Welcome to another Friday — and another edition of Why You Should Read… Our contributor this week is the ever-amazing Cara, known as @murf61 on Twitter. She contributes reviews to both Speculative Book Review and Temple Library Reviews, and has her own blog at Murf-more than meets the eye! She is here to tell us why we should be reading Jacqueline Carey.
If you enjoy intricate and detailed worldbuilding, combined with political intrigue and conspiracy flavoured with dark eroticism, then Jacqueline Carey is an author you should read. She is best known for her Kushiel series, now at nine books, set primarily in the land of Terre D’Ange which is analogous to medieval France. Other European nations are represented… Alba [Britain] and Caerdicca Unitas [Italy], for example, although characters travel much further afield to Menekhet [Egypt], Ch’in [China], and Bhodistan [India] over the course of the series. Each nation is recognisable to the reader but there are imaginative twists and alternate histories abound. Political intrigue is a core feature, with the central characters of each trilogy (Phedre, Imriel and Moirin respectively) playing key roles.
Terre D’Ange was founded by the fallen angel Elua, also “’The Misbegotten’ son of Yeshua, the Magdalene, and Mother Earth”, from whom the current monarchy is descended. Each province was founded by one of Elua’s Companions and have their own ruling elite, answerable to the Crown. Society, culture and religion are all based on the teachings of Elua and his Companions, with the motto “Love as though wilt” being the central tenet. Because of this, love and physical pleasure are held in the highest regard by the D’Angelines. All aspects of sexual behaviour are embraced and indeed incorporated into both society and religion, with some interesting cultural and moral standards resulting from this. [Note: age restrictions do apply and breaches of this are not acceptable] One fascinating feature of Terre D’Ange society is the Court of Night-blooming Flowers, comprising thirteen Houses, each dedicated to a particular aspect of physical pleasure. All adepts of the Houses are ‘Servants of Naamah’ or courtesans and are highly respected within D’Angeline society. Phedre, whose story is told in the first trilogy, grows up in the House of Cereus but once identified as an anguissette (she finds pleasure in pain) is apprenticed outside of the Court and is both educated and trained physically, mentally, and sexually to be a scholar, spy and Servant of Naamah.
The depth of fascinating detail that Jacqueline Carey gives us about D’Angeline culture and society permeates the entire series. Yet when her lead characters travel abroad, for example when Imriel (second trilogy central character) moves to Alba, this rich descriptive style is applied to the new location. The Alban mythology, similar to Celtic, is central to that culture and Carey uses the new location to provide us with another society where again politics and intrigue feature. For me, this is one of the strengths of this author. She takes a known, real-life culture and twists it in such a way that it becomes something more than the original, yet remains familiar. Her plots are layered with politics, relationships, betrayal, and hope, and provide sufficient twists and surprises to keep the reader hooked throughout. This is intelligent fantasy on a grand scale, full of imagination with memorable characters and fascinating locations. Jacqueline Carey writes for adults and has strong erotic themes in her books, but if you are looking for a fantasy series that is different from the usual fare, then this is an author you should definitely read.
If you’d like to contribute to our Why You Should Read series, please get in touch!