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Book Review: Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacueline Carey

My Calibre tells me I’ve owned a copy of Jacqueline Carey’Kushiel’s Dart since August of 2017. However, I have no memory of where I got it. I think MAYBE it came from Tor.com’s eBook of the Month Club. But wouldn’t at all swear to that.
kushiel's dart Jacqueline carey

A nation born of angels, vast and intricate and surrounded by danger… a woman born to servitude, unknowingly given access to the secrets of the realm…

Born with a scarlet mote in her left eye, Phédre nó Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child. When her bond is purchased by an enigmatic nobleman, she is trained in history, theology, politics, foreign languages, the arts of pleasure. And above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Exquisite courtesan, talented spy… and unlikely heroine. But when Phédre stumbles upon a plot that threatens her homeland, Terre d’Ange, she has no choice.

Betrayed into captivity in the barbarous northland of Skaldia and accompanied only by a disdainful young warrior-priest, Phédre makes a harrowing escape and an even more harrowing journey to return to her people and deliver a warning of the impending invasion. And that proves only the first step in a quest that will take her to the edge of despair and beyond.

Phédre nó Delaunay is the woman who holds the keys to her realm’s deadly secrets, and whose courage will decide the very future of her world.

my review

Books often get lost in my TBR, especially ebooks. That’s what happens when you own a ridiculous number of them. That’s also how I’ve owned a copy of this book since 2017 and basically forgotten about it, or about owning it. Because I’ve seen it on the library shelf several times and passed it up (not realizing I had a copy at home). I gave it a pass because the blurb made me think the story would be really seedy and I just wasn’t up for immersing myself in that.

Then it happened that I stumbled across a Best of Fantasy Romance list that included Kusiel’s Dart. The thing about this list was that I’d read 4 of the 13 books on it and didn’t think any of them were best-of worthy. (1 I flat out disliked.) So, I decided to read the remaining 9 books, over the next few months, and see how I feel about the list, as a whole, once I’d read them all. And in investigating them, I rediscovered that I own this book. So, I started here.

On a humorous side note, since I have an ecopy and didn’t think to check the page count on Amazon or GR, I didn’t realize I was leaping into a 1,000 page epic. Surprise! (I think that if this book was published today, instead of almost 20 years ago, the publishers would have broken it into several books. I’m glad they didn’t though.)

In a bit of a petty huff, I have to admit that I liked it a lot. (I still don’t know if I’d call it best-of material, but it’s certainly closer than the others on the list that I’d read.) The world building here is wide and deep. The politics intricate and complicated. I admit I occasionally got lost in who’s who and what’s what. But it is wonderfully complex and diverse. I laughed, I cried, I rooted for the underdogs, and I appreciated the variety of love and friendship on display throughout the book.

To address my fear of seediness, it wasn’t. There was sex in the book, but I would almost say there wasn’t a single sex scene, as I would normally think of them. Never did I feel sex was used erotically. It was there, but the point wasn’t to titillate. If anything, her masochism—not that the words sadist or masochist were used in the book—was far FAR more prominent. And while I agree it had use to the story and plot, I still can’t help sneering a bit at anything that glorifies women’s sexual suffering (just not my thing). But I was gratified to find that role of sadist was filled by both men and women. So, there wasn’t the strict man = abuser, women = victim correlation some such themes are reducible to.

I imagine I’ll continue the series at some point. But I’m not leaping into book two just yet. I’ve got too many other commitments to dedicate myself to another epic just now.

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Review: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey