was visiting at my sister's house when I saw a copy of this book on her coffee table. The central idea appealed to me:
instead of the typical story of a peasant girl discovering that she is really a princess, in this novel the conventional plot-line is flipped on its
head. In the Decoy Princess, Tess (the princess) learns that she is in fact actually a random orphan, selected to act the part of the public figure
Princess Contessa, while the real princess is raised in safety in a secluded secure location. At the time
of the princess's birth, a "Red Moon" prophecy was proclaimed; it predicts doom (or else wild success?) to whomever marries the princess. As a result,
there have been numerous assassination attempts on Contessa's life. Long ago, the canny advisor to the king, Chancellor Kavenlow, convinced the royal couple that the only
way to ensure the safety of his real daughter was to place a decoy in her place. Now dashing prince Garrett from the nearby kingdom of Misdev is coming
to wed the princess, and the truth will be revealed - once the princess is safely wed, the prophecy will be fulfilled and the attacks will stop.
We meet the decoy princess, Tess, just before Prince Garrett arrives at the castle. Tess has been raised her whole life thinking
she is a real princess. But unbeknownst to her, Chancellor Kavenlow has been training her in skills to suit his own ends; skills that have little use to
a real princess but are essential to a player in the secret control of nations . Kavenlow appears to be simple court figure, but is actually
a powerful figure, and he pursues a hidden agenda. Once the real princess is safely married, then Tess will be available to serve as an
apprentice to Kavenlow in his schemes.
I liked several things about this novel. The best is the characterization. The decoy princess Tess is resourceful and likeable, she faces some
daunting challenges plus the emotional shock of learning that the king and queen are not her real parents. Tess's personality is a winner, she certainly doesn't
act like a haughty aristocrat; instead Tess has a practical side tempered with a conscience (which is shown during the incident of the horse theft.)
Another positive about this book is the plot. The pace keeps moving, there are plenty of action scenes and surprising developments. It is
clear that the Decoy Princess is meant to be the start of a series - especially with regard to the secret schemes of Kavenlow and the Jeck, the captain of
Prince Garrett's Royal Guard. There is a lot of potential for additional stories with regard to the secret venom, its source, and the magical properties it gives its
users. There also seems to be potential future tales for Tess sailing on missions while accompanied by the gambling "cheat" Duncan.
If there is any negative to the story, its the weakness of the world building. The kingdom of Costenoplie is a generic medieval country, devoid
of any unique customs, religion or history. I wish a map had been included, though ultimately Tess's adventures don't take her too far from the royal castle.
Most of the novel's plot is solid, with some clever yet logical plot points. Unfortunately, the end of novel swings a bit too much into the
"realm of implausibility" as Dawn Cook tries to tie up all the plot strings neatly with a happy outcome.
I read the whole book in two days; the adventurous story kept me turning the pages. I would pick up the sequel if I saw it on a bookshelf. It is
too bad that Dawn Cook has abandoned writing fantasy to create vampire novels under the pen name of Kim Harrison - don't we have too many vampire books already?