Kushiel’s Chosen: A painful but beautiful story

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJaqueline Carey Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's ChosenKushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey returns to the lush and decadent world of Terre d’Ange in Kushiel’s Chosen, sequel to the strange but beautiful Kushiel’s Dart, and produces a sequel that unfortunately doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor.

Our masochistic heroine, Phèdre, leaves behind her comfortable new life as a country countess when she begins to suspect that all is not well in Terre d’Ange. She believes that Melisande Shahrizai, from her hiding place in La Serenissima (Venice), still plots against Queen Ysandre — with the help of at least one D’Angeline noble. But who is her co-conspirator, and what are they planning? Phèdre returns to the courtesan’s trade in the hopes of finding clues. She doesn’t learn much, though, and in the process drives away her bodyguard-lover, Joscelin. Phèdre decides there is only one thing to do: travel to La Serenissima and investigate there. In Italy, Phèdre uncovers the conspiracy, but disaster strikes and she finds herself lost at sea and entangled with pirates. Now, Phèdre’s task is to get back to La Serenissima in time to save Ysandre. Along the way, she begins to realize that maybe being marked by the angel of punishment means more than having weird sexual proclivities. She learns that she may have been chosen for a task involving divine justice, a concept expanded upon in the third book, Kushiel’s Avatar.

While Kushiel’s Chosen is a decent book, it didn’t engage me in the way that Kushiel’s Dart did. I think my essential problem lies with the middle section of the book — the pirate part. Maybe it’s because Phèdre’s skills are espionage and seduction, not sailing and fighting. Carey is being true to her character here. It would be jarring and Mary Sue-ish for her to suddenly turn into a pirate queen. It doesn’t give her much to do during this period, though, and this sequence doesn’t seem to advance the main plot much.

This isn’t a bad book. It’s a faster read than Kushiel’s Dart, though it rarely attains the heartbreaking power or the sensuality of the previous novel. The exception, and it’s a doozy, is the moment when Phèdre realizes how Joscelin got to La Dolorosa. (Wow.) Kushiel’s Chosen has some middle-book syndrome but is an enjoyable read and sets up a ten-year time jump, a great decision that gives Phèdre greater maturity and a fresh political situation in Kushiel’s Avatar.

~Kelly Lasiter

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJaqueline Carey Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's ChosenPhèdre and Joscelin, heroes of the realm, are living happily in Montrève until Phèdre receives a package from the traitor Melisande. Obsessed with this clue to Melisande’s whereabouts, and pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, Phèdre decides to return to her role as kinky courtesan and spy. As expected, this decision hurts Joscelin deeply and his reaction — to protect and serve, but to back off emotionally — sets the tone for the rest of the novel.

As Phèdre hunts for Melisande, we get to explore more of Jacqueline Carey’s alternate Europe, including her versions of Venice and Crete. We also spend time aboard a pirate ship and in the pirates’ island hide-out. My favorite geographical feature, though, is the island prison of La Dolorosa, where the most intense and exciting scenes in Kushiel’s Chosen occur.

As for the plot, the political intrigue is pleasantly complex with a couple of unexpected twists, though it’s a stretch for me to believe that Phèdre solves the mysteries so easily, and some of the clues she’s given are just silly (e.g., the clue from Serena Buonard). It’s also hard for me to understand Phèdre’s continuing love for the nasty and traitorous Melisande.

The best part of Kushiel’s Chosen is the developing characterization, especially of Joscelin. His predicament — his love for Phèdre despite his hate for what she does — is compelling. I ached for him and found myself almost hoping he’d accept the redemption he knew he could have if he abandoned her and followed Yeshua (Carey’s version of Jesus Christ). He deserves something better, but this story is Phèdre’s and I knew that if Joscelin left her, he’d be out of the story and, since he’s the reason I read the KUSHIEL books, that just won’t do. Fortunately, Phèdre realizes that she’s about to lose Joscelin and her horrified realization that his pain gives her pleasure leads to her own maturation as she begins to deal with the sin and guilt caused by the nature she can’t repress. For me, this aspect of the KUSHIEL series is what makes it a painful, but beautiful, story of love and forgiveness. It reminds me of the allegorical story of Hosea and Gomer in the Old Testament.

If you read audiobooks, I highly recommend Tantor’s version of Kushiel’s Chosen. It’s read by the incomparable Anne Flosnik. She’s amazing.

~Kat Hooper

Kushiel’s Legacy — (2001-2008) Publisher: The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good… and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. Phédre no Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission… and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Phédre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phédre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair… and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phédre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear. Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies.

Jaqueline Carey Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar, Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, Kushiel's MercyJaqueline Carey Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar, Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, Kushiel's MercyJaqueline Carey Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar, Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, Kushiel's MercyJaqueline Carey Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar, Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, Kushiel's MercyJaqueline Carey Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar, Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, Kushiel's MercyKushiel's Mercy Jacqueline Carey

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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