Naamah’s Curse Part I

The read along continues with Naamah’s Curse, Book 2 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Allie is our host. We’re covering Chapters 1-15, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) A lot of this section involves recapping the adventures of Naamah’s Kiss. What do you think about the way this was incorporated into the story?

I really enjoy how J. Carey does this. In many ways, it makes each of her books in the Terre D’Ange Cycle stand alone to a great extent. For me with this particular book, it was useful as we group read Naamah’s Kiss when I was pretty sick and before my big surgery (which involved an intentional mini-coma) so I find that my memory is fuzzy on some things.

2) Moirin heads off alone toward the Tatar steppe in winter. Do you think this was the best course of action, or should she have traveled with some sort of escort or guide?

While she has a lot of outdoor skills, I think she over-estimated her survival skills a bit. Yet we all know how important it was to her (and later to Bao) that she do this without an escort. So I think she could have taken a little time to learn some essentials skills from the locals before heading out: where to find water, what rodents are edible, how to weave a grass mat for hauling stuff or making baskets, etc.

3) What stuck out to you the most about the Tatar tribe Moirin stays with and their way of life?

The short hairy cattle. I wonder if they are little yaks. Plus, burning dung may keep you warm, but I bet it scents everything…. clothing, the yurts, food….

Oh, and the grandmother. She said she was once an imperial princess, right? So I want her backstory and I wonder if Moirin got it out of her during those long, cold winter days.

3) Bao & Moirin reunite in kind of a difficult situation–he’s been married. Do you think they’re searching for a solution in the right way? What do you think of how Bao has handled things so far?

I’m pretty sure Bao has been sleeping with his wife regularly and so she may well be pregnant. So, no, I don’t think Bao and Moirin are considering everyone that will be affected by their current plans. Plus they haven’t really talked about what they want on a larger scale. I mean, if they plan to live in Chi’in versus Alba or Terre D’Ange (or anywhere in between) and how they each feel about that. If they plan to set up house relatively near the Tartars, then perhaps they need to be extra wary of making enemies.

Bao has known for months that Moirin was on her way and yet he hasn’t really prepared himself nor his wife for this. So, yeah, he’s made a mess of it. On the other hand, we haven’t heard yet his full thoughts on his father and what changed his mind about him. Is it just the Tartar royalty aspect or is it being accepted as a hero by his biological father or is there something more there?

4) Bao & Moirin might have been in love before, but now they’re forced together by divine magic. How do you think you would react to finding yourself trapped as they are? Would you initially react more like Moirin or Bao?

If I was initially in love with the person, I don’t think the divine magic part would bother me very much unless the love of my life started acting dickish…. glances sidewise at Bao.

I understand the importance of having choices, especially in regards to big things. I found out at age 23 and 5 months into my marriage that I wouldn’t be able to have kids and I was more upset about the choice not being mine than I was about the actual fact. So, I get Bao’s emotions even as I feel he hasn’t reacted the most maturely about it.

Other Tidbits:

So far, we’ve had no falconry and I was expecting some at these big games.

I think it was nice of Moirin to apologize to Edina but I also don’t feel it was necessarily her responsibility. Moirin had no clue that Bao was married. Still, I think it made it easier for Edina to see Moirin as a real person and perhaps, in the long run, to forgive Bao.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
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 NAAMAH’S CURSE in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher:  Tantor Audio (2009)

Length:  26 hours 57 minutes

Series: Book 1 Naamah Trilogy

Author’s Page

Note: This is the first 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 so don’t be afraid to start here if this book intrigues you.

The Bear Witches of Alba are all but extinct but for those few that remain, they do possess small magics and the Great Bear does look out for her own. Moirin grows up in a cave in the depths of a forest and from these humble beginnings she will be tasked by her divine Bear to fulfill a destiny that lies over seas. First she travels to Terre D’Ange to find her D’Angeline relatives, including her father. A D’Angeline lord and healer is intrigued by her small gifts and she’s soon wrapped up in a semi-secret demon summoning circle. She also meets a Chi’in Master and his student/body guard Bao. Perhaps her destiny lies even further than she could imagine.

I read this for the second time as part of a group read and there were weekly discussions which hold plenty of detail on what I think of the book. Once again, I was wrapped up in Carey’s world building. I fell in love with the D’Angelines when I read Kushiel’s Dart so many years ago. I recall my first time reading this book and how it didn’t wow me as much as the first 6 books. However, knowing this round that this is Moirin’s tale, I gave it a better chance. Indeed, I did like this book quite a bit more the second time through. I think with the first read through, I was constantly looking for reflections of the characters I had come to know and love from the first 2 trilogies. Now with the second reading I was focused on Moirin.

I loved Moirin’s small magics. She’s inherited a few from her D’Angeline side as well as her Alban side. Each individual one is rather small, but as we see Moirin grow from a child to a young lady to a woman, she learns to use her powers to great effect. Carey does a most excellent job of showing the reader this growth as the story unfolds.

Moirin is of the Maghuin Dhonn, the Bear Witch people, which we learned a little about in earlier books in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the Maghuin Dhonn directly through Moirin. While much of Maghuin Dhonn live in near isolation, they are still a connected people and will come together in larger groups for certain occasions, such as Moirin’s coming of age ceremony. Moirin has to work hard to be acknowledged by the Bear Witch herself, but that acknowledgement comes at a steep price, one that I think we won’t fully understand until the end of this trilogy.

As usual with this series, there are several lovely sex scenes. Carey doesn’t skimp but she also doesn’t toss in throwaway love scenes. These interactions always reveal something more about the characters involved. I found this especially true in the later part of the book where there is a princess and a dragon. I won’t say anything further as I don’t want to be spoilery. Just know that it’s worthy.

I do have one quibble for this book. At the end, there is some drama and death and I did feel there was some deus ex machina involved. It involves the ultimate bad guy and why he wasn’t properly trussed up. Even with this one small criticism, I did enjoy how the ending leaves our heroes in a complicated place, setting us up for the next adventure.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik is a joy to listen to. She does such an excellent job with the multitude of accents needed for this book. She’s also great with a voice for Moirin that ages as she comes of age throughout the story. Her male voices are quite believable.

What I Liked: The cover art; great narration; Moirin in her own right; the quest to find one’s heritage; the desire to fulfill the Great Bear’s wishes; Bao as the main love interest; the dragon; from humble beginnings to world traveler!

What I Disliked: There was a bit of deus ex machina at the end.

What Others Think:

Eyrie

Book Smugglers

Dear Author

Fantasy Book Critic

A. V. Club

Fantasy Cafe

Strange Horizons

The Bibliosanctum

Books Without Any Pictures

Naamah's Kiss Part VII

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

Here we are at the end of Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy!

This week, Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog is our host. We’re covering Chapters 75-END, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Moirin has come a long way since we first met her. How do you think her adventures have changed her if at all – does anything stand out in particular?

Moirin went from an untutored wilderness buff to this somewhat well-travelled (for the time) linguistic royal companion. One of the things I really like about her story arc is that she started off not even concerned with her fate, then met the great Maghuin Dhonn Bear, and started searching for her fate, believing it was tied to love (and most likely a man), only to eventually set that idea aside and go for the adventure, and then finally, at the very end,to have her fate literally tied to a man as she shared her bear-soul to save him. I like that she was independent of the notion that her fate was tied to another person for a while, and grew comfortable with that thought, even if in the end of this book, she is clearly tied to another.

2. I was hit by how far Moirin’s magical abilities have come along, I don’t think I particularly expected it to be honest – why do you think that might be?

From my previous reading, I did recall that this book had more magic in it than the previous D’Angeline novels. I like that Moirin’s gifts are few but she makes the most of them, and thereby, does some pretty big important things. She can quicken plants, talk to plants, even sing flower bulbs to sleep, call the twilight and disappear and in the twilight talk to spirits including demons and dragons. Yet she doesn’t rely solely on them – there’s her archery skills and her horsemanship keeps improving. She never stops learning and that includes learning what more she can do with her few gifts.

3. Looking back through the story it feels like most aspects had a bearing on the final outcome, do you think Moirin’s path is really set in stone or does she have the ability to change things?

No. She’s been given several choices throughout the tale. Yet her own personality kind of has her trapped on a certain path. She’s a people pleaser. She wants to help people but she also desires their approval and (from some) their attention. The Great Bear gave her choices, never forcing her, but Moirin couldn’t bear to have her bear-soul thingy (sorry, I know the spelling is tricky on diathanam – haha! and there’s my attempt) fade out. Throughout the book we’ve seen her own personality trap her into making the same decision over and over again most of the time – with Cillian, with Raphael, with Jehanne, with Master Lo, with Bao. She is becoming more discerning and picking better allies and friends along the way. Her personality is her hidden strength but it is also makes her choices predictable most of the time. Her little note to Jehanne abut Raphael for that last summoning is a good example of when she does something unexpected.

4. Do you feel that Moirin’s actions will have an impact on the Maghuin Dhonn in any way?

Well, more people are getting to know them through her and she’s definitely made a favorable impression with nearly everyone and so many of those people have been influential leaders in their own countries. If nothing else, her adventures will make it a little easier for the Maghuin Dhonn to travel in Terre D’Ange.

5. Were you surprised by the final chapters with Lo and Bao and the overall reaction of Bao?

I had totally forgotten about this ending, so it caught me off guard…. again! It’s tough on Moirin but I can also see Bao’s point. Choice is really important to him. He had no choice in his heritage (nor do any of us) but that violent, brief union between his parents has had a lot of negative consequences for him. As he points out to Moirin, even when he was a peach bottom boy, it was his choice. And yet it wasn’t like Master Lo or Moirin could ask Bao his thoughts on the matter.

Also, I think the event made some things crystal to Bao and that’s why he set off to try to find his Tartar father. He died once without having known much about have his heritage. I’m not sure what he expects to find, but he might not be sure either.

6. We know that Moirin is about to set off an another journey as this book ends. Any predictions, hopes or fears for what is to come next?

I do recall bits and pieces of the next book. I won’t spoil anything but I will leave you with this one image: warm mare’s milk. Yum! or not…

Other Tidbts:

I really like how Moirin ended up using her gift to find a hidden thing.

The dragon is ever so magnificent!

I’m glad that Snow Tiger claimed her enjoyment of sex through Moirin’s patient tutoring.

Even if Ten Tigers Die (Dai?) never gets to show his love to Snow Tiger, I’m still very glad that he has found such a noble calling – royal body guard!

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
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.

Naamah's Kiss Part VI

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The read along continues with Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy! 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 61-74, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) We’ve finally met Snow Tiger! What do you make of her and her relationship with Moirin? Does anything stand out in particular?

Snow Tiger is pretty determined to do the right thing. She’s breaking so many ingrained customs – defying her husband, traveling in disguise with thugs and a bi-sexual D’Angeline/Alban/Maghuin Dhonn royal. She’s totally stepping out of her comfort zone as well.

And once again we see that Moirin makes a good, calming companion for our most noble Snow Tiger. She’s gently guiding Snow Tiger in how to behave outside of her servants and loyal followers. Snow Tiger will be a better person for this adventure.

2) The dragon is a surprising new addition to the cast. What do you think he’ll do when he is free? Will he really help in the civil war?

I honestly forget what happens with our dragon companion. I know very little about Chinese dragon mythology but if I recall correctly, they were often associated with natural phenomenon – both good and bad. If your water dragon was unhappy, lakes and streams would dry up. If your wind dragon was happy, you’d have smooth sailing. So I keep waiting to see what major natural disaster his freeing can rectify. We have civil unrest but no major drought, flooding, or hurricanes yet, right?

I think he must be key to the civil war in some way. This is a Jacqueline Carey novel, after all! Black Sleeve went to all the effort to ‘cage’ the dragon in a human body, so I bet he doesn’t want him free once again.

3) What do you think of the Path of Dharma, as described by Master Lo Feng? What path would you prefer to follow?

I’m seeing similarities in Moirin’s character and Phedre’s character in that strength can also come from knowing how and when to bend or sway or bow or breath deeply. Strength doesn’t always come from a sword ora staff, and as we’ve seen from the Snow Tiger/Dragon combo, it can be very destructive even when applied to the good.

I have to say that I’m most comfortable being direct. Sometimes I can soften it a bit and I usually refrain from being in someone’s face.

4) Moirin does not seem to mind Bao’s jealousy. What do you think of their possible future as a couple?

Well, as Bao pointed out, it’s like being jealous of the Moon’s beauty or some such thing he said. Moirin’s been a Queen’s companion and now she’s an Empress’s companion and, as someone could argue, she’s a dragon’s lover in an odd menage a troi. So, yeah, being jealous of that is wasted energy.

I don’t recall how long they last as a couple but I do think they will both be better for having had the relationship.

5) Do you think they acted wisely against Lord Jiang’s men at the temple? Can you see any other decision they should have taken?

Wisely? That’s tough to say. There were too many of them, armed and armored, to have a good chance of success without the dragon. Also, I like Moirin and Bao don’t think Jiang’s men would have left the monks alive if Snow Tiger had agreed to go with them quietly. They had no save retreat. I really feel they were forced into a corner. Was it wise? Perhaps not. However, it was necessary.

Other Tidbts:

I think Master Lo Feng is quite aware of Moirin’s role as Jehanne’s companion.

I love the animalistic qualities to the dragon’s personality – he’s really living in the moment most of the time, not thinking beyond it. His madness when he can’t see his reflection is an extreme of that, but we see it with his protectiveness/possessiveness of Moirin as well.

Bao meeting the kid he rejected! That was a tense scene! Though I am glad Ten Tigers Die decided to join the party to free Snow Tiger and save dragon and realm all in one magnificent adventure.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
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 NAAMAH’S KISS in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Naamah's Kiss Part V

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

The read along continues with Naamah’s Kiss, Book 1 of Moirin’s trilogy! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I am your host. Sorry for posting late – I started the New Year off with a cold and my blogging has been off and on this past week. We’re covering Chapters 49-60, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) Moirin and the Circle do one final summoning. What did you think of Folkolor’s choices in who to spare or not? King Daniel also has to make some choices in who to punish or not – do you think he was fair? Is he correct in that he should have given his people something greater to strive for?

It was very interesting that Folkolor spared those who were in it for love of one kind or another – love of the art or metallurgy, etc. I think Elua’s grace must have been holding Folkolor back… or perhaps that demon of so long ago that Imri & Sidonie freed must have warned the spirit realm of meddling with D’Angelines when it comes to love.

I think King Daniel had his hands tied by the law. He admitted that they broke no law so really he could only punish the poet by relieving her of her royal job. I do think Raphael needs some punishing but I’m not sure whose role it is to do so.

And, yes, I do think King Daniel could be giving his people something bigger to look up to or out towards. They could be exploring Terra Nova or the night skies or archaeological digs in distant deserts. It’s not too late for him to set that in motion.

2) Master Lo is summoned home to Ch’in to do what he can for the Emperor’s daughter Snow Tiger. What do you think of her ailment? What role, if any, do you expect Moirin to play in healing her?

I really don’t recall how this plays out. Perhaps Moirin is just there to learn for future dealings with the possessed (as there have been a few hints now that perhaps Raphael is possessed by Folkolor). Perhaps the D’Angeline snow drops can be made into a demon-battling tonic and not just an aphrodisiac. Perhaps Moirin will be able to call the twilight and see what kind of demon possesses Snow Tiger (since she saw all the Circle’s demons differently than they did) and that info will be of great use to Master Lo.

3) We learn more about Bao’s past. Do you like him any more or any less now? We also hear some amazing things about Master Lo. Do you think any of them are true?

Bao is definitely a more complex character. He did walk away from committing a horrible crime against a kid but he also didn’t do anything to protect that kid from the next asshole to come along who would take advantage of the situation. I love how he sees to Master Lo’s needs and I like how attentive he is to the ladies.

Master Lo is certainly old but I don’t think he’s 170 years old. It will be interesting to see him at the Ch’in court and see what others have to say about him.

4) During the lengthy voyage, Moirin has language lessons, learns a bit about the Ch’in religions, and enjoys Bao’s attentions. What stood out for you?

I loved the bit about how to properly pronounce Bao’s name. I can only imagine how it must sound in his head when some D’Angeline used his name and yet had it just a smidge off so they were addressing him as Womb.

I thought it was amusing how the other ladies wanted to give Moirin a make over and also how Bao approved her politely turning them down.

The story of the Yama Kings was intriguing. It makes me want to go learn more about Ch’in afterlives.

5) They finally make land right into the middle of a civil war. What do you think about Black Sleeve? What do you think his relationship to Master Lo is?

It was all very exciting and rushed, wasn’t it? I loved the Bag of Wind and the beautiful cloudy fabric they unfurled. I’m not sure yet what to make of Black Sleeve. On one hand, he sounds pretty ruthless and Bao and Master Lo definitely fear him and respect the power of his canon. But on the other hand, their own Emperor’s guards were rather ruthless in abandoning the ships and all those who didn’t have horses to flee with them. Still, perhaps there really wasn’t anything else that could have been done there.

Master Lo said Black Sleeve wasn’t his pupil so perhaps a relative? Perhaps they both trained under the same master at one point (Lo when he was younger and Black Sleeve more recently)? I really forget what their connection is.

Other Tidbts:

The Lady of Marsilikos wasn’t very nice or fair, now was she? Now that we’ve left D’Angeline shores, I really feel this Terre D’Ange is different from the gracious one that existed during Phedre’s time. It had it’s flaws, but I feel this current D’Angeline culture is a little high and mighty, a little in love with gossip, and a bit self-absorbed.

I love that Moirin is hesitant to pray to a deity not her own. Phedre was always willing to pay respects to any deity she may have come across but I like that Moirin is different in this regard. Also, her hesitancy isn’t out of some vain idea that her deities are better, but simply because they have claimed her as their own and she doesn’t want to offend anyone, her deities or someone else’s.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
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 NAAMAH’S KISS in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).