that way for more than half the novel, until the assassin makes his move and reveals his identity.
Lia’s voice is lyrical and contemplative; she reminds me quite vividly of Phèdre no Delaunay de Montrève from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series. Her voice befits not only her character, but the world she inhabits. That being said, it probably contributed to what I found to be the greatest weakness of the book: the pacing. At times it felt like the book dragged, particularly when Lia’s settling into her new life. Even so, I think that may have been a deliberate choice, much as it takes Tolkien absolutely forever to get his hobbits out of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings. In both cases, by showing the minor facets of life, we see just how much that life means to the characters, in a way we wouldn’t if it were rushed.
Pacing aside, this book sucked me into the world and the characters. I can’t wait for the sequel!