“When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty who took pity on me.”
In a kingdom born of angels, Phedre is an anguisette, cursed or blessed to find pleasure in pain. Sold to the Court of Night Blooming Flowers, her fate as a beautiful but anonymous courtesan was sealed. Her bond was purchased by the nobleman Anafiel Delauney, who recognized the scarlet mote in Phedre’s eye as the rare mark of one touched by a powerful deity. Under Delauney’s patronage she is trained in history, politics, language, and the use of body and mind as the ultimate weapon of subterfuge in a dangerous game of courtly intrigue. Guided into the bed chambers of Terre D’Ange’s most influential nobles, Phedre uncovers a conspiracy against the throne so vast that even her teacher cannot see the whole of it. Betrayed and blindsided by her own longings, only Phedre and her trusted bodyguard Joscelin are left to cross borders and warring armies in a race to stop the final blow from falling.
I’ve been meaning to read Kushiel’s Dart for a long time, but had trouble building up the nerve. It’s a big book – over 900 pages in some editions, and 656 in the oversized trade I read from. There’s a map (what epic fantasy doesn’t have a map?) and a list of characters pages long.
I read the first chunk as part of a readathon, and that ended up being a good move. The beginning has a lot of names connected to shifting alliances to keep straight, and we’re introduced to the amazing world Carey has come up with. I can’t say I understood everything, but I felt comfortable enough to continue. The intrigue picks up in the middle, and before long we’re whisked to far off lands for adventure and so much more.
The worldbuilding is nothing short of amazing. There’s religion, politics, history, and current events that are both slightly familiar and quite alien. The characters are well drawn, flawed and believable. The plot is truly epic, with travel and battles, allies and enemies, bonds strengthened and betrayed.
It must be said – S&M is not a small part of the plot. Phedre is cursed to feel pleasure from pain, and the sex she has may put off some people. Carey’s writing style is a bit flowery and while I enjoyed it, again, some people may not get along with it.
If you have any tiny like of fantasy, though, you must give Kushiel’s Dart a try – I’m not doing it justice here. A great way to end my reading year.