Today was the day a thousand dreams would die and a single dream would be born.
The wind knew. It was the first of June, but cold gusts bit at the hilltop citadelle as fiercely as deepest winter, shaking the windows with curses and winding through drafty halls with warning whispers. There was no escaping what was to come.
For good or bad, the hours were closing in. I closed my eyes against the thought, knowing that soon the day would cleave in two, forever creating the before and after of my life, and it would happen in one swift act that I could no more alter than the color of my eyes.
I pushed away from the window, fogged with my own breath, and left the endless hills of Morrighan to their own worries. It was time for me to meet my day.
The prescribed liturgies passed as they were ordained, the rituals and rites as each had been precisely laid out, all a testament to the greatness of Morrighan and the Remnant from which it was born. I didn’t protest. By this point, numbness had overtaken me, but then midday approached, and my heart galloped again as I faced the last of the steps that kept here from there.
I lay naked, facedown on a stone-hard table, my eyes focused on the floor beneath me while strangers scraped my back with dull knives. I remained perfectly still, even though I knew the knives brushing my skin were held with cautious hands. The bearers were well aware that their lives depended on their skill. Perfect stillness helped me hide the humiliation of my nakedness as strange hands touched me.
Pauline sat nearby watching, probably with worried eyes. I couldn’t see her, only the slate floor beneath me, my long dark hair tumbling down around my face in a swirling black tunnel that blocked the world out—except for the rhythmic rasp of the blades.
The last knife reached lower, scraping the tender hollow of my back just above my buttocks, and I fought the instinct to pull away, but I finally flinched. A collective gasp spread through the room.
“Be still!” my aunt Cloris admonished.
I felt my mother’s hand on my head, gently caressing my hair. “A few more lines, Arabella. That’s all.”
Even though this was offered as comfort, I bristled at the formal name my mother insisted on using, the hand-me-down name that had belonged to so many before me. I wished that at least on this last day in Morrighan, she’d cast formality aside and use the one I favored, the pet name my brothers used, shortening one of my many names to its last three letters. Lia. A simple name that felt truer to who I was.
The scraping ended. “It is finished,” the First Artisan declared. The other artisans murmured their agreement.
I heard the clatter of a tray being set on the table next to me and whiffed the overpowering scent of rose oil. Feet shuffled around to form a circle—my aunts, mother, Pauline, others who’d been summoned to witness the task—and mumbled prayers were sung. I watched the black robe of the priest brush past me, and his voice rose above the others as he drizzled the hot oil on my back. The artisans rubbed it in, their practiced fingers sealing in the countless traditions of the House of Morrighan, deepening the promises written upon my back, heralding the commitments of today and ensuring all their tomorrows.
They can hope, I thought bitterly as my mind jumped out of turn, trying to keep order to the tasks still before me, the ones w
Praise for The Kiss of Deception:
"After her strong Jenna Fox series, Pearson adeptly switches gears here from science fiction to fantasy, but her ability to write a romance featuring complex characters and a strong plot remains constant." - The Horn Book
"The Kiss of Deception has it all—beautiful writing, heart-pounding suspense, a fiery princess, and an epic romance that’ll make you swoon. This is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year!" —Alyson Noël, #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Immortals
"The Kiss of Deception is a deeply satisfying, intricately plotted fantasy where no one—no one—is quite what they seem. Full of lush writing and rich, complex characters, readers will quickly become enmeshed in the intricate web of lies that have been woven into the very fabric of the kingdom itself. A thoroughly engrossing read—I couldn’t put it down!" —Robin LaFevers, New York Times–bestselling author of Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph
"This is the kind of story I love—a heart-pounding tale of magic and murder, betrayal and romance set in a richly imagined fantasy landscape." —Cinda Williams Chima, New York Times–bestselling author of the Seven Realms and the Heir Chronicles
*"The first in a marvelous new fantasy series that is sure to find an audience with devotees of Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games" . . . Romance, adventure, mysticism—this book has it all and it just may be the next YA blockbuster." —School Library Journal, Starred Review
*"Pearson offers readers a wonderfully full-bodied story: harrowing, romantic, and full of myth and memory, fate and hope . . . this has the sweep of an epic tale."—Booklist, Starred Review
*"Peppered with excerpts from sacred texts and traditional songs, the novel has a formidable heroine at its core, who is as quick with a knife as she is to laugh or cry. Pearson maintains the mystery of Rafe and Kaden’s identities, pulling readers through this masterfully crafted story." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Pearson’s first book in her Remnant Chronicles is thrilling. Readers will be hooked from the first page to the last and will find themselves eagerly anticipating the next installment. Pearson pairs a rich and varied plot with a fiery and headstrong heroine." —Romantic Times
"Pearson’s writing is beautiful, and her ability to twist a plot into knots keeps the reader wanting more." —BookPage
"This thick book is fantastical and interesting (with a bit of mystery thrown in!)....There's a lot of mystery that spices up the book. It's not all about the mystery, but it's on the peripheral always, which makes it that much more interesting." —USAToday
"Lia herself is a likeable heroine, and the selfishness in her act of leaving a kingdom in shambles for some future love is negated by her obvious naivete about political strategies and romantic relationships . . . Most intriguing are the two love interests, though, partly because of the way Pearson structures their narrating chapters." —BCCB
"Rich and exciting . . . a bold ending whets appetites for the next installment." —Kirkus Reviews
Praise for The Adoration of Jenna Fox:
* “Raises the ante in unexpected ways until the very last page.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
* “This is a beautiful blend of science fiction . . . and teen-relationship novel that melds into a seamless whole.” —School Library Journal, starred review
“This is an amazingly powerful, thought-provoking, just brilliant novel.” —Teen Book Review