Phèdre and Joscelin have had ten years of much needed rest… until the night that Phèdre dreams of her childhood friend Hyacinthe. He is still trapped on the island of the Master of the Straits and Phèdre has been studying ancient Habiru (Hebrew) texts to try to find a way to free him. If she can discover the lost name of God, she thinks she can use it to compel the angel Rahab to let Hyacinthe go.
Meanwhile (there’s always more than one major plot going on in the Kushiel books), Melisande’s son Imriel, third in line to the d’Angeline throne, is missing and Melisande, still in captivity, wants Phèdre to find him. These two quests, finding Imriel and the name of God, keep Phèdre busy during Kushiel’s Avatar. And, as usual, her plans involve travel to exotic places, mooning over Melisande, sadistic sex with tyrants, and a lot of agony for Joscelin… Poor Joscelin. He’s always being asked to bear too much.
Kushiel’s Avatar is an exciting story and a nice ending to the first Kushiel trilogy. Imriel’s character is a welcome addition and it will be interesting to see how the horrible experiences he endured in Kushiel’s Avatar help form his personality in later books (in which he is the main character). This is also a good place to bring Phèdre’s adventures to an end. She’s nearing the point of unbelievability as she saves lives and creates world peace wherever she goes. After her accomplishments in this book, it’s hard to imagine what she can do to top them in the future.
Jacqueline Carey’s writing is lovely, but it’s becoming occasionally repetitive (e.g., “whore’s unwanted get”, “summer blue eyes”, “the compass by which I had fixed my heart”). In Kushiel’s Avatar, her writing is best when Phèdre expresses her awe at the name of God and the connection between that name and God’s character and creation. I thought this was beautifully done. (I didn’t for a minute, though, believe that the Children of Yisra-el would let a d’Angeline whore’s unwanted get look in the Ark of the Covenant…)
Fans of the series will be pleased with Kushiel’s Avatar and, like me, will want to follow Imriel’s journey in the next book, Kushiel’s Scion. I should mention, again, that this series was superb on audio.