Book Review: Kushiel’s Avatar ☆☆☆

kaThe land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. It’s inhabited by the race that rose from the seed of angels, and they live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay was sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobleman who recognized that she was pricked by Kushiel’s dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Phèdre’s path has been strange and dangerous. She has lain with princes and pirate kings, battled a wicked temptress, and saved two nations. Through it all, the devoted swordsman Joscelin has been at her side, following the central precept of the angel Cassiel: Protect and serve.

But Phèdre’s plans will put his pledge to the test, for she has never forgotten her childhood friend Hyacinthe. She has spent ten long years searching for the key to free him from his eternal indenture to the Master of Straights, a bargain with the gods to save Phèdre and a nation. The search will take Phèdre and Joscelin across the world and down a fabled river to a forgotten land. . . and to a power so intense and mysterious, none dare speak its name.  – Goodreads

 

  • Title: Kushiel’s Avatar (Phedre’s Trilogy #3)
  • Author: Jacqueline Carey
  • Genre: Fantasy, Romance

 

Thoughts:

This was a slow book. Of course each of the three books was at times, but this one was by far the slowest. A huge portion of the story is dedicated to traveling across large swaths of territory, and while it is always nice to be introduced to new places I found myself struggling to stay interested at times.

Also as the story begins to pick up, around page 300 or thereabouts, it gets incredibly dark. I realize this might be a personal tolerance thing, but I found it to be almost oppressive. To be fair it is meant to be dark, and at this point of the story Phedre is facing the greatest threat she has ever encountered. One that threatens not only Terre d’Ange, but the world. The stakes didn’t change the fact that I still didn’t enjoy this part of the book.

On the plus side we finally get around to helping Hyacinthe.   (SPOILER) Phedre frees him from his curse, but c’mon we all knew that was going to happen so is it really a spoiler?  I can tell you I was not a huge fan of  their kissing near the end. Don’t get me wrong I know their history, but that’s exactly what it is now after twelve years. I could almost even forgive Hyacinthe the kiss being as not much has really changed for him, but Phedre you should have more control than that! (SPOILER)   He’s my dude, and I’ve been waiting for this since the end of book one.

Then there’s Imriel.

(SPOILER)   Melisande holds a key piece of information needed in the quest to free Hyacinthe. To gain this information Phedre must agree to find Melisande’s lost son Imriel. I loved the relationship that develops between Imriel, Phedre and Joscelin. You see where it is going a mile away, but it doesn’t matter because you want it to go there.    (SPOILER)

In the end Kushiel’s Avatar wrapped things up nicely even if I found it to be less enjoyable than its predecessors. I am looking forward to reading the Imriel trilogy, but I think I need a break from the world for a bit before I start.

 

My Rating: ☆☆☆

 

Currently Reading:

  • Title: Borderline (The Arcadia Project #1)
  • Author: Mishell Baker
  • Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
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Book Review: Kushiel’s Chosen ☆☆☆☆

kushiels_chosenMighty Kushiel, of rod and weal
Late of the brazen portals
With blood-tipp’d dart a wound unhealed
Pricks the eyen of chosen mortals

The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. The inhabiting race rose from the seed of angels and men, and they live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay was sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobleman, the first to recognize that she is one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. He trained Phèdre in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber—and, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze.

When she stumbled upon a plot that threatened the very foundations of her homeland, she gave up almost everything she held dear to save it. She survived, and lived to have others tell her story, and if they embellished the tale with fabric of mythical splendor, they weren’t far off the mark.

The hands of the gods weigh heavily upon Phèdre’s brow, and they are not finished with her. While the young queen who sits upon the throne is well loved by the people, there are those who believe another should wear the crown… and those who escaped the wrath of the mighty are not yet done with their schemes for power and revenge.

Goodreads

Disclaimer:

Kushiel’s Chosen is book two in a trilogy. If you haven’t read Kushiel’s Dart this will have spoilers for that book which I will not be hiding. I will however hide any spoilers for this book.

 

Overview:

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but Chosen follows up a year after we left off with Dart. Having saved the queen and the realm Phedre, Joscelin, and her chevaliers have retired to her newly acquired estate inherited from her mentor Delaunay. By all accounts life is quiet, and she is happy, if a little bored. Until one day a package arrives that brings about her to return to Naamah’s service in search of answers. Once again the fate of the realm will rest on her shoulders.

 

Thoughts:

I easily enjoyed this book as much as the first, maybe more. Kushiel’s  Chosen builds upon that foundation built by Kushiel’s Dart taking us to places we have not seen before, and introducing us to new cultures and religions. What makes Chosen different, and arguably better, is a switch of emphasis.

In the first book the emphasis is on all the erotic, action-packed, political, and mystery elements. There are elements of love, and friendship, but these are not truly the focus. In Chosen all these elements are still there, but the focus shifts to the love story between Phedre and Joscelin.

This is a love story above all else instead of being a story which contains a love story.

In Dart our lovers forge a bond through extreme circumstances which in many ways mask their deeply embedded issues. He hates her calling, but loves her enough to accept her completely. The thing is before this can truly be put to the test they find themselves betrayed, alone and surrounded by their enemies fighting for their lives with the fate of the realm hanging in the balance. They save each other’s lives time and time again enduring much suffering in the process. And then it is over. She becomes peer of the realm, and they retire to the a quiet life of  loving bliss.

This time around when Phedre makes the choice to re-enter Naamah’s they both have nothing, but the agonizing stillness of time to test the limits of their love. Day by day, moment by moment, we see the toll this takes on them and their relationship. It is excruciatingly painful to watch. You’ll have to read the book to see how this plays out, but trust me it gets pretty brutal.

I will say that this shift of emphasis caused the book to move very slowly at first. I don’t remember it picking up until somewhere around the 300 page mark. If it had kept pace any longer I don’t think my interest would have held, but Jacqueline Carey knows exactly how much slow languish to allow before letting up.

For whatever reason I found I appreciated Jacqueline Carey’s style of writing more this time around. It was every bit as beautiful last book, but it stood out more to me for some reason. Perhaps because it was a slower book plot wise I was able savor it more?

 

Summery:

Kushiel’s Chosen was a good deal slower, but a lot more personal than Kushiel’s Dart. It was above all a love story. In that sense I enjoyed it more, but in fairness Chosen could only happen with the work laid down by Dart.

 

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

 

Looking Ahead:

There are a few things I am really looking forward to in the final book.

(Spoilers)

First, with all the mentioning of Hyacinthe our boy has to make an appearance in the finale right?! I hope so because I loved his character, and the relationship between he and Phedre.

Then there is this ten year gap Phedre was promised. A lot can happen in ten years! Will she and Jescelin get married? Do they have children? I’d love to see that even if it is at the end of the trilogy.

There was the hint of a, permitted?, love affair between Phedre and Nicola. Not going to lie I’m rooting for some steamy sex between those two. Don’t judge me.

Finally there is Melisandre. Beyond all doubt she will play a huge role in the last book, and our heroine will need to finally get ahead of her instead of always being one step behind. This time just kill the chick and be done with it. Seriously she has more lives than an immortal cat! And who has her kid? My money is on her cousin Marmion who disappeared, but we never really heard about him again. And what does that mean if he is actually working with Melisandre?!

(Spoilers)

 

Currently Reading:

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie.

ancmercy

Book Review: Kushiel’s Dart ☆☆☆☆☆

kushieldartI’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: ☆☆☆☆☆