Title: Kushiel’s Dart
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Part of a Series?: Yes (this is book one of Kushiel’s Legacy and there are two other trilogies set in this same world)
*I purchased this book when it was released
*This is an enormous, complex story that I felt would be best served by my using the published summary. I took this from Amazon.
The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good…and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.
Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission…and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.
Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.
Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel’s Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.
The writing in this novel held me breathless from beginning to end. It is lyrical, descriptive, epic in tone, and takes you on a twisting, turning, surprising adventure. The main character is heroic without being typical, the supporting characters are captivating, and the antagonists are sympathetic and bone-chilling at the same time. This is my second favorite book (after the third book in this same series) and has been since the very first time I read the first sentence.
The Nitty Gritty:
As much as I love this book–and I do! (I’ve read it multiple times, including once out loud to my husband)–this book is not for the faint of heart. To begin with, it is a LONG book. It covers approximately twenty years of the Phedre’s life. It isn’t until around page 300 (just a bit before) that the “real” story starts to unfold. Yes. Page 300. When most books would be finishing up. For those readers who need action to be interested in a book, these first 300 can be terribly slow. For me, however, I was so wrapped up in the beauty of the word choice and imagery that I didn’t even realize how “slow” this book started until around the seventh time of reading it–and I only noticed it then because I was studying it for my third-semester project in graduate school.
This is not the only difficult aspect of this book, however. With a courtesan as the protagonist, there are a great many scenes of an intimate nature. Phedre, however, is not a typical courtesan; Phedre has been pricked by the mark of the god of pain: Kushiel’s Dart. She experiences pain as pleasure, and this comes into all of her sex scenes–and plenty of other scenes. These scenes can be intense and difficult to read. It is important to note, though, that these scenes also have purposes beyond just sexy, naughty scenes. They develop character, move the plot forward, and even add depth to the relationships between the main characters.
With all this said, this book pays off on so many levels that there is no doubt that it is worth any and all slow and uncomfortable scenes. The intrigue is complex and exciting, the fight and battle scenes are breath-taking and easy to imagine, and the characters are the stuff dreams are made of: Phedre is brave, outspoken, and truly one of a kind; Joscelin is honorable, loyal, and inspirational; and Phedre’s friends (Hyacinth, Alcuin, Cecile, and Anafiel) are varied, distinct, and the sort of friends the average reader would be lucky to have. Even the antagonist brings to mind great villains such as Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes; she is smart, deadly, and the perfect counterpoint and mirror to Phedre (just as Moriarty is for Holmes).
Special Parenting Concerns:
This may be a historical fantasy, but there is lots of sex–rough sex that skirts the line of downright torture, but which IS consensual. There’s war and violence, death and kidnappings. This book is for a mature audience and you will want to keep that in mind when considering whether you want to read it yourself, and most definitely keep it in mind if your teenager is wanting to read it.
Book Club Chatter:
This book is LONG. This is probably not a good book for any club that isn’t willing to devote several months to it. It is also a book that requires a somewhat specific type of reader due to the nature of Phedre’s “profession”; book clubs need to make sure that all members are comfortable reading and discussing this type of material. If you do have a person or three you are reading this with, here are some ideas on what to discuss:
- the idea of “Love as though wilt” (the mantra of the entire country Phedre is fighting for)
- Do you agree with Anafiel Delaunay that “All knowledge is worth having”?
- What was your favorite/least favorite trait or action of…(Phedre, Joscelin, etc)
- What was your favorite quote from the book? (There are some real gems throughout the entire series)
- What was your favorite scene?
- Is there any scene or character you wish wasn’t in the book? Why? What, if anything, does it add to the book by being included?
- Which character do you wish you could meet? Be more like?
You Will Like This If…:
- You like epic fantasy such as Game of Thrones
- You like books with a large scope
Goodreads Rating: 4.06 (45,485 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 4 (680 Reviews)
My Rating: 5 Stars
This book has inspired me on so many levels, as a reader, writer, and person. I chose to go to graduate school because of this book, chose to study this (and similar) books for my third semester project, and is a book I have read–and recommended–many times. And all this from a DEBUT novel. If my warnings have not scared you off, go. Find yourself a copy. Read it. Luxuriate in it. Then read it again. I know I will, and very soon, if I have anything to say about it.