Fortune favors the bold in this adventurous tale of broken friendships, forbidden love, and a fiery heroine’s journey to escape the role into which she was born. Perfect for YA fantasy fans of Shannon Hale, Malinda Lo, and Tamora Pierce.
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.
Praise for award-winning author Esther Friesner:
“Fans of Disney’s Brave will be delighted to explore the Celtic landscape with another determined, redheaded princess.” —SLJ
“Bring on the adventure!” —Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author
“A perfect blend of the historical and fantastic.” —Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix
About the Author
Nebula Award winner ESTHER FRIESNER is the author of numerous novels and short stories. Educated at Vassar College and Yale University, she is also a poet, a playwright, and the editor of several anthologies. Her Princesses of Myth books include Nobody’s Princess, Nobody’s Prize, Sphinx’s Princess, Sphinx’s Queen, Spirit’s Princess, Spirit’s Chosen, Deception’s Princess, and Deception’s Pawn.
Esther is married and the mother of two. She harbors cats and lives in Connecticut. Visit her at sff.net/people/e.friesner and learn more about her Princesses of Myth books at princessesofmyth.com.
Read an Excerpt
I woke with a gasp in a strange bed, my heart beating rapidly. Where was I? Midnight surrounded me. I’d been dreaming of unfettered flight, of joy, of soaring fearlessly across open skies. Now all that wild, glorious liberty was abruptly gone. A frightening thought shook me: Was this harsh waking an omen? I had worked hard to remake my life, to be more than the High King’s daughter, the prize he’d once used to tempt and tame lesser kings. Could all my hard-won freedom be torn away from me so easily? I shivered at the possibility.
Thank all the gods, my good sense finally woke up as well. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Enough, I thought. I left the safety of Father’s home because I’m not a coward, and I won’t act like an infant now, making monsters out of every nighttime shadow. Yawning, I turned onto my side. It will all be better by sunrise.
“Ugh, is it morning?” I grumped like an old badger who’d been dug out of his burrow and brushed aside the tangled curls that had fallen across my face while I slept. All of yesterday’s excitement and fuss surrounding my arrival at Dun Beithe left me too exhausted to braid my hair before bedtime. I’d pay for it this morning. I winced, imagining the pain of unsnarling so many knots.
My eyes blinked in the faint wash of daylight in the chamber I shared with three other girls. I stared up at the rafters and listened to the sound of unfamiliar breathing coming from their beds. One of my new companions snored so badly, it was as if she were breathing mud. Another muttered in her sleep. I thought I heard her say a boy’s name, but then she giggled and rolled onto her stomach. At least she had pleasant dreams.
I wasn’t used to this. When my older sisters still lived within the protective walls of Cruachan ringfort, the six of us slept in a single room. But year by year, by ones and twos, I watched them leave until I had a room of my own. I grieved most bitterly when my favorite, Derbriu, went off to fosterage. I hadn’t seen any of them since, except for our eldest sister, Clothru. She was a girl when she left us, but she returned as a married woman with her first baby on the way.
How changed would I be whenand ifI went home again?
I turned onto my side but didn’t go back to sleep. The bed coverings made my bare skin itch. They smelled . . . not bad, exactly, but different. Too different. They’d been washed in water that didn’t come from our streams, water that never raced over the stones of our land, Connacht’s land, my family’s realm, my birthplace and my home. I wished I hadn’t been so tired last night that I simply stripped off my clothes and threw myself into bed. At least the thin shift I sometimes wore to sleep would have carried a comforting, familiar scent.
The alien smell of my bedding was only the beginning. From this moment on my world would be nothing but unfamiliar names, places, customs, and expectations. From the food I ate to the people I met, everything would be strange. I’d come to Dun Beithe to find my Ea, the wild kestrel who’d bonded to me, but I’d come here to claim a new life as well. I’d fought to get free of being Father’s little girl and I’d tasted the thrill of strength and self-reliance when I rescued our bard, Devnet, from Lord Morann’s arrogant plotting. Why did I feel so vulnerable now, and so uncertain and weak?
A tear trickled down the side of my nose, shaming me. Why am I crying? I thought, angry at myself. Ridiculous. This is what I wanted. I asked to leave home!
I’d cast away the dust and shadows of my father’s house to seek a fresh life of my own making. I would not let the lies and broken promises and deaths of the past touch it. Like a newly forged sword, I would draw it from the smith’s fire and brandish it so that all the world could see how bright it shined.
Bold words, pretty words, and not one speck of a notion how to turn them into reality. I was free to be myself, but . . . what did that mean? My fingers clutched the bedclothes like a kestrel’s talons, as if holding the cloth in a tight grip would also hold back more tears.
It didn’t work. I buried my head and wept without a sound until my eyes were dry and I could take a deep breath that wouldn’t come out as a sob.
“Lady Maeve?” A girl’s voice sounded tentatively behind me. “Lady Maeve, are you all right?” I felt the bed give a bit and heard the dried grass in the mattress crunch under her weight as she rested her hand gently on my shoulder. “Did you have a bad dream?”
“I’m fine.” I wiped away the last of my tears and sat up, tucking the blanket under my arms. “Thank you, um . . .”
What was her name? We’d been introduced last night, during my welcome feast. What an uproar that had been! In the midst of the festive din, Lord Artegal and his wife, Lady Lassaire, took turns introducing me to every person present. So many! I smiled, nodded, and said how happy I was to meet them, but the noise that filled the great room swallowed all their names before they reached my ears. By the time I was allowed to stumble sleepily off to bed, I was still surrounded by total strangers.
The plump girl who perched on the edge of my bed was one of my fellow fosterlings. Why couldn’t I recall her name, at least? I blushed with embarrassment. She’d believe I was too haughty, that I didn’t think her name was worth remembering. Oh, what a bad start to a new life!
To my great relief, the girl gave me a shy smile and said, “I’m Gormlaith.” She showed no sign that I’d insulted her by failing to recall who she was.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First-century Ireland is a rich, competitive world of intrigue and fantasy. Lady Maeve, teenage princess of Connacht, is finally exploring the walls outside her castle. Now she’s an honored guest at the court of Dún Beithe, along with three girls looking for love. Romance isn’t Maeve’s object, however; her heart is badly broken and she’d rather search for her beloved falcon, Ea. Maeve’s plans to avoid boys are shattered when Lady Lassaire decides that she would be an excellent match for her son, Kian. Then Conchobar, the king of Ulaidh, rides onto the scene. The boys’ unique charm and kindness make an impact, but when flirtations grow serious Maeve opens her eyes to the dangers of female jealousy. Ula and Dairine are not pleased with Maeve’s popularity. Quiet Gormlaith says nothing about their barbed remarks. When spiteful Bryg joins the sorority, it’s clear that their bullying has just begun. Maeve is unsure of how to deal with the situation. Deeply unhappy, she is desperate for a relief. When her old love’s father comes with a message, she flees the court to go to him. Will the decision prove wise? After all, the fate of her country is linked with her heart. Opinion: Deception’s Princess, the book before Deception’s Pawn, was one of the first books that interested me on LitPick. Though I wasn’t able to order it, I checked it out at my library and loved the unique tale of love, power, and kingdoms. So when I saw that Deception’s Pawn was available, I was thrilled! The YA novel met my expectations, and I’ll be recommending the series to my friends. The YA market has been seeing an upsurge in strong female characters: think Katniss, Tris, and Tally. Maeve brings a strong spirit that was believable, too. She was loyal to her family and had a witty tongue, which always wins points with me. Her actions towards boys were not always the most sage, but what teenager really knows what she’s doing? The important thing was that she learned from her mistakes, and readers should take her lessons to heart. The setting was absolutely delightful. I have a weakness for European castles, and Deception’s Pawn provided one not usually seen in YA lit. Ancient Irish myths don’t get a lot of attention in contrast to the Greek or Roman ones (I’m looking at you, Percy Jackson!). The character’s appearances were well described, and it was easy to keep track of the diverse cast. The bullying storyline had its flaws, but I think that it added an important angle. At the beginning, naive Maeve believed that she and her roommates would be close friends. However, the first descriptions of the girls sent a red flag that she completely missed. Maeve did the right thing by eventually telling an adult, though there was a frustrating result. I was looking forward to seeing how she would confront the girls, but her final reaction was disappointing. Even so, it’s valuable food for thought. Deception’s Pawn will enthrall teens who love their romantic dramas with a side of court intrigue and a dash of ancient fantasy. Reviewed by a LitPick student book reviewer Age:15
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.
Deception’s Pawn picks up shortly after Deception’s Princess leaves off, with Princess Maeve entering into fosterage at Lord Artegal’s home in hopes of finding Ea again and of preventing her father in using her as a pawn piece. Maeve is still that fiery girl who would willingly chase down a bull to prove a point, but she’s faced with new challenges during her fosterage and they are unlike anything she’s faced before. She makes new friends in her foster sisters, but learns that not all friends are so easily tendered and kept as she had hoped. I loved seeing her weather through cruelties and jests, and it was nice to see that held her own in her own way. She’s incredibly diplomatic and has a good head on her shoulders, and despite making mistakes she always seeks to correct them when she is able. Plus Maeve is capable, intelligent, and willing to go that extra length to make sure her people are happy. She task risks, some of them a bit brash, but she always tries to do what she thinks is right. My one complaint about this situation with her foster sisters is that I would have loved to see them form a stronger bond, because there are too few books out there with strong female friendships that are not tainted with underhanded insults and catty-ness. Maeve also has to deal with the hearts of two young men, which is deftly tries to fend off at every available opportunity and finds herself unsure of her resolve. Kian and Conchobar are both rather full of themselves, and like to mark territory, but Maeve has them stumped. Every loaded compliment is met with humor and a change of subject, and in the end I think I warmed up to the two of them. Despite their rather brash nature at times both are incredibly caring in their own ways, though they could probably work on it a bit more. That being said there is no true love triangle in this, and I appreciate the inclusion of these boys and the way Maeve handled each moment of self doubt, confusion, and attraction with poise and dignity.And that ending! It’s so fitting for Maeve and everything she works to stand for! I am so glad I recieved both of these books for review because I’ve found a new author. Esther Friesner has such rich and detailed writing that the story simply draws you in and before you know it you’re done and looking for more! I would say that Deception’s Pawn is an excellent finish to the duology, and though I’m said to see Maeve’s story end I’m really happy I got the chance to read it.