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The Decoy Princess by Dawn  Cook
Review by Colleen Cahill
Ace Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013554
Date: 29 November, 2005 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Princess Contessa of Costenopolie, or Tess, had an unusual upbringing, especially for a princess. Along with lessons in dancing, diplomacy and shopping (an important element in the plot), she was also trained to move stealthily, escape from confinement and kill, if needed. All this because of the Red Moon Prophecy that predicts she will "make an alliance of the heart to set the mighty as pawns and drive out the tainted blood rising in the south." Princess Tess has been the object of much attention, mostly in the form of assassination attempts but also a few marriage proposals. Just when Tess thinks that prince charming has been found, she discovers the Prince is not for her because she is not the real Princess, but a stand-in to draw the attention of assassins. The true Princess was raised in a convent and is now coming home to take on her official duties. Before Tess can grasp her change in position, however, Prince Garrett turns out to be somewhat less charming and more power hungry. After murdering the King and Queen, he attempts to force Tess to marry him so he can take over the country, even though he knows she is not the real princess. It is only by the fighting skills given her by the Chancellor Kavenlow that Tess is able to escape this trap and head out to save the real Princess and her country.

As Tess strives to prevent Garrett from taking over Costenopolie, she slowly discovers that there is another power at work, one that is above kings and queens. Since she was a small child, Kavenlow has developed Tess's immunity to the deadliest of poisons, supposedly in the name of protecting her from assassination attempts and her hair ornaments are actually darts armed with this venom. But as Tess tracks down Kavenlow, who is unknowingly bringing the real Princess right into the arms of the enemy, she also learns that her poison resistance marks her as part of a group that really runs the world.

This is a story that has interesting twists and turns, with Tess questioning her powers as much as using them. I enjoyed many of the characters, especially Kavenlow who is an interesting mix of good and bad guy, one I was still not sure about by the end of the book. This is obviously the first in a series of titles and I am looking forward to learning more about Tess and the secret power players she has unwittingly joined. Most of all, this book was a lot of fun to read, with bits of humor placed just right. For a different kind of princess story, you cannot go wrong with The Decoy Princess.

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