Once there were great magicians born to the Maghuin Dhonn; the folk of the Brown Bear, the oldest tribe in Alba. But generations ago, the greatest of them all broke a sacred oath sworn in the name of all his people. Now, only small gifts remain to them. Through her lineage, Moirin possesses such gifts – the ability to summon the twilight and conceal herself, and the skill to coax plants to grow.
Moirin has a secret, too. From childhood onward, she senses the presence of unfamiliar gods in her life; the bright lady, and the man with a seedling cupped in his palm. Raised in the wilderness by her reclusive mother, it isn’t until she comes of age that Moirin learns how illustrious, if mixed, her heritage is. The great granddaughter of Alais the Wise, child of the Maghuin Donn, and a cousin of the Cruarch of Alba, Moirin learns her father was a D’Angeline priest dedicated to serving Naamah, goddess of desire.
After Moirin undergoes the rites of adulthood, she finds divine acceptance…on the condition that she fulfill an unknown destiny that lies somewhere beyond the ocean. Or perhaps oceans. Beyond Terre d’Ange where she finds her father, in the far reaches of distant Ch’in, Moirin’s skills are a true gift when facing the vengeful plans of an ambitious mage, a noble warrior princess desperate to save her father’s throne, and the spirit of a celestial dragon.
“Without plenty, the wealthy lack compassion for the poor, hoarding without sharing. Without law, the strong bully the weak, stealing by force.”
I quite enjoyed this Naamah’s Kiss. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed Phèdre’s Trilogy (I definitely enjoyed this more than Imriel’s Trilogy). I think this might just be more like my type of story. There is less things that I don’t actually enjoy entirely, like court intrigue. Instead, Moirin is quite ignorant of everything, and is ill suited to court life because she can be used so easily. Instead, her strength is in her destiny and how easily she can love.
Instead of filling the story with a bunch of court dynamics, more time is spent on exploring the world, magic, and on Moirin finding herself. That isn’t to say the intrigue isn’t there at all. It is, just in much lower (more easily entertainable amounts for me) doses. Moirin is such a different character than we have seen so far in this series. She is ignorant of pretty much all ways, even her own for a decent part of this story. Lots is spent on her learning pretty much everything.
Moirin is a character that really doesn’t know a lot about anything, but she is very clever anyway. She is smart enough to know when she is in trouble, but doesn’t always know how to avoid it. She is friendly enough to make friends everywhere, but doesn’t always know who to befriend. She knows nothing of the Terre D’Ange way, hell, she barely knows anything of the Alban way.
Where Phèdre at least grew up training to understand people, Moirin grew up with her mother alone so she lost out on some basic people skills necessary to survive in a society like the D’Angeline society is built. This ignorance really hurts Moirin throughout the book in a very realistic way. She is hurt, she is used and she is helped but by the graces of people (and Gods) more powerful than her.
Like the first two trilogies, the first part of this Naamah’s Kiss deals with Moirin’s growing up into a young woman. I enjoyed this section much more than I did Phèdre’s or Imriel’s. There was something about it I connected with more than the others. Moirin is such a quiet, thoughtful child. She explores the world with a reckless abandon only visible in children who haven’t had the world shit over them before. She is so innocent and sweet as a child.
Even as a teenager, she doesn’t lose that sweetness. There is a horny Moirin phase, just as there were horny Phèdre and horny Imriel phases. It wasn’t as bad though, there was an outlet for Moirin. It wasn’t being bottled up for max explosion at the end. Honestly, I actually miss teenager Moirin. She was spunky, but still had the sweetness of childhood with an edge to her. It is still there at the end, but teenager Moirin was special.
There are quite a few romances in Naamah’s Kiss, with varying degrees of longevity and longing in both genders. I really like the way it was handled in this book, because there are so many reasons why she likes people. There is a very sweet first love that under normal circumstances could have been a lifetime love but that wasn’t to be. There is a relationship of just pure desire. A relationship of mismatched priorities. At least one relationship based in need. Plus, there is more, something that can turn into a forever relationship. There are so many reasons why relationships come to be, and Naamah’s Kiss explores a handful of these reasons. I’m glad it does!
I have an alert on this book for LGBT themes where in the entire rest of Kushiel’s Universe I haven’t got that alert. I have the alert so that people who are looking for a different sort of love can more easily find it. This is the first book in the universe where I truly felt deserved that alert. Phèdre flirted with the idea but the moments shown were fleeting and brought on more by lust than any true connection. Imriel shied away from the idea more often than he thought about exploring it. Moirin, however, loves women freely throughout Naamah’s Kiss. In fact she loves men and women about equally. She is shy at first, but afterward loves wholeheartedly.
You can’t talk about the relationships in this book without talking about the asshole. I talked before on how ignorant Moirin is. Nothing shows this ignorance more than The Asshole. She follows her Fate to this Raphael where she finds that he is the next step in her path – and then she doesn’t listen to anything else to her detriment. Raphael really serves to show just how little Moirin knows about the world, and how easily she is used by others.
Abuse always starts with little things that aren’t hard to say yes to, before working into things that you would never do without that coaching in the beginning, the guilt they place on you, and the insistence that it is always the last time, they promise. Raphael plays on her love, and he abuses it. The book never calls this abuse, I don’t think, though everyone knows it is wrong when they hear the extent. It should be called out, though. There have been scenes of abuse in the Kushiel Universe before, but they were always obvious. This is the less obvious kind of abuse. The kind that no one sees if they aren’t told about it. I’m glad it is shown, for that is the way of the world, but damn does Raphael make me perpetually angry.
Also when talking about the love in this book, you have to talk about the grief. Like with Imriel and even Phèdre, with the love comes the grief. There is so much that happens in Naamah’s Kiss. It isn’t always death that separates two people who love each other. Sometimes, you just have to leave to go on the next step of your journey. Sometimes, you have to get away from a situation that isn’t healthy for you. Sometimes, life just forces you apart. Though, sometimes someone just dies on you before you’re ready, too.
The most ever present part of Moirin, driving her the entire way, is the fact that she is god touched. Not only is she god touched, but she has several gods of different pantheons following her and guiding her along the way. She has a fate that she feels, her diadh-anam. She listens to her diadh-anam constantly, making sure she is on the right path the entire way. However, it isn’t a failsafe. She makes mistakes with it. She is only mortal, after all. This isn’t so different from what we have seen before, but it is still new because it speaks so clearly to her.
We did see a lot of new things in Naamah’s kiss. There was a demon spirit thing in Imriel’s trilogy, and a ghost. Those were new there. However, they actually summon a demon in this book! That is incredibly interesting, because it implies there is someplace the demons live, they have their own realm and customs and beliefs and everything. (Sidenote: where the fuck did they find the blueprint to summon a damn demon?!) There is so much implied with the mere existence of demons I couldn’t contain my excitement when it showed up!
There is also the Ch’in aspect of the story. We haven’t been anywhere near Ch’in yet. We knew it existed, briefly, but other than that we knew nothing about them. We see Ch’in here, and by that I mean we actually go there. The Terre D’Ange at first had a reasonable level of doubt when they said they were descendents of Angels. I mean, we never really saw them, did we? Now, with Ch’in, that isn’t the case. We can see the mysticism, we can see the effects. Plus, there is a dragon! A DRAGON! So damn cool.
It is impossible to write this review after reading until this point and not compare Moirin to Phèdre. They’re their own characters. Moirin is NOT Phèdre rewritten for a new trilogy. They have some of the same traits at times, the same drive to do what they feel is right. But, they have two completely different backgrounds. They have two different sets of strengths. They live in two different times. It has been several generations since Moirin’s ancestor Alais and her parents Ysandre de la Corcel and Drustan mab Necthana were alive. The world has changed. The Maghuin Dhonn have change, diminished in powers. Naamah’s trilogy is connected to Kushiel’s Legacy, but it is separate, it is a standalone series.
For the first time in Kushiel’s Universe, we don’t return home at the end of the book. We aren’t even headed to Terre D’Ange. This could probably be considered a cliffhanger, honestly. I’m not exactly certain sometimes. It is interesting, though. We’re always home at the end of the book, no matter what terrible things happened, we’re home. I think Moirin has a different belief of what home means compared to what we have known before. She is going home, home is just different.