I’m having trouble deciding how to best begin my review of Kushiel’s Dart.. I’ll start with the world which is modeled after a mesh of medieval European cultures. Terre D’Ange is home to D’Angelines who are the descendants of fallen angels.These angels were cast down by God, and wandered the world looking for a home eventually settling in what would become Terre D’Ange. This history, and their shared angelic bloodlines form the basis of their religion which is a large part of their identity.
At the core of their religion is the phrase – love as thou wilt. One particular angel prostituted herself during the period of their wandering for the good of the angelic group. Now in this world prostitution is not just legal but a holy, sanctioned vocation.
Those who dedicate themselves to this angel form the Night Court. There are many houses which make up the Night Court each focusing on a different interpretation, or aspect of her service. That’s a crude description, but I tried to keep this as brief as possible. The world and religion of Kushiel’s Dart are both done very well. They have a depth, and complexity to which I have likely done a disservice, but hopefully I got the gist of it across.
Our heroine is Phedre, who as a young girl is sold by her parents to the Night Court who in turn later sells her to a nobleman. In his house she will learn become a courtesan spy. Things will of course go sideways for our heroine as they always do. Phedre’s story is full of political intrigue, battles, wars, love, friendship, betrayal, and sex.
The story itself is good, and there were a lot of things I enjoyed about it. There is a romance which was okay, and thankfully not overly sexual. Given her profession it would have felt less genuine to me if it had been all instant attraction, and hot sex.
I loved the relationship with her childhood friend. You get to see this friendship as it begins when they are children, and as they get older it remains true while changing with them. I actually enjoyed this more than the romance. You did a noble thing buddy, and I’m hoping this isn’t how your story ends! I definitely want to see him again as the series progresses. I’m not sure if I will though.
There is a great villainess in this story. She is easily one of my favorite villains even if she doesn’t much story time. I loved the relationship between her and our heroine. I expect they/she will get much more in the next two books. I mean how could she not!?
There are also parts of the book where the passage of time is both sudden and great. The author does a good job of showing how our character grows, and changes as a result. Or how the world itself has changed. Often an author writes 10 years later.. except nothing meaningful seems to have changed. Thankfully this wasn’t that.
Arguably most notable thing about Kushiel’s Dart is that there is a lot of sex in this story. There is no getting around that, and yes I’m including it in the things I liked best about the book. Terre D’Ange is a very hedonistic, sexual world.
In addition to being a courtesan Phedre is also an anguissette which is basically a masochist. Pain and humiliation give her great, if often involuntary, pleasure. Most of the many sex scenes will include some degree of bdsm.
That said these scenes never felt like a gimmick, or simply a prepubescent’s fantasy. They were descriptive, but not vulgar. Often they were sensual, and even arousing. Not to make this post awkward, but if these kinds of things make you uncomfortable you’ve been warned.
I don’t want to make it sound like this is an erotica, and the story is just there to frame the sex. It isn’t. The world and religion are very complex. There is a lot of really good political intrigue going on. You have a great story with battles, nations going to war, and even some magic.
Here’s the thing though.. even with all that it was the sex that made this book great to me. Take that away, and I give this 3 stars. With the sex I give 5. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series!
There was one thing I had to flat out ignore. So she is trained as a courtesan spy. Cool. Except literally everyone knows this. Allies, friends, enemies, people who know people that have talked to other people – everyone. Somehow they still manage to let important information be discussed around her, or they simply tell her themselves. I mean, really? That’s a small thing however.
My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆