Mount Readmore Book Review, 2018 90/200
Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Finished on 6/10/2018
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.
Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel’s Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Romance, Erotica, Literati Fantasy, Fantasy Classic
Sadism and Masochism+Overwrought Prose+1015pages=AWESOME
I reread this book as a part of Reddit’s r/Fantasy Legacy Read Along.
Objectively speaking this book should be really bad, because it contains A LOT of questionable aspects. 1)It has a sub-theme of Sadism and Masochism. 2)The book is stupidly long, clocking in at over a thousand pages (or 31 hours long audiobook). 3) Carey’s prose is, to put it mildly, very overwrought. 4) The main character is a courtesan (aka a whore but classy). And yet… and yet the book’s not bad. Something about this book’s weird combination makes diamonds from the dirt.
For me, the overwrought prose is beautiful. If Jaqueline Carey can say a sentence with ten words, she’ll say it with twenty. If she can describe something with one adjective, she’ll say it with five instead. The prose is excessive, constantly erring on the side of more rather than less- more bits of folklore, more dialog, more descriptions of whatever beautiful thing Phedre is looking at. Another author would have to trim the fat, but here the fat is beautiful marbling which makes a tasty meal. For me at least, the prose is a metaphor for the Terre de Ange itself: beautiful-for-the-sake-of-beauty, even to the point of being too much.
Now to be honest, the S&M aspects of this book really don’t rock my boat. To be blunt, the main character gets tortured about a half dozen times in this story (NOTE: the torture wasn’t *that* bad, at least in comparison to what comes later in the series). It was a bit squick-y. But, oddly, I’m of the opinion that this book would be lessened if the author chose to do the safer choice of not including such a tender subject. The dangerous choice of including the S&M theme adds an undercurrent of darkness to what would otherwise be a ‘good vs evil’ sort of book. It was very gross at points, but it works.
My biggest objection is the fact that the book was long, way too long. Frankly I’m stunned that this book was ever published, for I can’t think of another debut novel which has gotten through the gatekeepers while still being over a 1000 pages long. In all honesty this book could have been turned into a trilogy all it’s own, it was that long. But I don’t object too loudly, for this book’s good qualities dragged me through in only three days despite it’s immensity.
If an author wants their story to be memorable, the story must evoke strong emotions: in this case the S&M aspects strongly evoked disgust, while the prose and the characters evoked empathy and fascination. Together they make for a very memorable read. This book is a masterpiece of modern fantasy, made more beautiful for its scars. It certainly has its flaws, but the mere fact that the author managed to pull off such an ambitious story deserves to be lauded.
Do I recommend this? Sorta. If you are willing to try reading a book about a teenager who gets lightly tortured a lot while going on adventures, then yeah I am. But for your average Fantasy reader, not a chance.