Publisher: Tor Books
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Release Date: 3/15/2002
Recommended Audience: Adult
The Good: Deep and heavy characters, excellent adventure through a memorable world, sex scenes that actually make sense and are part of the story, lots of detail to keep you wrapped in the world and makes you remember weeks after reading
The Bad: Heavy in politics, tests your patience until the story picks up, a few unbelievable parts
Being a successful author these days is hard because of the sea of wannabe authors, has been, and have-nots, but the few that stick out do so for a reason and Jacqueline Carey does with this erotic book of adventure and gripping characters. The story has a huge back story and is all about politics, religion, and it just goes on and on and would take me forever to explain it all. The synapse is that the main character, Phedre, is pricked with Kushiel’s Dart and she is his chosen scion and has a red mote in her eye. Her parents sell her to one of the Thirteen Houses of Naamah and she becomes a high-end courtesan who learns this skill at age 10. Yes, this book isn’t for the light-hearted and really challenges your moral views. However, the book is very tasteful and she uses her skills in the art of love-making in the book.
She gets her marque bought by a man named Anafiel no Dalaunay and his pupil Alciun to use her love-making skills to get information out of lords and kings. There’s a lot more to this and Phedre’s character as well as all the others are very strong, but the book itself is an epic on its own and you go through 20 years of her life. The book is heavy in politics and there are a ton of weird almost unpronounceable names and she throws them at you in just a few chapters and I felt this was the weak part of the book. Too many politics at once which makes it hard to keep track of everyone, which name rules what land etc. The politics are deep and eventually, come out in the end and untangle, but 900 pages of trying to figure it out is a chore. The book has some bad pacing and doesn’t get truly exciting until past chapter 40.
This book tests your patience, but if you wait you will be rewarded with amazing and lovable characters that you really get to care for and admire. I can name a whole list of names, but you have to really read the book to know what I am talking about. Not since Lord of the Rings and The Night Angel Trilogy have I read such amazing characters. There’s a lot packed into this one book, with a sad and amazing journey that her and Joscelin (her Cassiline Brotherhood bodyguard). They go through so much horrible stuff that it really hits you hard. My only gripe about the characters is that Phedre seems to get through the most inhumane things without much of a scratch and makes her seem a little unrealistic. If you can look past this the characters are something you will remember and think about weeks after finishing the book.
The world is made up kind of like Lord of the Rings, and she explains the entire epic journey very well, but the best part of the book is the last third because that’s when the politics die down and the two go on this impossible journey to save the realm from the Skaldic barbarians slaughtering everyone. Not often is a book too big and full of too much content to explain it all because there is an unreal amount of detail in the book. Day by day events and she rarely skip these so the whole book flows and feel like an amazing tale.
If you have the patience to stomach the heavy politics and tons of detail leading up to the epic adventure then I promise you this will be one of the best books you will ever read. The book does have some graphic sex scenes, but Carey writes them in taste and makes it very erotic and steamy, but they are spared and the scenes are actually part of the whole story and not just there to get guys to read it. There are a few unbelievable parts when she starts introducing myth and fantasy because this book seems very realistic until those points. Other than that this is probably one of the best books of the new generation and shouldn’t be missed.