Fantasy Review: ‘Kushiel’s Dart’ by Jacqueline Carey

It has been a little while since I read a book that gave me a ‘oh hell yes,’ stand up andKushiel's Dart cheer type of scene. And if the one in the waning pages of Kushiel’s Dart consists of the type of thing that can only happen in movies or books, so be it. Because it was the accumulation of events set in motion many chapters before, with everything finally lain before the reader, and it was a rare climax that matches the buildup. The strangest thing about it? It is pure action in the middle of a war, hidden in a book that is certainly not about either of those things. But hidden in this book of political intrigue, strong sexuality, and a massive game of espionage came one of the most memorable battle scenes around.

I think I may be in love with this book. I love the setting with its almost Christian religion in which the Mary Magdalene of the world is as important as its Christ. I enjoyed each of the characters, both good and bad, none of whom ever feels like a cliché within their role. But most especially I appreciate a book that can keep me hooked from page one to six hundred and something (near a thousand pages in the paperback I am told). I can use a Game of Thrones comparison that is being pushed here because Carey actually includes the phrase in the book; there is something about royal maneuvering that just makes me smile.

If this is to be compared to Game of Thrones then it must be done right. Kushiel’s Dart is what would happen if Martin were more focused, decided Sansa was the main character of the story, then put her through hell all the while remembering that hope is occasionally welcome. So nothing at all like Game of Thrones; outside of a battle of nobility and some high quality intrigue.

If Kushiel’s Dart is known for one thing it is the very sexual tone in the books. And this is a book that lives up to its reputation. Phèdre, protagonist and narrator, is marked by a dart in her eye that labels her as anguissette, or one gets pleasure from pain. In a land where Namaah’s path is a form of worship (temple prostitution if you will) Phèdre is trained by a man named Delaunay to be something even more. She grows to be a weapon, not in a physical sense, but rather as a user of information. And in the collection of information sex is ever hers to use.

It is every bit as kinky as it sounds, but perhaps not as dirty as it seems. It would be easy to mock the prostitute’s path as an easy way to turn up the thrills but Carey takes the time to build the land and the religion that follows it in a way that makes it seem natural. Some may argue she takes too much time building it, and that may be, but as a lover of well-crafted worlds I was happy. Oh I may wonder why so many were ready to take advantage of Phèdre’s unique abilities when it is supposed to be such a rare trait, but only once did it really seem a bit too convenient.

Leave the sex behind, or rather don’t because it is interwoven into the entire canvas, and what you get is a long game of rivals trying to control the land. Double crosses, treaties made and broken, more betrayals, and a whole lot of campaigning make up the majority of the story. With a fair amount of traveling, some rough patches, and perhaps some forbidden love. Phèdre tells the story from a position of knowledge but shows only pieces of it while walking us through her path. This allows her to foreshadow at times and point out what may be important later. It was a relaxed story telling style that fit the story well.

I know this book was most likely give a new cover treatment in hopes of catching new audiences that Game of Thrones and Fifty Shades of Gray can provide. Simply by being out there again I know it got my interest and I hope it works on others s well. Because I now know this is a series that deserves a lot more readers.

4 Stars


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