When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty who took pity on me.
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.
Title : Kushiel’s Dart
Author : Jacqueline Carey
Series : Phèdre’s Trilogy (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 901
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Tor Fantasy
Release Date : June 23, 2001
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
Like with so many of my rereads, where my intention is to go back so I can complete a series, I’ve come to realize that most of what I remember, and think happens over the course of more than one book (usually the first two), in fact all happens in the first book. I’m certain I read all three of this first saga in the Kushiel Universe, and GR even tells I read on (though more and more I doubt that), but considering all that I did remember has already come to pass, well. We know memory is a funny thing; and mine is particularly chockfull of holes.
But anyway. Did I enjoy this because of the nostalgia or did I enjoy it because it’s just good? Who can even say! I’ll admit the whole way the story was told, with Phèdre clearly retelling events, with little sneaky references to things to come or things unknown at the time, can be done well and make things exciting and compelling. And it’s not that this one wasn’t but.. I don’t know. I can’t say those little references added to the telling, or even encouraged me to push on to the next chapter, and the next. I just enjoyed the intrigue, the suspense, the politics, all of it, enough to find it hard to put down — this only took me two nights to read and at over nine hundred pages that says a lot. Even for a speedy reader like myself.
I will say that if you expect a straight forward romance with a side of fantasy, or fantasy with a side of romance, this isn’t it. There is a lot of sex, though very few scenes actually have any kind of graphic content — and more often than not things are implied instead of spelled out — but due to who Phèdre is, a courtesan with a connection to a specific god/religious patron who deals in pain with pleasure in equal measure, well.. that’s not for everyone. Additionally, she gets herself into less than ideal circumstances (on multiple occasions) and is forced to into various situations; sometimes against her will, sometimes fully consenting but just.. intense, and because of both I can see why some readers did a hard nope.
The people of this world are all loosely based on familiar cultures and places (you might spy French, Romani, Vikings, Irish, and more) and there’s a religious/mythology element at play, too, and while most lean into pretty typical stereotypes, it does allow you to ease into things with some semblance of, well, ease. But despite those stereotypes, we spend enough time with each group (lots of travel, some of it quest-y) that Carey actually offers layers to the individuals we spend time with; making everyone, even those on the side of the “villains”, more than just their intended archetype.
Overall, this feels a little like a folklore-y and parred down Game of Thrones sans dragons. Having said that, I get the criticisms about this book (this series) and think it’ll definitely be one that works for you or doesn’t. For once, shockingly, I could turn my brain off to some of the bits that might have otherwise bothered me and just enjoy the ride. Let’s hope that continues!