Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.
In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook It s funny what the years can do to your taste in books and I m talking about something deeper, something profound than those books that just don t stand up to being revisited Instead, I m talking about those books that you appreciated back in the day, but somehow knew you weren t quite ready to enjoy books that linger somewhere in the back of your imagination, biding their time until you re ready to continue with the series.
Kushiel s Chosen, the second book of the Kushiel s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey, was the first book to really open my eyes to this I would have been in my 20 s when I read Kushiel s Dart, just out of University, and stumbling my way into a career I remember there being a definite taboo appeal to the story, with the book itself representing something of a game changer for me at the time It was a graduation of sorts from the pages of traditional fantasy to something well,.
It was late last year that I finally got around to reading the second book in the series prompted by a review copy of the new trade paperback edition , and I was finally ready to appreciate it This is a series that offers up a blend of fetish and fantasy, spiritualism and sadomasochism, hedonism and heroism More than that, it is an epic fantasy with the most profound of messages at its heart Love as thou wilt As powerful and original as I remember the first book being, the second revealed itself to be an even stronger read In moving beyond that taboo novelty of its sexuality, I was able to appreciate the characters, the politics, the mythology, and the storytelling.
Yes, it s a romantic fantasy, but the political intrigues are as strong as anything you ll find in traditional fantasies It s a big, sweeping series, often heavy on both the head and the heart, and one that I found I d finally grown into The taboo element is still there, and still permeates the series, but it s become an accent rather than the story s defining element originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins Mighty Kushiel, Of Rod And WealLate Of The Brazen PortalsWith Blood Tipp D Dart A Wound UnhealedPricks The Eyen Of Chosen MortalsThe 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 WiltPh Dre N 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 Ph Dre In The Courtly Arts And The Talents Of The Bedchamber And, Above All, The Ability To Observe, Remember, And AnalyzeWhen 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 MarkThe Hands Of The Gods Weigh Heavily Upon Ph Dre 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 RevengeCover Art By John Jude Palencar Perhaps some day I will read one of these BDSM courtesan spy epic fantasy doorstops and actually be able to talk about it afterwards, but today is not that day Because right now, I am just so fucking grateful to this book, it has eclipsed the book itself unintentionally hilarious, strangely unproblematic almost entirely This is what I read during the final two weeks of my last semester in law school It s what I read on the eight minute dog walking breaks, what I read when I snapped awake at 4 30 in the morning but just could not face studying right then, what I read when I took a half hour breather twelve hours out from the end when the euphoria started setting in, it s what I read on the train in to my exams And you know, there were pirates And prison breaks And kinky lesbian sex scenes And great battles But I barely noticed, because this book was pleasant in a white noise kind of way, and it was long so I didn t have to face finding something else to read, and it just tra la la ed along for 600 pages whether I was paying attention or not Basically it was the book equivalent of someone quietly holding your hand and telling you about their day just so you could listen to the sound of their voice and not worry about the sense of it.
Oh my God, Jacqueline Carey Thank you thank you thank you.
The second in the Kushiel s legacy series, continues on exactly where the first novel left off.
Phedre no Delaunay, now the comtesse de Montreve, comfortably living in her country home with Joscelin and her three chevaliers, and spending most of her time learning Habiru, in the hopes of discovering the key to freeing Hyacinth from the yeshuite curse But then a parcel comes from Melisande Sharizhai Phedre s sangoire cloak and there is only one way to interpret it Melisande s games of politics and treachery and not yet finished, and she is inviting Phedre back into the game if she dares And so Phedre goes back to the city, to take up service of Naamah again, to become again a courtesan and a spy The first and greatest mystery being, who was it that aided Melisande s escape from Troyes le mont, and how far will Phedre need to go to find out.
I have to say, I enjoyed this one just as much, if not than Kushiel s Dart Near the end of the previous I was almost lulled into thinking there would be no adventure for Phedre, that she was settling down with Joscelin, and that would be it But of course the adventure was far from over And really what an amazing adventure this time So many new lands, cultures and people in this one Which only makes me wonder how far she d have to travel in the third book in order to beat it As in the previous book there was no mercy for the heart, I believe Carey is one of those writers that will ruthlessly kill off beloved characters if it s important to the plot She makes me cry so much, but I m masochistic and I love a good cry, I can t help myself Not telling who of course, you ll have to read it yourself and suffer the same as I did Some of the aspects that interest me most about this series is the mythology and the magic At times you could almost believe it s a fantasy world without magic, just myths and legends for them, and then as with the master of the straits in the 1st book something just jumps out at you to show you that magic can touch Phedre s world And if magic can happen then are Phedre s visions of her deity Kushiel real I am still hoping for this mythology to go further I don t have as much interesting in the Yeshuite mythology, as so far it s a bit of a mimicry of Jewish christian beliefs, and as just doesn t shine as much as the other fantasy elements, but it still hasn t bothered me much, and it does create some interesting characters.
If you were one of those, like I was, worried that the 2nd book would not live up to the 1st book just don t worry, keep reading, I promise it s great And now I ve proved to myself that it s just as good, and I ve got this review out of the way my personal rule I am now so so ready to jump into the 3rd book See my other reviews of Kushiel s Legacy 1 Kushiel s Dart 3 Kushiel s Avatar Screw magic Give me some political fantasy any day, and I m a happy reader.
I liked Kushiel s Dart I m not sure if there s a definite quality improvement or if I m going too easy on this one, but I loved Kushiel s Chosen.
The Kushiel s Legacy series takes place in a sort of Fantasy Counterpart Culture world where it s Europe, only not From this starting point, Jacqueline Carey creates a world that, while somewhat similar to our own, nevertheless has unique societies and politics As she crisscrosses Europe sorry, Europa in search of the escaped traitor, Melisande Shahirizai, Ph dre tours many of these societies and inevitably gets involved in her politics The combination of her stunning beauty, sexual promiscuity, and savvy spy skills can be very persuasive.
Indeed, it s quite possible to label Ph dre a Mary Sue and call it day That doesn t do justice to Carey s intricate plotting though Rather, I love Kushiel s Chosen because it teeters on the brink of being contrived Ph dre balances just on the precipice of Mary Sue dom All these people Ph dre encounter tend to help her, for one or of the three aforementioned character traits she possesses To put it in perspective upon escaping from an inescapable island prison and nearly drowning , Ph dre soon rebuilds her power base, befriending in the process not one but two other nations, and returns to Venice sorry, La Serenissima to stop the assassination of her Queen.
What saves the book, and Ph dre, is the difficulty level at which Carey has set her game Despite her ever ready allies, despite her shrewdness and knowledge of political intrigue, Ph dre spends most of the book suffering failure after failure It s like Carey has constructed a giant locked room mystery where the room is the size of a continent , and Ph dre has interrogated all of the witnesses and suspects, but she still guesses wrongly Meanwhile, I guessed where Melisande was hiding long before the big reveal and I never solve those mysteries But does this make the book bad On the contrary, it s very smart By choosing it to do this way, Carey divides the book into two parts that are almost self contained narratives in themselves, with introduction, rising action, climax, and denouement.
In the first half of Kushiel s Chosen, we re re introduced to Ph dre, Terre d Ange, and being a Servant of Namaah The main focus is on discovering how Melisande escaped custody at the end of Kushiel s Dart and hence, where she has gone to ground To this end, we re immersed in the court life in the City of Elua, with Ph dre unsure of who is trustworthy, since someone supposedly beyond reproach had to help Melisande escape After staging a falling out with Queen Ysandre and relocating to La Serenissima, Ph dre soon discovers where Melisande is hiding But it s too late, and she s imprisoned in an inescapable fortress on an island.
The second half features Ph dre s lucky escape, several brushes with death, and the befriending and bedding of a pirate The mystery is over, and now it s all about rebuilding her power base so Ph dre can return to La Serenissima in time to prevent Ysandre s assassination It s pretty obvious that Ph dre will succeed at this one task, even if she has failed at everything else, so the source of the drama comes from everyone around Ph dre Who lives and who dies What s Melisande s fate More importantly, how do the machinations of a D Angeline traitor affect Serenissiman politics Carey constantly impresses me with her ability to effortless manage so many characters The universe of Kushiel s Legacy is very heavily populated, but not so much so that it s Name Soup Kushiel s Chosen is sort of a political spy thriller set in a fantasy world, albeit only in the sense that slow moving historical fiction can be a thriller as the events take place over the course of a year It s weakest in its characterization, especially with Ph dre and Joscelin s relationship, which is far too prolonged Also, of all the exposition that Carey skips in the second book, she doesn t re explain the nature of the Cassilines, something I had forgotten in the year that managed to elapse between books By far, the most intriguing relationship is the one between Ph dre and Melisande They are each other s nemesis on both an intellectual and visceral level Ph dre and I both admire Melisande s aptitude at the game of thrones She is a delightfully crafty enemy and well a match for Ph dre in ways than one, as Ph dre considers Melisande delicious as well as delightful If her existence as the world s only anguissette isn t conflicting enough, her attraction to Melisande is inconvenient and almost deadly At first, I didn t entirely understand this aspect of their relationship it s obvious, after all, that Ph dre would never betray Ysandre and join the dark side.
But it s than just mere attraction Ph dre is a lonely heroine, and has been from the start of the series After the deaths of Alcuin and Anafiel and the loss of Hyacinthe in Kushiel s Dart, Ph dre is alone than ever This situation only escalates throughout Kushiel s Chosen as Ph dre alienates Joscelin and loses some of her companions Moreover, wherever she goes and whatever she accomplishes, she is always still the anguissette, identified sometimes by myth than her own personality The fact that she saves the kingdom and is commended by Ysandre for this at the end of the book doesn t exactly help As her nemesis, Melisande is a part of Ph dre s identity She beat Ph dre in the first halves of both books Although Ph dre was ultimately victorious twice , Melisande promises that it s not game over Similarly, Melisande is the only patron of Ph dre s who ever extracted the safe word sorry, signale during a sexual exploit I would go so far as to say that Melisande is the single person who best understands Ph dre, both as an anguissette and as spy she certainly understands Ph dre better than Ph dre s love, Joscelin At the best of times he s clueless about the complications of Ph dre s commitments to Namaah s service at the worst of times he s openly disdainful.
And so, Kushiel s Chosen takes the best aspects of Kushiel s Dart and amplifies them, grafting on a better plot with sinister intrigue and a stellar cast of supporting characters More than just court drama although Ph dre never hesitates to give us a play by play of what she s wearing , Kushiel s Chosen is the intimate dance between two like minds conducted with an entire continent as their battlefield Ph dre and Melisande face off in a conflict that is both deeply political and deeply personal In so doing, Carey captures the breadth of human expression writ large and writ small.
Returning to Terre D Ange and Ph dre s Europe sorry, Europa was truly a pleasure I recommended Kushiel s Dart to fans of epic fantasy now I ll go one step further and say that even straight up historical fiction fans can find enjoyment here Carey s skill as a writer is something that transcends genre, and while Kushiel s Chosen is fantasy in name, it is fantastic by nature.
My Reviews of Kushiel s Legacy Kushiel s Dart Kushiel s Avatar Another beautifully written epic fantasy Kushiel s Chosen picks up where Kushiel s Dart left off But whereas Phedre is initially drawn into intrigue for the sake of her murdered mentor foster brother, the tragedies travails in this second installment are a product of Phedre s own impetus She doesn t have to become involved, but she makes that choice the same way she submits to a patron s whims, but on a larger political scale Likewise, the intrigue in this book has a personal note Vanquished is the onslaught of brutal Viking esque hordes this time the peril is pretty faces nobility in the heart of Terre d Ange, that duplicity spurs her decision to resume the chess game with Melisande.
Phedre is that rare breed in fantasy a strong female character who isn t a warrior, or even royalty Rather, she s a highly placed courtesan whose principle talents are looking beautiful on cue, submissive sex, unraveling of political tangles, dicing with soldiers, a tenacious survival instinct She has a definite prejudice toward the perfection of all things D Angeline, yet she is quick to appreciate simple goodness beauty in other cultures And though she admits a preference for creature comforts, she values loyalty kindred souls above all else I can t help thinking this author must have devoured bodice rippers when she was younger Phedre s sprawling adventures bouncing from place to place one impossible situation to the next, all the while repeatedly separated from Joscelin her closest companions smack of classic bodice shredding But her unabashed femininity sexual responses are also reminiscent of free wheeling doorstoppers with kaleidoscopic covers So many heroines these days are ashamed of having sexual thoughts, let alone sleeping with men who aren t the primary hero Where s the fun in that Why is larger than life such a dirty concept these days The written world needs Phedres, dammit But I still hate that view spoiler Remy Fortun hide spoiler
A solid 3.
This is the 2nd book in the series and while good and true to the story line, it just seemed to drag on.
It s a chunkster and I probably wasn t in the right head frame to be reading something that required me to remember a lot of names, places and previous story lines.
Jacqueline Carey is an excellent writer It is her beautiful writing style that kept me going with this one.
This is part of an epic long series 7 books in all, I believe and each of them is well over 500 pages.
I still loved the story line of the main character, but at times it just seemed to take forever to get the end spot.
I might pick up the 3rd in the series the ending to Phedre s part in the story line but it will be sometime in the future.
35 A Buddy read with the FBR group This second book in the Phedre Trilogy was, in my opinion, better than the first The pacing was much better and it kept you on your toes throughout It had some lull moments, but they were well spaced and gave the main heroine time for some angst and going through all the facts and things she had done wrong and has to plan to do still The dynamic format might have positively been assisted by the smaller page count, although at 678 pages it is still a hefty tomeWhy is there ever this perverse cruelty in humankind, that makes us hurt most those we love bestThis book starts about an year after the end of the first You would have thought that Countess Ph dre n Delaunay would be satisfied with her new title, estates, and the love of the man she seems to love as well, the ex warrior monk Joscelin, but the Chosen of Kushiel doesn t seem to be satisfied with kicking her heels in the genteel country society, so she decides to take the bate and go on a search for the treacherous and very alluring vileness Melisande Shahirizai , who escaped her imprisonment and death sentence In order to pursue her quarry she goes back to the seat of the royal family and rededicates herself to the goddess Namaah, thinking that by bedding as many nobles as she could, she might find who conspired and helped Melisande, and might be able to figure out where to find and detain her This of course puts a big dent into the relationship she has with Joscelin and that comes to a complete halt when he decides to start studding with this alternative World s Christians, who actually read much like the Hasidim Jews of our world He fits perfectly with them, since they have been promised in a prophecy a country of their own, and he gets to train them to fight Things between him and Phedre really go bad and this rift comes in play when he is not there to protect herAnd having once chosen, never to seek to return to the crossroads of that decision for even if one chooses wrongly, the choice cannot be unmadeMeanwhile, Phedre gets introduced to a young noble with a temper, a brother and sister who love to chat about court intrigue, a very crabby prince and another beautiful and charismatic woman, which Jacqueline Carey is obviously very good at writing Queen Ysandre de la Courcey puts on a good show as well, but nothing and no one can compare with Melisande Shahirizai and the heat that comes off the pages when she is in any proximity to Phedre Wow I hate her, because she is infinitely cruel, but I can t help but love her too Now that is a women of which even the big boys have to be terrified Good for girl power, but still a bad person in the endThey are fools, who reckon Elua a soft god, fit only for the worship of starry eyed lovers Let the warriors clamor after gods of blood and thunder love is hard, harder than steel and thrice as cruel It is as inexorable as the tides, and life and death alike follow in it s wakeI love the mish mash of cultures, religions, deities, and characters so much, that I even choose to overlook the heavy irregularities of time periods of different countries co existing at the same time in the Ms Carey s world I will go with this is Fantasy so things like that can happen and it is OK I also love that in the main land where Phedre comes from, love is acceptable in all forms as long as it is between consenting adults Yes, this whole series is full of sexual relationships after all, Phedre is a servant of Namaah, which makes her a highly paid prostitute and is also chosen by Kushiel which makes her really appreciative of the pain and domination which comes with it at times So yeah, she is using her skills as a sex professional to spy for Queen and Country She is a true patriotThe pain of the flesh is naught to that of the heartIf you are willing to accept the sex as just her job and take it as a background, this story is actually pure adventure and very good one at that I was even toying with going for 5 stars, but there were things I couldn t overlook, so almost 5 stars it is I am very glad that some friends encouraged me to start the series and I am looking forward to the next installment with trepidation You have to give it a tryIf you thought better of me, you would not be so surprisedNow I wish you all Happy Reading and many wonderful books to come
The stage is set, in this book, so there isn t such a flurry of characters being thrown at you The new ones, such as Nicola L Envers y Aragon and Sevario Stregazza, are quite interesting not least because of the sex scenes, I have to admit It s lovely to see how Jacqueline Carey weaves the characters so neatly into the plot there are no useless characters I was sorry not to see anything of Hyacinthe in this book, and I was glad that he wasn t ignored Ysandre was one of my favourite characters in the latter part of this book she s written as such a strong, strong character.
The relationship between Joscelin and Ph dre was painful than ever in this book, so I was very, very glad of the end I m not sure it could have continued as it was without getting needlessly painful and boring While the new development makes me happy now, I have no doubts that Joscelin and Ph dre will find new ways to hurt my heart and that s good The relationship between Melisande and Ph dre is still wonderfully handled The thin line between love and hate that lies between them is perfectly walked The scene where Ph dre smashes her head back against something to distract herself from Melisande s kiss is amazing.
Plotwise, it was so good It seriously surprised me in various places, leaving me to flail and keyboard bash and fangirl at anyone willing to listen The twists and turns are surprising, and yet brilliantly set up once it s happened you think, Oh Yes Of course There s a lovely conclusion, ending the book with some closure and yet also with threads still waiting to be tied up in the final book of the trilogy I can t wait I m tempted to buy the Imriel books already, but I think I ll wait until they re all out in paperback painful as that will be.
I seriously recommend this trilogy, if you don t mind a bit of BDSM sex woven into the plot you can skip it, after all.