In a world where your class is decided by your shifting ability, Prince Symon is at the top of the food chain. Unfortunately for him, that also makes him a target of a mysterious and dastardly enemy that wants his kingdom…with or without his cooperation.
Cover Rating: 3/10 Didn’t love the cover of this book. It appears to have been illustrated in colored pencil, rendering the colors washed out and unappealing.
The world of Royal Deception is filled with shape shifters who can shift only parts of their bodies. The horse shifters are centaurs, the fish shifters are mermaids, and so forth. At the bottom of the social ladder are the animal shifters, who are blamed for all of mankind’s problems. In one kingdom, the animal shifters are banded with gold that prevents them from shifting. In another, they are enslaved. In another, they are all killed. At the top of the social ladder are the shifters who can shift their arms into swords. The royals can shift both arms, the nobles can shift one. These shifters make up the upper class of this fantasy world.
Symon, the protagonist, is the eldest son of the king of Arton. The son of two royals, he is guaranteed to be a royal himself. As he strives to win his father’s affection, Symon begins to understand what an imperfect world he has been born into thanks to the influence of his gold-banded, animal-shifting tutor. As the future king, Symon’s life is constantly in peril by some unknown antagonist called Claur. As such, Symon is stifled by his parents’ desires to keep him safe from harm.
Symon is a lovably flawed protagonist. He isn’t particularly skilled or handsome or charming. He struggles with feelings of inadequacy, with frustration, and with fear. But when it really matters, he is brave and selfless. Watching him grow and develop his sense of right and wrong is fascinating and, at times, heartbreaking.
Royal Deception is an exciting adventure with a few fantastic characters. I found the plot gripping and the world intriguing. I was prepared to give this book a high rating … right up until the end. The ending is not fantastic. In fact, it’s downright bad. I found myself rolling my eyes and groaning as the story took a nose-dive right at the end.
(Warning: Spoilers) Almost word-for-word, it becomes the inciting moment of Disney’s The Lion King. I had actually really liked the book right up until the climax. By the end, I just rolled my eyes. I know the idea of a horrible cliff-hanger ending is to entice readers to buy the next book, but it just doesn’t work for this series. There’s a reason that Mufasa dies and Simba flees at the beginning of The Lion King and not at the end. There was no catharsis or even excitement for the sequel. Instead, the ending left me stunned and disgusted. The author spent the entire book building Symon up to be a brave, empathetic character, only to have him act as a total coward at the end. None of the many, many conflicts are actually resolved in the end. The world is still a terrible place full of racism and classism and the reader is no longer even rooting for Symon, who is powerless and a coward. In my opinion, this book would have been far better if it had ended at the 3/4 point with the characters having a win, and then starting the next book with the ending of this one. Instead, the most exciting part of the book is about 75% of the way through, followed by chapter after chapter of surprisingly boring politics and the same nightmare over and over, and then an excruciatingly cringe-worthy ending that just killed the whole book for me.
Pros: The author has clearly put a lot of thought into the world-building of this book. Every kingdom is fleshed out and interesting. Characters reference historical figures and events that make you believe the world is real. The half-shifting thing was odd to me at first, but the author sells it so well. Symon is a fascinating character, met with bias at every turn. I loved watching him struggle to understand what to believe. There are some really exciting scenes and plots twists that will keep you turning pages.
Cons: There were so many races and ethnicities and titles that it was hard to keep everything straight. There were also a ton of characters, many of whom had very similar names. I almost needed to take notes to keep track of everyone. Symon’s nightmare repeating basically every other chapter got old really fast. Yes, he’s being haunted by a repeating nightmare. We get it. The book also suffered some pacing issues. A few very exciting scenes were separated by long, long expansions of nothing. No character growth, no plot revelations, just long stretches of nothing happening. And the ending. Oh man, the ending was just like getting knifed in the back. In the end, the characters and the world-building just aren’t enough to save the story from its own awful climax. Instead of wanting to read the rest of the series, I lost faith in the author. Probably not the intended result. A 5-star review became a 3-star review really fast when I felt betrayed by the author. What a pity.
If you would like to read Royal Deception for yourself, you can find it HERE.