Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher:  Tantor Audio (2010)

Length:  21 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 2 Naamah Trilogy

Author’s Page

Note: This is the second book in the third trilogy set in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. However, this last trilogy is set a few generations later and stands on it’s own. This book, as the second in this trilogy, works mostly well as a stand alone but is definitely enhanced by having read Naamah’s Kiss.

We return to Moirin’s adventures as she sets off to find Bao, her stubborn warrior love. She leaves the relatively comfortable Chi’in lands for the wilder and much colder territories ruled by the Tartar tribes. Once reunited, things don’t go as expected and some double crossing has them separated again. Moirin has to match wits with a Vralian religious zealot and later on face the Spider Queen!

It was good to be back in Moirin’s world. Her archery skills serve her well once again, as well as her small magics. For me, the beginning and then the last third of the book were more interesting than the middle part. She starts off on this solo quest to find Bao and that tests her determination and dedication to Bao. When they meet up, Bao is living with his father’s people. Sparks fly…. but then a complication becomes apparent to Moirin. The two simply can’t go off and have their own lives. The Tartars love their competitions which center mostly around horses and archery. Yep! Moirin has another opportunity to be the one that saves Bao.

The middle part sees them separated and Moirin is held captive by this man and his family as they attempt to convert her to their religion. There are a lot of good points in this section wrapped up in this story and these characters but I found that it lagged a bit. After all, I agree with Moirin 100% in this section so the arguments only reinforced my dislike for people who try to push their religious believes onto others.

The last third of the book sees us back in adventure land as Moirin befriends the Lady of Rats and has to face off against the Spider Queen and her husband, the Falconer. They have a band of assassins. Moirin is definitely in danger! Then there’s the caste system that has been strictly enforced for generations. Moirin had a real balancing act here between what she felt was right and also respecting local culture and religion. It was a tightrope walk.

Since Bao isn’t with Moirin for much of this book, he doesn’t play as big a role. He’s often in Moirin’s thoughts but she has herself to worry about as she travels from one strange land to another searching for him. One of the things I really like about them as a couple is that they aren’t a traditional couple. Throughout this book, they care greatly for each other, respect each other, but they each have other lovers along the way and they are OK with that.

Moirin often does the rescuing even though she’s not some tall, athletic warrior. She has certain skills (archery, summoning the twilight, etc.) and she uses them wisely and quite well. She often uses her compassion and patience to win people over. Also, she doesn’t shirk her fair share of the tougher chores be them tending to her horses or taking out enemy scouts.

While I enjoyed the first book in the series a bit more, this was a pretty good adventure tale. I look forward to seeing what Bao and Moirin get up to in the third and final book.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik keeps on impressing me. In this book she takes on even more accents as Moirin travels out of Chi’in (Chinese accent), into Tartar lands, then Vralia (Russian accent), and finally into Rasa (Indian accent). She manages to keep all the characters distinct even though this book has a sizable cast. Her male voices are believable. One of her greatest strengths is nailing the nuanced emotions of the main characters – truly impressive!

What I Liked: Moirin’s adventures; Moirin is often doing the rescuing; Bao and Moirin aren’t the traditional heroic couple; Tartar competitions; how the caste system was handled; the Spider Queen’s assassins; great narration.

What I Disliked: The middle part where Moirin is in Vralia lagged a little for me.

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

io9

The Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Cafe

Speed-Reading Book Nerd Reviews

Kushiel's Justice Part VIII

Chupacabra has spotted something!
Chupacabra has spotted something!

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Justice is Book 2 of the second  trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. The read along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Allie at Tethyan Books is our host. We’re covering Chapters 57-65, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Imriel actually gave up the quest for justice before he found Berlik, and would have left empty-handed if the man had not come to him.  Does knowing that their eventual encounter was of Berlik’s choosing change the way you think about how it finally ended? How do you think this will affect Imriel, moving forward?

When I first read this book, I didn’t really get why Berlik readily gave up his life, why Berlik thought Imriel had to come to him with a humble heart, and why Imriel cried at the loss of Berlik’s life. Now, this is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve read this and I understand all that a bit better.

Berlik himself had to find his humble side. He himself talks about how arrogant he was to assume he could change the course of the future, how he didn’t trust in his gods. This final scene with Berlik taught me about the difference between forgiveness and atonement. You can forgive yourself, those you’ve damaged can forgive you, your gods can forgive you – but atonement is something else. For Berlik, he had gained some forgiveness, but it came at the cost of atonement, and that atonement was his life.

I was very glad that Imriel could understand at least part of that in the moment and allowed Berlik to die as a man.

2. I was definitely not expecting to see Maslin in the Vralian wilderness!  What do you think of his motivations?  Do you think it’s still possible for them to build the friendship Imriel wanted so dearly many years ago?

I think Maslin was honest with Imriel about his motivations. He went initially because Sidonie sent him, and he wanted to prove his love. He also wanted to be the hero. Somewhere along the way, he let most of that go and was just along for the adventure.

I don’t know if Maslin and Imriel will ever be close friends, but there’s some significant trust between the two now. However, I wouldn’t want to see all three of them (Imriel, Sidonie, and Maslin) in the same room at the same time anytime soon. I think that would stress their fragile friendship at this time.

3. Imriel feels very strongly about going back through the places where he was dishonest or where he caused pain (Miroslas, Tarkov, the Vralian capital).  Do you think these stops were necessary?  Do you think he was right to not go to the pilgrim family that took Berlik in?

Yes and no. I don’t think it is something that I would take pains to do. But Imriel has always tried to respect the gods and religions of the lands he visits. I think he got this from Phedre, who does the same. Also, he is a Prince of two important nations who may one day want honest trade and other alliances with these cities. So, it’s not just about him.

As for the pilgrim family, I think I would have left word with a local priest who could gently inform the family of what happened to Berlik. I could understand Imriel feeling that they would not appreciate hearing the news from him, but I think they will wonder for years if they never hear what became of Berlik.

4. We have another myth in the making: the dark angel and the light angel, battling for Berlik’s soul.  Clearly this isn’t literally true, since Maslin knew nothing about Berlik.  Do you think it carries any metaphorical truth with respect to Berlik’s struggle with his guilt?

This is one of those great books where you can read such metaphorical struggles into it. Until this question was asked, I hadn’t really thought of it that way. Berlik wasn’t evil; he was too proud, he wanted to save his people, he didn’t trust in building relationships with the Alban royalty nor in his gods. He was a man with powers beyond what most have and he made a horrible choice.

5. It looks like Tadeuz Vral will have another Yeshuite advisor now, in the Rebbe from Miroslas.  Do you think this will impact the path of Vralia in the future?  Do you think Imriel’s deceit will affect Vralia’s relationships with Alba and Terre d’Ange?

Vralia is building their kingdom partly on religion, so of course the Rebbe from Miroslas will have a hand in shaping the country. However, it already has a pretty strong military trajectory, so I’m not hopeful that the Rebbe will be able to temper that right now.

I think Tadeuz Vral has already made up his mind about immediate future relations with Terre D’Ange and Alba. He let Imriel go and Imriel’s deceit was not made common knowledge. Tadeuz obviously wants to keep the door open for future trade and alliances with these two powerful nations.

Other Tidbts:

I know some of us readers were concerned that Dorolei’s death was kind of the author’s easy way to let Imriel out of a messy situation. Now that we’ve seen all that Imriel has been through to avenge Dorolei and his unborn child, do you think this is any easier than what Dorolei and Imriel had tentatively planned (basically an open marriage)?

That was really kind of Maslin to boil Berlik’s head for Imriel. It must have been pretty gruesome!

I was amused that Maslin kept tossing questions at Imriel that were almost a challenge – like about how many men Imriel supposedly killed in Luca and so on.

Imri reuniting with his family after so long was really quite touching. I always enjoy that scene because even though Imri has certainly grown up and become a man who can stand on his own, he still treasures his adopted parents, their guidance, their love.

I was glad to hear that Urist was doing well enough, walking with a stick!

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S JUSTICE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).