A nation born of angels, vast and intricate and surrounded by danger… a woman born to servitude, unknowingly given access to the secrets of the realm…
Born with a scarlet mote in her left eye, Phédre nó Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child. When her bond is purchased by an enigmatic nobleman, she is trained in history, theology, politics, foreign languages, the arts of pleasure. And above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Exquisite courtesan, talented spy… and unlikely heroine. But when Phédre stumbles upon a plot that threatens her homeland, Terre d’Ange, she has no choice.
Betrayed into captivity in the barbarous northland of Skaldia and accompanied only by a disdainful young warrior-priest, Phédre makes a harrowing escape and an even more harrowing journey to return to her people and deliver a warning of the impending invasion. And that proves only the first step in a quest that will take her to the edge of despair and beyond.
Phédre nó Delaunay is the woman who holds the keys to her realm’s deadly secrets, and whose courage will decide the very future of her world.
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. It is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. A world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, deposed rulers and a besieged Queen, a warrior-priest, the Prince of Travelers, barbarian warlords, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess… all seen through the unflinching eyes of an unforgettable heroine.
“It’s funny, how one can look back on a sorrow one thought one might well die of at the time, and know that one had not yet reckoned the tenth part of true grief.”
This is a good first book in the series, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the rest of this series is going to end up. I found the beginning boring, but as the book went on, I liked it more and more. By the end of the book, I really was enthralled with the entire thing and didn’t want to stop reading to sleep.
I did have some problems. The narration of this book was hard for me to get over. The problem is that Phèdre talks as if I already know the story and what is going on. There is also a lot of foreshadowing. Phèdre just constantly talks to the reader. This is just not something I encounter often. There are also so many names! There is a dramatis personae at the beginning, but even with that, it is hard to keep up with.
The book is also very slow to warm up. If I were rating the first 30% of this book, this would be a one star book. It is used to set up the world, and the characters. But this is a very long book so the setup goes on for a very long time. Through the first 30% of the book, Phèdre is a young child or a teenager. A teenager who is obsessed with wanting sex because of what she is.
When Phédre becomes an adult and starts to see the actual world, that it becomes interesting. Kushiel’s Dart is mostly about politics. At its core, it is trying to untangle who is trying to do what to take over the throne and backstab their friends and enemies along the way. It is all a bunch of court intrigue and dynamics play. The first half Phèdre doesn’t really care about it. She is interested in the mystery, but doesn’t really care about finding it all out – and her mentor tries to keep her out of it as much as possible. Once Phèdre becomes an adult, she gets entangled in everything on her own accord.
You can actually feel the turning point in Kushiel’s Dart. It is when Phèdre’s perfect, idyllic little world goes all to hell. And it becomes amazing. It becomes a story I want to read more of. It is still intrigue, but it is different. Changed. Awesome to think and learn about.
But enough about the story, I liked the people better, anyway. Phèdre nó Delaunay is great, with so much potential to do amazing things. Especially once she gets out of her horny phase. Phèdre’s talent is her desire for sex, and her ability to find pleasure in pain. And, one of the best things I can say about the sex is it is nonconventional. All because of Phèdre’s ability to find pleasure in pain. Which leads to some of the best political scenes I’ve read.
The side characters were really, really good, too. I love her mentor, Delaunay, because he is so interesting. However, he is also frustrating (for both us and Phèdre) because we know so little about him. Her friend Hyacinthe is so adorable as a friend, I love him so much by the end. Their friendship should be commended, it is so sweet. Then there is Joscelin. This is probably the best character in the entire book. Joscelin may only have started showing his amazingness, but hell that potential for more is staggering.
The world is so rich and full, too. The lore about their history is fascinating. We get that the D’Angeline aren’t exactly fully human early on. Though I must say I didn’t actually believe that for quite a while – I figured they just thought themselves divine. It’s a common enough refrain, really. Phèdre’s uniqueness could be a genetic anomaly, or a gift (curse) from one of their Gods like they say it is, for example. There are also so many countries and cultures and peoples to get to know. There is just so much to this world.
This had such a slow start, I nearly didn’t get to the good parts at all and I would have missed out on a really good book, and a really great series. I love the characters more than the plot, but that is a personal thing, because I know others would actually care for the plot more than I.