Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Book One of Kushiel's Legacy
Published by Tom Doherty Associates
Kushiel’s Dart is an intricate and complex high fantasy filled with politics and desire. Phedre carries a red smote in her eye, declaring for all to see that she is chosen by the God Kushiel. She is an anguissette, a woman who can find pleasure in pain. Castaway as a child for being different, she is sold into the Night Court to become a member of a pleasure house. Until Delaunay discovers what she is and buys her mark. Raised in Delaunay’s household she is treated with respect and educated. While she will still be a servant of Naamah and provided bedroom services to clients, there is more to it than simply money. She is Delaunay’s eyes and ears. Listening to what her clients give up in moments of passion.
I was hesitant to start this book. I lost count how many times I picked it up in the bookstore and put it back down again. Anyone who follows my reviews knows my opinion of sex in books. I prefer to not read it at all. By chance, this was suggested at my book club and I figured I would give it a try. Jacqueline Cary is a magnificent writer. She does not focus on the physical actions when Phedre is with a client, instead, she focuses on what Phedre learns and her emotions. Sure, you know what is happening, but it’s more so in the background to everything else going on.
However, I must confess that I couldn’t keep the politics straight. There were too many names and factions to follow. I was more interested in Phedre and her reactions to the world around her. When the politics started to fall into the background, and the story was more focused on Phedre’s survival, I was much more interested because Phedre is almost as complex as the politics she indulged in for Delaunay.
This is also the first high fantasy I have read that featured a non-combative character at the forefront of battle. And Phedre doesn’t run away when the fighting begins. She uses all her skills of espionage to weasel her way into places that no one else can. Her determination to survive in the worst of situations is what made me continue reading this book despite its politics. Phedre is an extremely intelligent woman, who recognizes her downfalls and does what she can to be a better person. She never gives up. There are plenty of times she wants to, but she knows other people depend on her for her survival and she will not let them down.
A surprising find, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
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