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

Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey

Streak being calm & snuggly.
Streak being calm & snuggly.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2008)

Length: 24 hours 15 minutes

Series: Book 6 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 6 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 3 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3 of the first trilogy, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Mercy is best read as part of the second trilogy, if not as Book 6 in the larger series, since there are plenty of characters and situations referred to from the previous books.

Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood, and Sidonie de la Courcel, Terre D’Ange’s princess and next in line to the throne, are in love. This doesn’t sit well with much of the realm because Imriel’s estranged birth mother, Melisande Shahrizai, betrayed the nation a generation ago. Imriel and Sidonie are faced with a difficult choice: Bring Melisande to justice or Sidonie will not inherit the throne. After beginning their search for Melisande in earnest, an unlikely city nation, Carthage, comes with luxurious gifts, promises of alliance, and an apparently heartfelt hope that Sidonie will consider their General Astegal for marriage. Things do not go as expected, for anyone.

This historical fantasy is another beautiful addition to the Terre D’Ange cycle. Through the adventures of Imriel and Sidonie, we learn more about this alternate world Carey has created. Carthage is a budding empire, rich in gold and gems but also dependent on slavery. General Astegal comes off as a very charming man, willing to bend to Terre D’Ange’s way of things when it comes to love; for instance, he wouldn’t be in a miff if Sidonie decided to have a harem of pretty young men. The other culture that really stood out for me was the Euskerri, which is akin to the Basque. Deeply proud and also demanding equality from their two neighboring countries – Terre D’Ange and Aragonia.

In the previous books, there has been some magic, though much of it is left up to the reader’s interpretation. In this novel, the magic is direct and has immediate consequences. Even though this is a reread for me, I always find myself surprised by how not subtle the magic component is in this story, as compared to the previous books. So how do you fight strong magic when you only have a passing experience with it? That is something that Imriel and Sidonie will have to figure out, though I do like all the hints that Elua, Terre D’Ange’s primary deity, may be giving them a hand. The magic does follow certain rules, which I liked, though it was quite the trial for Imriel to figure out what those rules were.

There’s plenty of adventure and sneaking about in this story. Imriel must make alliances with the most unlikely of people to even make a solid attempt to not only rescue Sidonie but the entire capitol of Terre D’Ange, the City of Elua. Indeed, spying, misdirection, and disguises make up a good part of the book. I think it was hardest on Imriel to deceive his beloved foster parents, Phedre and Joscelin. There’s some pretty intense scenes that had me holding my breath! Also, those scenes with Barquiel L’Enver, a man who has disliked Imriel since he was born, were quite worthy.

Sidonie really shines in this book. Even with everything told through Imriel’s eyes, Sidonie had some tough decisions to make and was at the center of some dangerous situations. Carey has this magical way of writing female characters behaving in feminine ways and still getting important stuff done. While Imriel is the character that carried me forward in this story, there’s a strong argument for Sidonie being that star of the story.

Each time we think our heroes have found the key to winning the day, there’s another twist or another spell or another hurdle or another bad guy that must be vanquished. One of the hardest things about this was that sometimes they had to find a way to sneak past, trick, or even fight friends and family that were ensnared in the magic. My poor nails! I was biting my nails too often with this story!

As with the series, there are incredible sex scenes that range from playful to desperate to healing to sad to joyful. Carey is just as detailed in her love scenes as she is with her use of cultures and linguistics. I always enjoy these scenes because they reveal something further about the characters.

The ending was well done. I was very satisfied that things were not easy to unravel and iron out. Not everyone gets everything they want. There’s plenty to be forgiven all around. Still, it was beautiful and satisfying.

The Narration: Simon Vance does this final book in Imriel’s trilogy justice. He had to take on further accents as our heroes experienced new cultures. There were also plenty of complicated emotions and intense scenes and Vance did a great job capturing the subtleties of those emotions in his voice work. Also, he did a fantastic job with the sex scenes.

What I Liked: Tangible magic with rules; Imriel has to make some unlikely alliances; Sidonie is at the heart of the matter and she shines through; exploration of further cultures in this alternate world; the love scenes; the intensity of Imriel interacting with his foster parents; Imriel and Sidonie really had to fight for their love; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is an excellent way to end this trilogy.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

Fantasy Book Critic

Dear Author

Miss Geeky

The Bibliosanctum

Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey

Chupacabra has spotted something!
Chupacabra has spotted something!

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2009)

Length: 25 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 5 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 5 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 2 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Justice can work as a stand alone, though there are plenty of characters and situations referred to from the previous book.

Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood and adopted son to Phedre no Delaunay de Montreve, has returned to Terre D’Ange from his time in Caerdicca Unitas where he was attending university. He grew up quite a bit in the previous book and those around him think he may be ready for more responsibility. Unexpectedly, passion erupts between him and the heir to the Terre D’Ange throne, Sidonie de la Courcel. Not wanting to embroil the nation in the politics of their potential union, Imriel acquiesces to marrying a royal of the Alban family, Dorolei. Things go awry. Terribly, terribly awry and Imriel is propelled on a quest that takes him far afield of either nation.

Out of the first six books, I often found this book to be the slowest paced. It’s still a worthy read, yet I found it to have the fewest action scenes and long periods of travel and/or contemplation. However, this time around I read it with an on-line group and new little gems were revealed to me. It’s a time of change for Imriel and also of challenges that will define what kind of man he becomes going forward. It took him quite a bit of time and agonizing to figure out who he wanted and yet, now he has to make the hard choice of serving his country or alienating half the kingdom. Elua’s precept, love as thou wilt, was set aside.

Setting the gushy feelings aside for the moment, this installment to the series allows the reader to explore more of Alba and the Maghuin Dhon (the Bear Witches). Alais, Sidonie’s younger sister, travels with her father, the Cruarch of Alba, and Imriel, exploring the countryside as they make their slow progress to Dorolei’s home. The Alban nobles are not quick to adopt Imriel. They test him in several ways, including a cattle raid. But before long, tragedy strikes. My heart went out to Imri! I think he went a little insane with it for a short time, as to be expected.

From here, Imriel has a quest to undertake in order to fulfill an oath. But it’s more than that. There’s honor and duty in the quest for sure, but there’s also the need for vengeance. Something important was taken from Imriel, and from others, and he can’t let that abide. His quest takes him further east than he has ever traveled, into lands that barely exist on D’Angeline maps. Throughout this lengthy travel, Imriel meets many characters and several have views on vengeance versus justice. Indeed, this becomes one of the main themes of the second half of the book.

The sex scenes are just as compelling as the action scenes, and are more numerous. Carey doesn’t waste the reader’s time with flippant or empty romance scenes. While detailed, the sex scenes are beautifully written and always provide extra insight into the characters. After all, how we treat someone in private in intimate moments can be very revealing of our natures.

This series continues to render a rich and vibrant world filled with many cultures. Carey does an amazing job of fleshing out characters, even minor ones, giving them their own motives. I never feel like words are wasted when reading Carey. I love that I don’t always agree with a character’s choices, but I almost always see where they are coming from. Carey also includes different religions, food, and daily practices. The landscape and weather shape the backbone of the story. Indeed, I feel immersed when reading this series. The journey was worth the reread.

The Narration: Simon Vance’s skills are on great display with this book. His abilities with accents are surely put to the test with this tale! French, Gaelic, and Russian are just a few of the accents needed for the large cast of characters. There are also several moments of deep and complex emotions and Vance does a great job of showing these in his character voices.

What I Liked: The diversity captured in this book; Imriel has to make some hard choices;  the discussions of vengeance versus justice; exploring new lands; Imriel’s quest; Elua’s precept; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: I think the US market is ready for Imriel to be on the covers of this trilogy.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

The Obsessive Bookseller

The Bookbag

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Findings

Alexei Cyren

Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.
Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2008)

Length: 27 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 4 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

 

Note: While this is Book 4 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 1 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Scion can be read on it’s own.

Set in an alternate history mixed with a bit of fantasy, Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in the first trilogy, is growing up and he’s muddling his way through it. Certain things that come easy to his friends (like flirting) are difficult for him. It’s a long road full of blunders, missteps, and embarrassing moments. But there are also these gems of self-realization, beauty, and love. His teen years are full of various experiments, like him working alongside the Montreve folks to clear a new paddock, his early friendship with Eamonn mac Grainne, and his first visit to the Court of Night Blooming Flowers. This book is really the story of how Imriel becomes a man.

Eamonn goes off to Tiberium in Caerdicca Unitas to learn at the great universities and Imri follows soon enough. Both Phedre (Imri’s adopted mother) and Imri are curious if Phedre’s mentor Anafiel Delaunay learned the arts of covertcy in Tiberium when he was a young man. Imri makes it one of his goals to find out. He finds so much more than he expected, including himself. Living through Master Piero’s lessons, a riot, a siege, a wedding, the loss of a friend, Imri comes out of it wiser and more patient with himself and those around him.

Each of the first three books had distinct plots that arose early in the story. The second trilogy is a bit slower paced and I think of it as a plot that extends over all three books, taking longer to show itself. So, what was the main thread for this book? It was Imri learning how to be a man, but also what kind of man he wants to be. He spends much of his inner monologue worried over 1) whether he can be a good man and 2) whether he will choose to do so. He has this darker side, one that is prone to moodiness, anti-social behavior, brooding, and darker desires in the bedroom. Whereas the first trilogy has a distinct goal and hence plot for each book, this story is more subtle and takes more patience to pick out the main threads. Certain parts of the tale do tend to linger a bit overmuch (such as the teen angst that Imri goes through).

Then we all the good stuff. Melisande, Imri’s biological mother and a traitor to the kingdom of Terre D’Ange, still has a pinky in the mix. Imri becomes entangled in a torrid affair that brings him closer to the answer of who taught Anafiel such interesting skills. So much subtle intrigue! The siege is also interesting because it involves the ghosts of the city as well as the living. I won’t spoil this, but I found this to be the most interesting part of the book. Imri learns so much about love and friendship in it’s many shades in this tale.

As with the first trilogy, this book does have detailed sex scenes. They are hot and steamy, the author not flinching away from including both emotion and action in her descriptions. She’s a master at keeping them in context and using such scenes to either move the plot along or show you depths in her characters. Some of the scenes are a bit more robust than others, but most of them are sweet in nature.

I think I will always enjoy the first trilogy the most because it introduced me to this wonderful world. However, it was great to revisit Imriel’s tale once again, this time as part of a on-line group read. Nuances that I had missed reading on my own were brought up in the numerous discussions. This book definitely has stood up to scrutiny.

The Narration: Simon Vance gives a great performance as the voice of Imriel. He has that smooth cadence that is perfect for Imriel’s brooding thoughts or his well chosen words. I loved his accent for Eamonn and his Italian accents for the people of Caerdicca Unitas. All his characters were distinct and he had more than one female voice. He sounded very comfortable with the sex scenes.

What I Liked: A return and further exploration of this alternate fantasy world; Imriel himself; Phedre and Joscelin raising this kid to be a man; Master Piero and his pigeons; Gallus Tadeus during the siege; Imriel’s friendship with Lucius; the quest to find out where Anafiel learned his spy arts; the leavetakings and prepping for the next step in life.

What I Disliked: Very minor comment – there were times where Imriel’s adolescent moodiness became a bit much, but I guess that is true to form.

What Others Think:

Fantasy Book Review

Eyrie

The Obsessive Bookseller

Mervi’s Book Reviews

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Book Loons

 

Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey

Claudie snoozing with a very good  book.
Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2009)

Length: 31 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 3 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: It is possible to read this book as a stand alone as relevant events from Book 1 and Book 2 are reflected upon in enough detail for a reader of Book 3 to grasp the point. However, I highly recommend reading the earlier books so that you get the most out of this book.

Set 10 years after Book 2, Kushiel’s Chosen, Phedre and Joscelin have had all that time to settle into their relationship. Both have made compromises to their wants in order to make room for their love. Phedre only takes two assignations a year in Naamah’s service while Joscelin has learned to let his sense of humor show here and there. But through this well-earned and hard-found bliss, Phedre has never forgotten Hyacinthe and his sacrifice for Terre D’Ange and herself. He still lives an isolated life out on the Three Sisters, learning the powers of the Master of the Straights. Then she receives an unexpected missive from an old enemy and one-time patron, Melisande. Phedre’s adventuring days are not over yet.

This is a re-read for me. I have enjoyed this series over and over again and it was awesome to revisit this book as part of a read along with several blogger friends. They brought new insights to this much beloved book. I have always found this book to be the darkest of the first trilogy. The entire series deals with consent in its many myriad forms. However, in this installment of the series we see how those lines can get blurred and shattered apart. This epic fantasy is not for the faint of heart.

There’s two plot lines for Joscelin and Phedre to solve in this book and one has always been more interesting to me than the other. First, as we know from Book 2, Melisande had a son who she somehow spirited away. Now, it is up to Phedre and Joscelin to track down this long-lost Prince of the Blood, Imriel. Second, the Master of the Straights has passed his powers on to Hyacinthe after a long 10-year apprenticeship. Phedre still searches for the key to free him and will never give up.

The search for Imriel is the one that has always held my attention. It deals with child slavery and the broken trust of a child and how, if ever, to recover that trust. Meanwhile, I have never gotten caught up fully in Hyacinthe’s plight. He went into the agreement with full knowledge as an adult. I know the life on the Three Sisters is a complete 180 for him, being trapped on these three isles with only his servants and the Master of the Straights for company. And yet…. Well, I always felt that he was moping about it, for ten years. He wasn’t trying to make the most of the situation. He wasn’t making an effort to embrace the few, yet awesomely powerful, perks of his new station in life and I think that is what dampened my feelings towards him. Meanwhile, Phedre was all in an anguish over him every other chapter and felt this great survivor’s guilt for not having been the one trapped on that isle instead of Hyacinthe. It’s totally in keeping with Phedre’s personality, and yet I still found it a little tiring.

So, setting aside that one tiny quibble, this is an excellent book to wrap up the first trilogy. Phedre’s gods ask her to take on a dangerous and most difficult task. The asking is subtle and I feel there’s plenty there for each reader to interpret their own way. The magic of Terre D’Ange is not often direct. Phedre’s deities will be tested by the dark powers that have taken up residence in Darsanga, a land far to the east of Terre D’Ange. Phedre and Joscelin won’t be able to count on any help from friends and allies. My heart really went out to Joscelin on this one. In the past books, Phedre’s actions have often tested Joscelin’s vows, but this is a new level. I think both Phedre and Joscelin lost a little bit of themselves.

There’s plenty of travel for Phedre and Joscelin in this story. New lands and new cultures are explored. The Yeshuites continue to play a part in this tale. Indeed, they have quite a significant role in part of the adventure. It’s easy to see how both Phedre and Joscelin have grown throughout the series in this book. They take on meeting new peoples in stride and adapting their own manners to be more accommodating to their hosts. In Book 1 and Book 2, Phedre can sometimes come off as a little conceited. I think she’s really grown out of that here in Book 3. She still observes differences, but she’s not longer simply comparing those differences to the ways of Terre D’Ange.

As with the first two books, the author doesn’t shy away from detailed sex scenes. They are always used to move the plot forward or show some aspect of the characters. One of the reasons that I adore these books is that they don’t ignore the fact that sex is a main driver for human behavior and that how we treat someone both outside and inside the bedroom is important (and sometimes is mightily different). This book contains one of my favorite sex scenes of all time. It involves fishing. The scene was moving, beautiful, arousing, loving, sensual, and meaningful.

Enough gushing. You know by now that I adore this book even if I find it the darkest of the three. I also find that it holds the most food for thought. The myriad of characters show their strengths, and try to hide their weaknesses, in a variety of ways. It’s not just swords and muscles that will win your way through this adventure. The ending was quite satisfying. Not everyone got everything they were hoping for, but everyone got enough.

 

The Narration: Once again, Anne Flosnik gives a stellar performance. The list of accents needed for this trilogy grows yet again with this installment. I can’t imagine the amount of research she had to put into this before she could begin the narration. Her character voices are always distinct and she holds this accent or that accent steady for each character. I love her little kid voice for Imriel. Great narration!

What I Liked: More adventuring; deals with some weightier issues; plenty of food for thought; Joscelin has figured out what to do with his sense of humor; the sex scenes; Imriel; the solution to Hyacinthe’s problem; a beautiful ending to this trilogy.

What I Disliked: My tiny quibble is that I sometimes found Hyacinthe’s plight a little tiring.

What Others Think:

Strange Horizons

Eyrie

Kirkus Reviews

SFF Book Reviews

Fantasy Book Review

Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

Tofu kitty with a very good book.
Tofu kitty with a very good book.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2009)

Length: 27 hours 52 minutes

Series: Book 2 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: It is possible to read this book as a stand alone as relevant events from Book 1 are reflected upon in enough detail for a reader of Book 2 to grasp the point. However, I highly recommend reading Book 1 as it is just so damn good!

We return once again to the alternate history of Terre D’Ange (France) and the surrounding lands. Book 2 picks up several months after Book 1 ended. Melisande Sharhizai is still at large. However, very early in Book 2 our heroine Phedre receives a challenge of sorts from Melisande – her sangoire cloak is returned to her via a carrier from Caerdicca Unitas (Italy) and more specifically La Serenissima (Venice). Phedre truly believes that Terre D’Ange and the queen (Ysandre) are in danger so long as Melisande is free. The challenge sets in motion events that will change Phedre’s life forever.

Here we have another masterfully crafted book from Jacqueline Carey. Sometimes sequels aren’t near as good as the first in the series but this series holds it’s own weight as it progresses. I have read this book several times now and this is my second time listening to it. First, I love how the characters continue to grow and how the world continues to expand as Phedre’s travels take her further afield. Second, Melisande continues to make a most worthy opponent. Phedre definitely has her work cut out for her in this book!

Once again, we are told the story through Phedre’s eyes. She was raised in the Court of the Night Blooming flowers and being subservient and unseen (expect maybe as a pretty plaything) comes easily to her. She polished off her training in Anafiel Delaunay’s house where she learned history, politics, languages, and how to think in a rational manner. Both served her well in Book 1 and they do so again in Book 2. Yet this journey she comes to understand her powers a bit more – her will power to live, her ability to forgive, her strength to deny Melisande. That which yields, is not always weak (a quote from Kushiel’s Dart).

There were two interesting themes that twined throughout the novel: loyalty and grief. Again and again, we see Phedre and other characters having to figure out where their loyalties really lie – with queen and country? To the deities they serve? To family? I think Joscelin struggled the most with this one. Grief made an interesting thread throughout the book. What is a mortal’s grief compared to the grief of a goddess? How do you mourn the passing of something not of a physical nature, such as friendship or love? These were some big ideas to contemplate even as my mind was fully engaged in the day to day decisions of the characters.

This time through, I listened to the book as part of a read along. It was a great experience and let me see things about the book I had not seen before. For instance, I had not really noticed before that Phedre is, on occasion, a little bit of a snob. Now I see it in small things and I see how it ties to her upbringing and culture. This in turn let’s me see it in other Terre D’Ange characters. And this leads to a nuanced part of the plot of this book – how Terre D’Ange has been a bit xenophobic towards other cultures for too long and it has cost them in the larger arena of politics. This book (and the entire series) is awesome because you can reread it and take something new away each time.

As with Kushiel’s Dart, there is also plenty of sex and it is told in just as much detail as the rest of the story. You may blush a bit. The sex scenes serve to show certain aspects of the characters involved or to move the plot forward. I never feel that space is wasted on these scenes. Plus, some of them are rather educational in and of themselves. 😉

As with Book 1, I was completely swept up into Phedre’s world once again. Jacqueline Carey makes great use of languages to round out a culture. If you’re a bit of a linguistics geek, you will love this aspect of the series. It’s a rich world, a devilishly intriguing plot, and characters you will never forget. Reading it the 7th time was just as good as reading it the first time.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik is once again the voice of Phedre, and a great fit she is too! Phedre’s voice is how we experience the story and, hence, Phedre’s emotions come through the loudest. Flosnik did a great job imbuing the characters with emotions, but especially, Phedre. My heart broke and soared for her multiple times throughout the tale! The linguistics keep piling up in this series and Flosnik met the challenge magnificnetly.

What I Liked: The cover art; Phedre, of course; yeah! more travels!; pirates!; interesting exploration of grief; Joscelin and Phedre have to work on their relationship; Melisande is the evil that you love to hate; fantastic narration; the ending was satisfying but left the door open for Book 3.

What I Disliked: Nothing –  I adore this book.

What Others Think:

 

Megan Cashman

Fantasy Book Review

SF Site

 

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Heldig and a very good book
Heldig and a very good book

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2009)

Length: 31 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 1 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Set in an alternate fantasy world which looks much like perhaps 17th century Europe, Phedre no Delaunay is an indentured servant trained in the arts of the bedchamber as well as espionage. These dual talents, along with her abundant curiosity, will lead her into the depths of a traitorous plot that threatens the nation.

I’ve read this book many, many times and listened to the audiobook a few more times. Recently, I engaged in a read along of this book with several other bloggers (which was magnificent) and I figured it was high time I write a proper review of this most beloved book.

Over the years, I have recommended this book to many people. Some have shied away from it because they believe it to be a romance novel first and foremost. That could not be further from the truth. The story is rich and complex, the characters deep and conflicted, and the setting is full of grace. There’s love & betrayal, for sure, but also sword fights, brilliant escapes, brutal warlords, torture, a good deal of kindness unlooked for, poetry, royalty teetering on the brink of collapse, and so much more. In short, this book is not for the faint of heart.

The culture of Terre D’Ange is one of ‘Love as thou wilt’. Courtesans are not looked upon as scum but rather are cultured, highly trained, educated persons who have goals and lives beyond the bedroom. Phedre’s training started as a young child with simple things, such as learning to serve unobtrusively. As she ages, her training becomes more complex and more adult themes are introduced. Once her indenture is sold to Anafiel Delaunay, her training in espionage, languages, politics, and history begins. Truly, Phedre is often hard pressed to say which she enjoyed more, or which served her better in the trials that were to come.

The world building is simply magnificent in this book. The setting is nearly a character unto itself, affecting the plot and the shaping of our main characters. A whole religion is contained within this fantasy world. Elua walked the world, loving all. His closest followers reflect the various faces of love. Serving Naamah is not a simple exchange of money for sex. It is a sacred calling first and foremost with full consent and deep pleasure for all being the goal. Indeed, the theme of consent runs strong throughout this novel.

Phedre herself is fascinating and she is surrounded by most interesting characters. Once she goes to Anafiel’s house, she is raised side by side with another orphan, Alcuin. Together, they learn the arts of espionage eventually being set to small tasks. However, Anafiel plays his cards close to this chest, not wanting to put his two young charges in danger. Yet betrayal eventually strikes and Phedre finds herself a slave to a foreign warlord. Her only companion during this harrowing time is Joscelin Verreuil. He is trained as a protector in the Cassiline style. Not only is he a magnificent fighter, but he is also a bit of a prude. There is much that Phedre and Joscelin have to learn from each other.

While this book has a fair amount of politics and a large cast, the key players are always set front and center. And don’t be intimidated by the politics. When you truly need to understand some key point, some character will explain it. Primarily, this is Phedre’s story and her role in things. It is through her eyes that we see and understand the higher machinations of rulers and officials.

One can not talk about this book justly without talking about the sex. There are some scenes that are erotic. Some of these scenes are BDSM. Jacqueline Carey doesn’t flinch from describing these scenes in as much detail as she does the politics, or the beauty of a masked ball, or a swift fight scene. She does do a magnificent job of including the emotions, the reasons for engaging in such activities or relationships, and the aftermath. These scenes are small but important windows into the characters. They add to, instead of distract from, the plot. Indeed, there are times when the sex happens off stage because it would not have added to character building or the plot.

When I first read this book, probably in 2002, I thought I had a pretty open mind about relationships and sex. However, this book challenged some of those beliefs, just as the characters themselves are challenged in their beliefs. Reading this book was like holding up a magnifying mirror and taking a good hard look at what I saw there and why I believed certain things were good or bad. In short, this book, and the series, did me the service of pushing my boundaries, as any great novel should do.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik is great for Phedre. She has a cultured voice that ranges in emotion and a little in age. Phedre does a lot of growing in this book. She also has quite a range of voices for the other characters, both male and female. In addition, there are several French and Gaelic words and phrases in this book and Flosnik pulls them off excellently.

What I Liked: The cover art; Phedre’s character; the fight scenes; the intricate long-game politics; Elua and service to Naamah; sex scenes add to the story; betrayal and loss; unlooked for kindness; excellent narration; the most satisfying end.

What I Disliked: Nothing –  I adore this book.

What Others Think:

Lynn’s Book Blog

Tethyan Books

SFReviews.net

Dear Author

SF Site

Fantasy Cafe

The Literary Omnivore

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