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Jacqueline Carey
book cover

Book 1 of the Kushiel Trilogy
2001, June, Tor hc

Who recommends: Suzanne, Leila, JW, Margaret, Shelley, Julie, Danielle, Preeti
Who discommends:

KUSHIEL'S DART was just short of excellent. It's done in first person - to warn those of you who dislike this format - and I liked everything about it, except the author kept throwing me out of the story with tons of those phrases starting with, "If only I'd known what the future had in store for me." or "Little did I know what was to happen soon." or "It was as well I could not see the road I would next take." You get the point. Another caveat is the occasional s/m scene that comes up in the book. It's certainly not a turnon for me, but if you can describe s/m as tasteful, I guess this would be it. And it doesn't follow into the romance (thankfully).--Suzanne (09 Jul 01)

I also started to read Carey's KUSHIEL'S DART before I went on vacation (didn't want to lug a 50 lb book along) and am enjoying it very much so far. I'll finish it when I'm done with RHAPSODY.--Edith (16 Aug 01)

I just wanted to pop in about this book. I've been reading it for about three weeks now; and am only half-way. :) It's a huge tome; full of lots of characters and plots and often a little uncomfortable. I have read a couple other books in between, then go back to this one. It's a fabulous book; certainly not for the squeamish, since our heroine is a prostitute who enjoys pain, but it's an extremely well-crafted book. The writing is smooth, and the plot unravels perfectly with the story; and the villains are indeed evil in this one! :) I'll report on it when I finally finish .. but my impression so far is very positive.--Julie (26 Aug 01)

To second Julie's opinion, it's definitely not for the squeamish. It's a very interesting alternative history. How would Europe be in the Middle Ages if Christianity were not the dominating religion? (and if at least one magic being still lives?)

Our heroine is a prostitute, in a society where such persons are actually part of a greater religious whole. And she's predestined to crave pain, in the service of her gods. But, strangely enough, that's only part of the story. She, the seemingly weak one, becomes a kingpin in huge battles, political betrayals, murder, mayhem and all sorts of fun stuff.

I do recommend this book. It's different. Downright bizarre. But incredibly interesting...--Leila (28 Aug 01)

Excellent book. I did find the repeated "had I but known..." rather irritating but at least that stopped after the first disaster. I can see that the s/m scenes might put some people off, and I admit I did skip over them, but they were necessary to the story and the heroine did, usually, consent. I found the characters fascinating: no-one was totally good or totally evil and Carey managed to show the good points of the villains and the bad points of the heroes in a convincing way. The heroine was a particularly interesting person with her extensive education, her craving for pain and her warm feelings. I always enjoy a clever heroine who is frequently underestimated. The book is well paced, which is fortunate considering its size. I always get worried by books where the characters seem to spend months involved in constant action with very little sleep or food and no chance to wash but Carey allows calm bits between the adventures where the characters can have a hot bath and get a good nights sleep. The romance is very nice but I found it rather low-key, a characteristic of SFR. Given the characters a happy-ever-after doesn't seem possible so I will be interested to see what Carey does with the relationship.--Margaret (18 Jan 02)

Once I got into KUSHIEL'S DART I was completely absorbed in the story and fascinated by the society Carey created. Have not read KUSHIEL'S CHOSEN yet, but that is because I do not want to read them too closely together. This just seems like one of those series you do not want to read in compressed form.--Shelley (19 May 02)

Finally got around to reading KUSHIEL'S DART, as a friend lent me her copy, and enjoyed it more than I expected to given the melodramatic elements.

This is a book to be read for plot rather than character or world-building; it's fast-paced and compulsively readable, with a wonderfully over-the-top villain. I'm definitely interested in reading the sequels, but I hope that Phedre (the protagonist) develops some flaws--she's annoyingly perfect so far.--Danielle (8 Apr 04)

You have to know KUSHIEL'S DART, by Jacqueline Carey, is an absorbing, interesting, readable book since nothing less would get me through such a fat novel without skimming.

KUSHIEL'S DART is set in an alternate-reality dark ages (I think) France that has a culture and religion based on free love. Yes, you will get sick of seeing the phrase "Love as thou wilt." The heroine, Phedre, is born equating pain with pleasure and is trained from a young age to be a courtesan and spy. This story is about her rise in the world and how crucial she and her disturbing and fascinating sexuality are in shaping the events of her country. (Of course she falls in love with a warrior-monk. I need to read--um, make that skim--the equally big, fat sequels to see if that's going anywhere.)

I wasn't sure whether there was going to be "real" magic on this alternate world, but the gods, angels, etc, do seem to be rather more than religious mythology. I think I would have preferred more ambiguity on this point. Also, while I managed to make some connections between Carey's world and our "real" history and religion, I'm sure there are just as many allusions I missed.

Anyway, there's so much you could talk about in this book that I honestly don't know where to begin. This is one of the problems with such long books! I recommend this book for the richness of the world-building and characterization. The most memorable thing a reader takes away from this book, though, without a doubt, is the heroine's sexuality and the role it plays in the her adventures, survival, heroism, and rise in the world. KUSHIEL'S DART wasn't always comfortable reading, but it was consistently good. Recommended.--Preeti (19 Jun 04)

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