In Naamah’s Kiss, Jacqueline Carey returns to the world she created in the Kushiel’s Legacy series, and introduces a delightful new heroine.
Moirin mac Fainche is a descendant of Alais de la Courcel and a member of the Maghuin Dhonn tribe of Alba. On her father’s side, she’s D’Angeline, with lines of descent from Naamah and Anael. When a tragedy changes Moirin’s young life, and an initiatory rite reveals that she has a destiny beyond the sea, Moirin travels to Terre d’Ange in search of her father. There, she’s treated as an exotic novelty.
In no time at all, she’s over her head in a web of intrigue, with only her courage, her wits, and her deep-seated beliefs to protect her. The publisher’s blurb mentions that she travels to Ch’in, so I won’t consider that a spoiler; eventually she does go to Ch’in and becomes involved in a knotty situation there as well. The plot is complex, and while at first there seems to be little connection between Moirin’s adventures in Terre d’Ange and her adventures in Ch’in, it turns out that the things she learns and gains in Terre d’Ange are crucial in dealing with what comes later.
As is usual for the first book in a Carey trilogy, the major plotline of Naamah’s Kiss is resolved by book’s end, and several other plotlines remain open for exploration in the next two installments.
To me, one of the best things about Naamah’s Kiss is that Moirin’s voice is so clear. Many authors seem to write the same character over and over. Carey doesn’t. I never felt like I was reading Phedre’s voice, or Imriel’s. Moirin doesn’t have Phedre’s silken manners, or Imriel’s Byronic angst, and she’s sharp-tongued in a way that the other two are not. Her attitude toward sex is different, too. Phedre’s sexual adventures are often a means to an end; Imriel’s are often fraught with emotional turmoil. When Moirin goes to bed with someone, it’s for the sheer joy of it. (I should mention that there’s a lot of sex in Naamah’s Kiss, but if you’re bothered by that, you probably haven’t followed the series this far.)
Perhaps most interestingly, Moirin provides a more critical view of D’Angeline society. Phedre had a bone-deep love of it, but Moirin sees the contrast between what Terre d’Ange should be (a kingdom based on love) and what it is: often frivolous, often xenophobic, often over-concerned with wealth and titles. Side note: There’s talk of an expedition to “Terra Nova,” and I’m interested to see how Carey handles the issue of colonialism. I can see it being similar in some ways to what happened in our world, and different in others.
I highly recommend Naamah’s Kiss to anyone who enjoyed the Kushiel books, and to anyone who was tempted to try them but put off by the BDSM (Moirin is sexually active, but her tastes don’t run to whips and chains). Carey’s prose is as lush and sensual as ever, and Moirin is a wonderful heroine.