Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Summary (goodreads): The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good…and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission…and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Review: I have to tell you in advance that I read this book in German. A friend of mine insisted I read this and lend the book to me. It is the first non-German book I enjoyed in years (the last I remember is a book by Trudi Canavan), so that means a lot! It has been a few months since I have read this, and I have finished another trilogy by Carey, so this review might be a little bit biased.

The characters are very unique and distinguishable and I liked most of them from the start. Phedre is going through a huge development, starting out as a little girl that even her parents didn’t want and growing into a capable and strong young woman who is both desirable and dangerous. Delaunay, her mentor, has a dark history that is revealed in the course of the story, but he appears as a genuine man and teacher. And I admit, I cried at some points. Then there is Joscelin. He is destined to choose over and over again in his life where he wants to stand. So this character is designed for hardship. He is handsome, very skilled with his daggers and a fierce protector. I came to like him best during the Scaldic adventure.

The princess, Ysandre is one of my favourite characters. She is a very strong yet gentle person, even though she is very young has has gone through hard times. It is as much her story as it is Phedres, even though she is not always present.

The story is at first slowly building. We learn about Phedre and her aprenticeship with Delaunay and all that. And we learn about her “specialty” as a courtesan and we read a lot about sex. Yes, this book has a number of sex scenes and not of the light sort. But since most of them are important for the storyline, it didn’t bother me overly much (as opposed to Shades of Grey, but we’ll come to that another time).

The story picks up a lot when Melisandre comes into the story. She is the evil one, even though she looks like an angel. and Phedre, the poor girl is so captivated by her, that she cannot resist. Ever.

I really like the whole setting, Terre d’Ange has grown on me, probably because it’s not unfamiliar. It is, after all, an altered version of France and the other European countries. It has nothing to do with real history and the names are all changed, but it is still recognizable. I admire Careys imagnation, for I couldn’t have come up with half the intrigues and plots she has. While in the beginning I was not too much into the book, I couldn’t put it down towards the end.

Careys style is interesting to read, though at some points I stumble over some sentences that seem odd. She portrays emotions well enough, but I was not always touched by them. I like the description of landscape and buildings, though. It is easy enough to imagine the palace, the scaldic tundra and the battlefield of Troyes-le-Mont.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and the story and wanted to read the next books. At first, I didn’t want to read them in english, because I thought it might be weird. So I read the Moirin Trilogy next. I’ll review that one later. It was not the best book I read, but it was the best translated-to-German book I read in years. For that, I give 4 out of 5.

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