Kushiel's Dart
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Product Description

A nation born of angels, vast and intricate and surrounded by danger... a woman born to servitude, unknowingly given access to the secrets of the realm...

Born with a scarlet mote in her left eye, Ph¨¦dre n¨® Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child. When her bond is purchased by an enigmatic nobleman, she is trained in history, theology, politics, foreign languages, the arts of pleasure. And above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Exquisite courtesan, talented spy... and unlikely heroine. But when Ph¨¦dre stumbles upon a plot that threatens her homeland, Terre d'Ange, she has no choice.

Betrayed into captivity in the barbarous northland of Skaldia and accompanied only by a disdainful young warrior-priest, Ph¨¦dre makes a harrowing escape and an even more harrowing journey to return to her people and deliver a warning of the impending invasion. And that proves only the first step in a quest that will take her to the edge of despair and beyond.

Ph¨¦dre n¨® Delaunay is the woman who holds the keys to her realm's deadly secrets, and whose courage will decide the very future of her world.

Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age and the birth of a new. It is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. A world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, deposed rulers and a besieged Queen, a warrior-priest, the Prince of Travelers, barbarian warlords, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess... all seen through the unflinching eyes of an unforgettable heroine.

Customer Reviews:

  • not for everyone but...
    I loved it. This book was easily the most erotic I have ever read, uncomfortably so. I actually put it down twice but picked it up again both times, and once I surrendered to the content, I couldn't put it down. Surrender is the constant theme through the trilogy -- that which surrenders is not always weak. I am glad that my mind has been broadened and I recommend this book to all who are intrigued by the theme and are not generally turned off by reading explicit sexual encounters....more info
  • Deep Dark and Sensual
    In this alternate fantasy universe we are immersed in a political system that challenges societal views of prostitution, bdsm, and religion. It's a deep dark read that takes you on an epic journey through an alternate Europe (though it's not obvious that this is Europe). Each character works their way into your heart and changes your perspective slowly and carefully. If you want to believe that sensuality should be revered instead of treated like a dirty little secret... If you want to read something that challenges you to combine sensuality and intelligence, subtlety and intrigue, submission and victory ... this whole series is for you. I couldn't put it down....more info
  • I like it but
    I really love this entire trilogy, but I am embarrased by the sexual content. I don't think I want people to know that I enjoyed the book.

    Other than the sexual content, I think Carey is a wonderful writer. ...more info
  • Magnificent Book... will haunt you for weeks
    This is a great book. To be honest the first thing that attracted me to it was the length. I'm one of those readers that like really big books, I don't know maybe it's because I like the most bang for my buck, maybe it's because I just like the metaphorical weight in my hands, whatever the reason, I tore through this book in three days. It's one of those books that you just can't put down. I don't think I understood what that meant until I read this novel. And let me say this, the villain in this book is one of the best antagonists I have encountered in a long, long, time. She will truly send shivers down your spine. The prose is truly lush and decadent, and within the setup of this world, that really works. This novel really does have something for everyone, and while the political rigmarole can at times be hard to follow, that by no means deters the book from the larger course of telling its story. Reader beware! You will become invested into these characters and you will lose days of your life to this book. Don't say I didn't warn you....more info
  • Pagan Courtiers in a Game of Destiny
    Nothing but praise for this masterpiece of psychological realism, with its dancing plot and convincing pantheon.

    The heroine grows from a child tossed around by fortune into an agent of fate, while saving a country from treason and invasion. Chance turns into destiny as the background of her tutor unfolds. When she applies her skills of stealth and seduction, she enters a court of intrigue and violence.

    We are stimulated by a constant supply of surprises and fresh characters.

    Jacquline Carey's fantasy world is rich and detailed. She never abuses the genre's license to break the laws of physics; the magic in this story never touches the decisive plot points. No convenient dues-ex-machina super-powers, but clairvoyance-type skills to enhance foreshadowing.

    The rest of the `magic' is interwoven with the pantheon. The world in this story resembles our own in the time of Renaissance, with the best of paganism added. These people have no shame of love and pleasure, and their gods keep a close watch and light touch on their history.

    I'm guessing the fantasy ingredient is only used to free the characters from the boring bits of actual history. The stripping of puritan values enables characters to pursue high and low passion unhindered. The first half of the story is a chess-like game, played by courtiers who are of the Balthasar Castiglione type on the outside, and Machiavellian at heart.

    Just before the civilized big-city dynamic begins to wear out, the sophistication is balanced by icy peaks under a blue sky and barbarians with simpler drives.

    Whatever the drives of the characters, no one escapes the consequences of breaching humanist ethics. The heroine is an instrument of the angel that punishes the sinners, and they all get their due in this story, as a side-effect of destiny, with their honor and free will intact.

    The flavor of the story hints at modern science and philosophy. Carey sees how psychology is grounded in biology. The beauty of people is fostered by rearing pressures; she knows good breeding makes good character. The open elitism and aristocracy is grounded on materialism, and the semi-pagan gods are the biological ancestors of the main characters. Likely these hints are not accidental. Blessed Elua, the principal god in this story, was born out of Mother Earth, when the blood of "Yeshua" dripped from the cross and mixed with the tears of "Mary Magdelene"....more info
  • Absolute Genius
    There really is no way to describe how brilliant this story is in a single sitting, but I can say this: Jacqueline Carey is an absolute genius.

    I won't sit here and try to describe the extent of the story to its fullest, but it is one of the most intricate tales of espionage and conspiracy I've ever read, especially while so controlled from the point of view of a single character, Phedre no Deluanay.

    The greatest part about this story is that she takes the first person narrative to a whole new level. She gives Phedre very prominant graces and abysmal flaws to her personality that not only define her as a character, not only define her as a person, but hook you with an emotional attachment and response to her that you scarcely find in any literature. She is beautiful, sharp, quick-witted, and intelligent, and that leaves you feeling proud of her growth as a person. But at the same time, she's haughty, self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish, and a repugnant elitist, and it leaves you wanting to pull her from the book and scream at her, telling her to get over herself, lol.

    And even with all of the deeply plotted conspiracy and trees of acquaintence and nemesis, even with Phedre's overwhelmingly powerful presence as a character and as a narrator, each individual supporting role is given enough attention to detail as to be convinving and intriguing, each in their own right.

    The story moves you to the point where you can't put it down, to the point where you actually feel that a 912 page book is actually too short, and rejoice that it continues the legacy in a series of sequels. Even things that might have once gotten a different reaction from you take charge in a new way when told in this story. Normally, homosexual scenes make me uncomfortable, but they were classy, moving, appropriate, and captivating to the point where even I could celebrate their meaning and impact in this context.

    To put it simply, this is a must read. Carey's genius actually rivals if not dwarfs the great Lord of the Rings fantasy epic, and that's a bold statement, but I stand behind it. READ THIS BOOK!!!...more info
  • WOW
    Wow, after getting through the first pages, of difficult names and titles, you just cant stop! It has been a long time that I have read a book this good!...more info
  • Wonderful
    while this book starts out with names and titles that are initially difficult to remember, you start to learn and love the characters; their tragedies are your tragedies. The plot of the book is deliciously twisted, and leaves you breathless. The main character, Phedre, is dark yet innocently sexy. The plot of the story is not like the repetitive stuff churned out in mass, it is different in that the hero, or more triumphantly, heroine defeats the bad guy using not strength or magic but the gift of her sexuality and knowlege instilled in her. She is obviously sexy, but thankfully she is intelligent. She is not perfect, in truth her flaws are shining marks that make her human....more info
  • Kushiels Dart
    Capivating from the first page !!! a real page turner, this is actually the second time I have read this book and the second reading, dare I saw, was better than the first....more info
  • Read On!
    First, I am not historically a Fantasy reader. I found myself bookless at my boyfriend's house & he suggested I pick this one up. The first third of the book (I still can't believe I stuck it out that long) was PAINFULLY slow. Too many characters and lands with unnecessarily long titles, too many wordy explanations. I couldn't stop squirming as I read.

    But then...

    It got GOOD - REALLY GOOD. The story hit it's stride, developed tentacles and sucked me in; I couldn't put the gosh-darn thing down. Invariably, I had to check that I was still breathing after each intense twist and turn. Read other reviews for character and plot details. This reviewer's intent is to simply encourage that you READ ON! It's very, very worth it....more info
  • Not for the faint of heart reader...
    Unlike some others, I didn't find this book to be particularly sexy. Yes, the main heroine Phedre was born to seek pleasure in pain and yes, there are a handful of scenes of her enjoying pain with her sex. But it's not like this is a Laurell K Hamilton Anita sex-fest. Sex is secondary to the story, although perhaps primary in the main characters motivations and character.

    This is actually a story of war. And it takes a very very long time to get moving. We start at Phedre's (I was pronouncing her name "Fee-dray" in my head until at about page 600 I was informed it was prounounced "Fay-dra"...bit late with that information) childhood and are taken on a very long journey with intrigue and spies etc, eventually leading to the actual war scenes.

    When I think of this book I think "grey, with slashes of red". And by grey I mean the book is subdued, controlled, gloomy, with words and feelings unspoken, and grief unexplored. The slashes of red are the rare moments when we get some actual emotion, something real and not hidden.

    If you're all about searching out the hidden gems in books, and you don't mind large patches of lengthy and overly-detailed story telling, then this is the book for you.

    For myself, I don't think I'll bother with the sequels. While I am mildly curious about Phedre and Joscelin's relationship, I am not prepared to put myself through 2 more almost 1000 page over complicated and heavily detailed epics to find out.

    However, I applaud Carey for choosing in Phedre a character that is unique and interesting and quite unlike any other heroine I've ever encountered in a book.

    ...more info
  • Good story, bad writing
    Unlike most everyone else I know who read it, I neither loved nor hated Kushiel's Dart. I did hate the writing style, and was amused to see a blurb from Robert Jordan on the cover, as I hate his writing style for the very same reasons: too much description, too many of the same phrases repeated over and over again ("You really are one, aren't you?" she asked as she tugged on her braids), and general logorrhea. But like with Jordan's books, I liked bits of the story enough to keep reading until the end, although I'm not sure I want to read the sequel. Partly because reading this one exhausted me and I'm not ready for another 500-page story told in 900+ pages, and partly because I personally would prefer it if the story ended where this book ended, and didn't go on to the places it will inevitably have to go in the sequels. Maybe if Phedre's kink were my kink I'd appreciate it, but it's not (not to anywhere near that extent, anyway), and anyway I prefer love over kink, and that's not the direction the sequels are going to go. So, no more Kushiel for me, and I hesitate to recommend it to anyone but those of the anguisette persuasion, about whom romantic books are rarely written, although fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander similarly too-long and violently erotic series will probably enjoy it....more info
  • Kushiel's Dart
    "Kushiel's Dart" is a book that exists primarily for the kinky sex scenes. To their credit, the folks at Tor never tried to pretend otherwise; more than can be said for certain other alleged fantasy novels I can name. Phedre is chosen by the God Kushiel to "experience pain and pleasure as one", the back cover tells us, and indeed the first four-hundred pages is a profusion of beating, cutting, bondage, and humiliation. Your appreciation of those scenes will depend on whether such kinkiness does it for you. For me the answer is mostly no.

    On the plus side, Carey puts the greatest amount of effort into that part of the book. The writing is indeed lavish, descriptions are thorough and extravagant. For those who like an intense and very detailed picture of clothing, locations, and personal appearance, this book is tough to beat. The careful attention to details succeeds most noticably in the large number of minor characters: poets, fortune-tellers, guards, and others all stand out from the crowd.

    The books starts to go off the rails shortway before the halfway point, and just keeps getting worse until the end. The story diverges to the wilds northern Europe, where the barbaric Skaldi are plotting an invasion of Terre d'Agne, Phedre's homeland. The plot becomes a mess of narrow escapes, last-minute rescues, idiotic blunders by the bad guys, and repetitive emotional blather from the good guys. It's bad enough rehashing the idea that one man can single-handedly wipe out whole platoons of well-trained bad guys while barely suffering a scratch. It's worse when Phedre has to spend several pages cowering in fear and anticipating her own doom and then bowing in awe at Joscelin's skills every time it happens. Wrose still are the parting scenes. Whenever characters separate, they first spend half a chapter weeping on each other's shoulders and trying to avoid the inevitable. This book is sprawling enough that it probably contains twenty parting scenes.
    ...more info
  • Wonderful!
    Phedre was born with a scarlet speckle in her eye, known as Kushiel's Dart. Those marked by Kushiel's Dart are cursed to always feel pleasure and pain as one. Using her skills learned in traing with Anafiel Delaunay, Phedre uncovers a plot that will lead her homeland to war.

    Hate to say it but, I love this book like whoa! It's incredibly well written and draws you in from the first page. The world and the society is incredibly well built and seem to be very loosley based on several European countries.

    Phedre is a wonderful and believable heroine. Although she's intelligent, courageous and strong, occasionally she does something or says something that reminds you she is human after all. Being an anguissette (one who feels pleasure and pain as one) leads to some interesting points of the story as well as adding an interesting exploration on what being an anguisette means for Phedre. There's lots of BDSM and same sex pairings as well, if you like that kind of thing. ;)

    I found myself crushing on Joscelin. I love it when a book character comes alive so much you get a crush on them. And Joscelin certaihnly comes alive! Boy does he ever. :)

    The real triumph in terms of hot characters, though, is Melisande. She's a cold hearted vixen but so seductive that just reading about her I had the hots for her. If she were a real person, I'd fall to pieces if I were ever in the same room with her.

    I thought the story was well paced and thought it was good that the time was taken to build each character and allow you to get to know them. I also loved the developing relationships Phedre shared with Joscelin, Hyacinthe and Melisande. They alll had great chemistry and played off each other believeably, especially in terms of her relationship with Joscelin.

    Overall, just a simply fantastic book and I cannot wait to go out and get the next one!
    ...more info
  • Stick with it
    Beware readers the plot in this one is quite complicated and because of this there is a large cast of characters whom we are required to get to know. Some will be quite overwhelmed in the first few hundred pages, I nearly packed it in frustratedly near to 100 pages after being introduced to seemingly endless names of the lords, ducs, kings, queens and massive families of the books world. You will probably need to glance over the extensive character listing at the start of the book several dozen times. Thankfully by the end you will find you can recite the character listing by heart and you can read through without interruption.

    So do not under any circumstances stop in the first quarter of the book and make sure you are well rested cause the book doesnt just slide into the story once the vast character list is introduced it will explode. Its fast paced till the end, no time is ever wasted on the unnesesary, if Phedre needs to move through a country it is done in a page or two, no frivilaties on what she wore each day or how many rabbits she saw.

    Phedre is a prostitute (glorified in this world thanks to there religion) and an anguissette, someone who gets pleasure from pain, Phedre is the only one there is so its very rare. She is taken in and is trained to be a spy, shes given knowlegde aplenty and taught how to use it to listen, learn, think and manipulate. With her formidable array of talents she plays a large part when her country reaches the brink of war and its leaders are to busy stabbing each others backs to stop it.

    The sex is mostly of the violent persuasion but it very tastefully done and not once was it without reason. It tapers off greatly in the second half when the action picks up so even if you find it offensive not much detail is given after the first few scenes so be strong and endure.

    Also I woudnt say this was the first part of a trilogy cause the story does end the next book would be more like a sequel, though it doesnt really matter if you finish this book you will read the next most happily.

    4 stars for the first half, 100 stars for the rest so an easy 5 stars for a brilliant read....more info
  • Good plot bogged down by detail
    Although the main character and the overall plot are pleasing and well developed, the main storyline is too crowded by pointless details. Carey adds too many political people with complicated histories and backgrounds for one to even follow it. I found myself constantly forgetting who was who and what they did 5oo years ago with this person who was the son of this person who did whatever. On top of that the main character, however likable, is a prostitute that does some pretty graphic things just to please her patrons, all in the service of her "godess". In the end she sells herself for for money towards her freedom. It doesn't exactly send the best message out to young women. After the first book I was so overwhelmed with the amount of rather pointless information that I couldn't bring myself to finsish the series. However, for people who have the patience to remember overwhelming detail and believe prostitution in the name of an idol is fine, this book is great. ...more info
  • Not bad, but not really very good
    A friend of mine recommended this book to me and, since I am a huge fantasy fan, it seemed like a good choice. I was interested through about two-thirds of the book, and then I just skimmed the last part. While the research and imagination that went into this book is impressive, it is far too slow and filled with all sorts of unecessary events and people. Parts of the book were certainly erotic, if you're into that sort of thing, but, by and large, it makes up a very small proportion of the book. The fact that this is part of a trilogy completely staggers me. I cannot imagine having to read two more of these to reach some sort of conclusion.

    Having said that, it certainly had redeeming features. The detail that went into the book was quite amazing and the imagination it takes to create a piece of this breadth is impressive. The relationship between Phedre and Jocelin is sweet, very touching, and it was the main reason that I might try to slog through the rest of the trilogy. If you like your fantasy sweeping and slow-paced with lavish detail, then this might be the book for you. If not, then I would try Guy Gavriel Kay, Neil Gaiman, or Laurell K. Hamilton....more info
  • Genre defying tale...
    It is difficult to classify this book. It borrows tools from many genres (Romance, Mystery, Historical Fiction, to name a few) while being true to them all. The main character is a "legal courtesan." I agree with the previous reviewer that I thought this would be an endless tale of sexcapades. There was great sex, but also a rich tale of mystery and tragedy. Characters were fleshed out, even secondary characters. This entire trilogy was deeply satisfying, and I am delighted there will be a second trilogy about Phedre's "son."...more info
  • LOVE this book!
    This story is an amazingly rich and layered fantasy that will completely suck you in if you give it half a chance.

    From reading all three of the Kushiel's novels thus far, I can tell that Ms. Carey has done her research about ancient places, languages, myths, and religions to weave her stories into something that feels real even as you are swept away in the fantasy of it all. You are able to see the world that was, yet imagine a world that might have been all at the same time.

    These are NOT kids books. They have sexual themes that definitly make them grown-up reading and make it necessary to be able to put personal preferences aside and simply go along with the story, but nothing about those situations feel gratuitous or simply placed there for shock value; they actually help propel the story.

    All in all, I love the Kushiel's stories and am anxiously looking forward to the next books. If you love history and love fantasy, I think you will also find this series facinating....more info
  • The new face of fantasy.
    This debut novel is an incredible, fascinating, page-turning read with a plausible world and believable characters that capture your heart and run away with it. Phedre is an unexpected yet truly gripping heroine that brings a dimension of reality to the overall epic story that takes place. Although there is an erotic element to the narrative, Carey seamlessly ties it into the storyline without hindering the main action or making the novel pornographic in nature through relating a series of unrelated sexual events. Carey successfully overturns traditional gender roles through Phedre's character and proves that: "That which yields is not necessarily weak". Beyond a doubt, an entertaining, suspenseful and beautifully written first novel. I couldn't put it down and would highly recommend it. ...more info
  • Great Book!
    I passed this book up for at least a year in the bookstore, but always kept coming back. Boy am I glad I finally bought it. The story and writing have made this one of the best books that I have read. I have re-read it 3 or 4 times since and am always satisfied. Although I continued on with the series, this is the best book of the bunch and can stand on its own any day of the week....more info
  • 4.5 stars
    This is the kind of fantasy I like, with tons of intrigue and behind-the-scenes machinations. Swords & quests & dragons & elves don't interest me nearly as much.

    It's been in my TBR pile for a very long while. Partly because it's a big fat doorstop of a book, and partly because of all the raves surrounding it. Since mostly everyone focused on the erotic aspects, I was expecting something like LKH's Anita-Does-Everyone books.

    It wasn't. At all.

    The heroine is a born masochist (which is what "Kushiel's Dart" refers to--she was born with a red speck in her eye, the sign of someone for whom pain = pleasure), and a trained spy.

    I docked it a half star because the story meandered around for the first quarter of the book (and at 900+ pages, a quarter is a lot) before it settled down into something coherent, and several times I was tempted to put it down.

    Books like this are a major reason why I don't quit reading if I don't like a book at first. I'm hoping that now that the character's introduced, and Carey has some more experience, the sequel won't have the same problem....more info
  • A Necessary Intro to an Amazing Series
    The first half of this book is dry, lots of mapping out the geography, family lines, who's who, history, and introductions. It gets textbooky at times, but if you can stick with it, you find yourself definitely immersed and knowledgeable of the setting. Which makes the story all the richer when real plot twisting events start taking place.

    There is some serious storytelling going on here, and I found that once I got past the first 200 or so pages, I couldn't put it down. The next two books manage to get even better. The characters are very well fleshed out, and I found myself loving Phadr¨¦, her experiences, antics, highs lows, and everything in between.

    I'm not a real fan of the fantasy genre, but this does not dissapoint. Multilayered, complex fantasy for adults....more info
  • Gets under your skin
    It may take a little while to get used to the idea of an alternate European world, but Jacqueline Carey pulls it off like magic. You are drawn into Phedre's life within the first few chapters (as would be anyone with a remote interest in sex), yet to say the novel is the story of a courtesan or prostitute would be folly. Carey makes the sexual encounters in this book more than sensual encounters, and you realize there is so much more to lovemaking than the raw passion we normally experience. Or at least there is for D'Angelines.
    Political intrigue runs rampant through this romantic fantasy set in a historical world that almost mirrors our own. Her writing is on par with that of Goodkind and McCaffrey and her imagery in character description is phenomenal. I cannot recommend this book enough; though I can strongly tell you that if you do not start off with this first in Carey's Kushiel's Saga, you will not comprehend intricacies of the other volumes....more info
  • I love, love, love, love, love this series!
    Did I mention that I love the Kushiel series? Everything about this series of books is well-done--characters, dialog, the world, the alternate reality/history. It's very unique. I think that most people who don't like this series have trouble with the idea of a masochist as a protagonist. Yep, that's dark and twisted. I think it's treated very tastefully in this series though. I think the other thing folks might have problems with is that these books are very sexy. I wouldn't recommend this series to just anyone, but to those who are OK with the two caveats I just mentioned, you'll love this series. It's one of the best fantasy series I've ever read....more info
  • Can't put it down
    I started with the 4th one on accident. I loved it so much that I started again with the 1st one. This book was a page turner, it went everywhere with me. Phedre is an unforgettable character that will stay with me forever. I completely fell in love woth Joselin. 'He has replaced my first and only character love Haplo" With deep undertones of religion and heavy with politics, there is not much magic. Heroic tales almost out of history, and sex scenes to get the brain thinking;) I absolutely love the way Jaqueline Carey writes. She is very talented, she gets right to the point. These books will always stay in my "private collection" Its the kind that you want to read slower to make them last longer, and faster to find out what happens. All in all, a fantastic read!...more info
  • Disappointed
    After reading so many reviews for this book w/ Five Star ratings I decided to give this book a try. Sadly I was very disappointed-- I did not like this book.

    My number one complaint is that the author should have put a Glossary in the back of the book for all the words that she created in her story that the reader had to guess at their meaning. Trust me, I couldn't find much of the words in my Oxford English Dictionary. This annoyed me most of all.

    The cover art on the book is its best feature...it is downhill from there. I got very aggravated with the author and her writing style..poor sentence structure throuhout the book. Perhaps, since many likened this book to the Rennaisance period-- that is why the author wrote sentences that were poorly constructed(?) I just don't know; it just irritated me to have to re-read sentences because of this-- much of the writing did not flow.

    This book was confusing to read, reviewers state how poetic this writer is--I think the author has a large vocabulary and perhaps a high IQ-- maybe this is why she applied 'big' words everywghere in this story---it did not make the author's writing flow any smoother.

    If you want to read fiction that reads like a textbook-- then read this book. All the characters are beautiful in this story...the heroine gets her pleasure from painful sex acts; if you are into S&M then read this book, but be warned, the sex acts and any romance is scarce in this book --this is not Fantasy Romance fiction or Erotica.

    I realize the author created a fantasy world but they were human; I just don't think that it is human nature to accept the vocation of prostituiton and find it immensely satisfying--I don't care how intellectually educated the author made her characters--it just did not fit.

    So, you have a heroine who is 'highly intelligent' who enjoys painful sex with either of the sexes and who is stunningly beautiful, etc., etc..

    There is so much more I could say but my time is too valueable to waste much more on this review--I wasted enough time reading this , "powerful, poetic masterpiece." Ha! ...more info
  • What a masterpiece!
    As a life long voracious reader I can say with authority that you don't come across a writer of Ms. Carey's caliber very often. Her writing is as rich, ornate, and evocative as the Renaissance itself. The world she creates is fascinating and the characters unforgettable. She is truly a gifted storyteller in the truest sense. Even more impressive is her virtuoso use of the English language. Her writing is as beautiful as Shakespeares and her tales every bit as layered and involved with intrigue, suspense, and larger than life characters.

    So many characters it is difficult to keep track of them but I became so attached that I wept with the first loss of Guy and more with each loss after. I'm glad she gave us a cast of characters at the beginning, I referred to it frequently. It thrills me to know that I have five more books after this one to enjoy the life of Phedre no' Delaunay. I mean to savor them like the rare jewels they are....more info
  • Erotic high fantasy that is both erotic and fantastic
    Confession time: I am leery of fantasy that deals with the erotic, mostly because I got burned to a crisp by Laurell K. Hamillton's badly pornographic dreck. Thus, I've been skirting around this one for a long time, but finally took a bold step and read it...

    I was not pleased with what I read: No, I am blown away by it! The writing is lush and evocative, reminiscent of Tanith Lee but less meandering, the characters well-drawn and very human. In the hands of a less capable writer, they could easily collapse into cliches -- I shudder at the things the under-aged and less-creative fankiddy fanfiction writers could twist Phedre no Delaunay and her companions into (perhaps Ms. Carey's ban on fanfiction based on her work is for our protection as much as the protection of her intellectual property), bur Jacqueline Carey masterfully keeps their personalities and voices consistent. The sexual content is always handled delicately and deftly, even in the more cringe-inducing moments, never devolving into cheap pornography, but always remaining elegant and erotic.

    I'll admit that, aside from Tolkien, I'm not a big fan of epic fantasy, but Ms. Carey manages to break out of the too-often copied Tolkien tropes and breathe new life into a genre in need of it. Her world-building is excellent and makes you wish you could live in a place like Terre D'Ange, that our world really had a parellell twin just like it. The mythos of Elua, the angelic offspring of Yeshua and Mary Magdelen, at first glance might seem yet another spin on the already beat-to-death Dan Brown cliches, but she manages to make something lovely and breath-taking from it. This book is a joy and a delight, and for all its length, you catch yourself wishing it wouldn't end -- which leads you to reach for the follow-up volumes....more info
  • hot, heavy, and good
    When my friend pushed me to read these books I thought to myself 'another porny book? Do I really need to?' I had picked up the books, or seen them around, but never purchased them. However once I got around to it, I was glad I had. This book is fabulous. Looking at the map it didn't take me long to realize Carey had based her fantasy world off of the real one, adding touches of realism to her story that are always enjoyable. Phedre is a believable and likable character, starting off stubborn and more than a little self centered and evolving from there. It's one of those stories where you hate the bad guy, and love the good guy, but you're not really sure who is on what side until the very end. (And even then, there is a twist.)

    At the end I found myself falling in love with all of these characters (and buying the next two books)....more info
  • Shallow and Useless
    I hated this book. I wanted to forget I ever read it as soon as it was over, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. (Though probably not as bad as some of the tastes Phedre's had in hers.)

    This book was recommended to me from several sources and I finally gave in and bought it. My mistake. The characters are flat and mostly uninteresting. No one in this book has any flaws, not even the villains. Drustan was the only character with any kind of physical imperfection, but guess what? Having a club foot no way impeded his ability to walk, run, ride, fight, or even dance. He seemed like a desperate attempt by the author to show some kind of range and she failed miserably.

    Everyone is beautiful, because "they're descended from angels" and while that is an interesting plot point in theory, it was executed terribly. The author's writing style is overly flowery and pretentious. It seemed at times as though she was just grinding the readers nose into her book going "look at all the big words I know!" The beginning of the book was the most annoying for me, because she was constantly alluding to things that would happen... eventually. I don't need to hear about things that may happen some point in the future, that's why I'm reading the book. To find out what happens next.

    Her fascination with Melisande seemed contrived and didn't fit with the setting. If everyone around Phedre is beautiful, including herself, then why did she swoon every time this one woman walked in the room? It seems to me like a gaping plothole that the author covered with the same curtain Sirius Black fell through.

    What I found funny is that towards the end I got the feeling that even the author was bored with her book. The book is about a courtesan, and yet she didn't bother with the effort of describing any of her liasons after the first two or three. The people that aren't interested in the erotic part of the book have already been scared away and the people that are will be disappointed by the second half. If you're going to write an erotic dark fantasy novel, at least commit to it. Don't cop out halfway through.

    In the end, my biggest problem was Phedre herself. I didn't get any sense that she evolved throughout the book. She was the same obnoxious, shallow whore that she was in the beginning of the book. Her only character flaw is that she likes sex too much? That's her character flaw? That's what is supposed to make me care about what happens to her, the thing that makes her human? Sorry, not buying it. Also, that whole episode on the Master of the Straits' island? Where she felt the need to rub in how terribly beautiful she was, when compared to those poor plain peasant girls?

    Nice that you're so pretty. Too bad you are also shallow and useless. Like this book....more info
  • Surprising
    This book is probably nothing like what you expect. Certainly, I avoided it for years because I didn't want to read some bad BDSM fantasy romance novel tripe. The thing is, that's not, despite any plot summary anyone could possible give you, what this book is -- at all. It's about spies and elitism and a really fascinating spiritual mythology. Sure the main character can be a bit of a Mary Sue since she's the best at everything ever and even has weird eyes, but at the end of the day the main character here works because she has a sense of humor about herself and the book manages to work because it takes its narrative entirely seriously. Weird thing. Often surprisingly moving. Not as smutty or as silly as you think....more info
  • I couldn't FORCE myself to finish reading this book...
    I was bored witless after reading the first five pages of this book. I felt like pulling my hair out after forcing myself to read past page 80, and I found myself at a hopeless standstill somewhere around the 200th page.

    I won't judge the writer based on the one book of hers that I managed to partially read. And on the same subject, I'm not in any position to make judgments towards any person's method of writing. I'm not an English professor, and I'm not here to critique Jacqueline Carey's writing style.

    The thing about this book that bogged me down the most was the tedious progression through the plot. I've read in other reviews that the real story doesn't pick up until you pass the 300th page, but I honestly don't think it's worth reading that far.

    The first few pages of the book relayed a sob story about how Phedre no Dalauney (who's name I absolutely can not stand)was born into a world of servitude, surrounded by beautiful people, while she herself is the epiphany of imperfections. From what I forcibly managed to read, Phedre's soul purpose in life is to sleep with strangers for money.

    I actually stopped and reread the pages on numerous occasions just to make sure I didn't miss anything "interesting" that may have happened in the story while I dozed off in my efforts to complete each chapter. ...more info
  • Boring and Pretentious is a Really Bad Combination
    This book reads as if it was written by an inexperienced college girl who is majoring in French and watched "The Story of O" too many times.

    To start with it's very annoying when fantasy writers are too lazy to create a fantasy world that suits their story. So they just take the map of Europe, muddle up the names of things and write as if they are writing alternative history (which they aren't).

    Beautiful, boring and smug people engaging in lots of silly mock-sophisticated sex and boring political intrigue. I don't think I can remember any time that an author managed to maintain such consistent shallowness over such a long book.

    And it seems that there are multiple sequels. I'm stunned. ...more info
  • Love As Thou Wilt
    The first of a trilogy about a young and uniquely gifted heroine whose innocence is shattered by intrigue and murder. Phedre is a thoroughly engaging heroine on an epic journey rife with intrigue, betrayal, violence, sexual and erotic encounters and, of course, love. Written in beautiful prose, and set on a grand landscape of Renaissance Europe, Carey's series is an exotic tapestry of sensual images that will linger like a rich coffee brewed to perfection. This is not a typical coming-of-age series and definitely adult reading.

    Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy by Tor Books consists of three rather large books: Kushiel's Dart (a hefty 910 pages); Kushiel's Chosen; and Kushiel's Avatar, with a fourth and fifth in the saga, based on another character (Kushiel's Scion and Kushiel's Judgement). Kushiel's Legacy is definitely an epic fantasy. But, thankfully for me, it couldn't be further from its stereotype. Epic, yes--in size, scope and granduer. Fantastic, also, in its brilliant imagination and masterful delivery. But it is so much more. According to T.M. Wagner (SF Reviews.net), Carey "eschews the mythic aspirations of traditional high fantasy...[and] has created one VLFN that stands above the bloated pack", taking "Fantasy into shadowy, exotic corners it rarely dares to tread" (Storm Constantine). William Thompson (Revolution SF) found this "seductive novel...exceptionally well-written, intricately plotted and [displayed] a grasp of language and storytelling rare in fantasy fiction." To be sure, several readers of traditional fantasy complained that the language was "too flowery" and the books too long and overfull with detail and characters. This is precisely why I liked it. It reads like classic literary fiction. But it isn't!

    Chapter One of Kushiel's Dart, the first of Carey's three books focussing on Ph¨¨dre, begins with Ph¨¨dre engaging us with a conversational narrative that seamlessly and instantly lures us into her fascinating world. And lured I was; by the end of the first page I learned that her parents gave her a name that was cursed and that Ph¨¨dre, herself, was flawed: by a scarlet mote, a pinprick of blood emblazened in her left eye--which is enough in this land of aesthetics obsessed with beauty to mark her as blemished. She only later learns the significance of the mark; it is Kushiel's Dart, left by a god who has chosen her to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Thus begins our relationship with an `imperfect' girl who was eventually outcast and sold by her mother--as "a whore's unwanted get"--into indentured servitude in a House of the Night Court (a bordelo). It was the tag line of the first chapter that convinced me that a stirring tale of breathtaking intensity and shocking beauty was unfolding before me:

    "When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty who took pity upon me."

    Kushiel's Legacy is set in an alternate quasi-medieval Europe, Africa and Asia of Carey's imagination. For instance, there is Aragonia, Caerdiccia Unitas, and Skaldia, loosely representing Spain, Italy and Germany, respectively. And there is Terre d'Ange (land of angels), Ph¨¨dre's homeland, a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace, and whose beautiful race, created from angels and men, lived by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. The D'Angelines were descended from the Blessed Elua, an interesting, rather warped, vision of the traditional Christ figure, and his angel companions who abandoned Heaven to follow him as he walked among mortals. Among Elua's companions is the angel, Naamah, who willingly prostituted herself in service to Elua; Cassiel, who abjured mortal love for the love of the divine; and, of course, the mighty Kushiel, of rod and weal, the just Punisher of God, whose blow of pain was the touch of love. Those "kissed" by Kushiel receive both pleasure and cleansing through the infliction of pain.

    Early on in Kushiel's Dart, Ph¨¨dre's bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, an arcane nobleman with a secret past, who recognizes who and what she is--an anguissette, one who can experience pain as pleasure. While his motives elude her, Delaunay tutors Ph¨¨dre as a spy and rents her out to influential members of the decadent aristocracy to learn their secrets. When one of Delaunay's games gets the better of him, he is murdered and young Ph¨¨dre is cast on a path of intrigue and treachery that she, as Kushiel's Chosen-Avatar, is singularly able to endure. Thus, she sets off on her hero's journey--aflame with betrayal, sacrifice, scintilating desires, and conspiracy. She encounters a rich and diverse cast of cunning poets, heroic traitors and a truly Machiavellian and seductive villainess. And to balance this is her loyal Cassiline bodyguard, Joscelin, her "Perfect Companion", who eventually becomes the compass of her heart.

    True to her heroic stature, Ph¨¨dre harbours, in both her words (it is she telling us the story) and her mien, no bitterness or resentment for the cruelty and hardship destiny has dealt her. And she does more than simply endure it; she answers the hero's call to play out her role as Kushiel's Chosen. Ph¨¨dre is a singularly appealing and complex hero because she is non-judgemental, ethical and honourable yet incredibly vulnerable, reckless and stubborn at times. She poses a panoply of opposites. She is, after all, an anguissette: her pain is her pleasure; her yielding is her strength, her wanton behaviour her salvation, her servitude her victory; and her love her courage. Ph¨¨dre is "an unflinching yet poignantly vulnerable heroine" (Booklist), whose selfless yielding will conquer the strongest and most depraved of foes. "Not all that yields is weak," Hyacinthe, her best friend, tells her. To yield is Kushiel's precept and the moniker of the House of Valerian, dedicated to the just Punisher. And yield, Ph¨¨dre must--and does; until it becomes her strength and her legacy just as love and honour become her driving force.

    One is reminded of Christian parallels of yielding, tolerance and sacrifice in the acts of Jesus and his disciples. Ph¨¨dre walks a balanced moral path, following the precepts of her D'Angeline angels--Kushiel's justice; Naamah's passion, Cassiel's loyalty, and, of course, Elua's love--toward redemption for more than just herself. Carey's exotic blending of Christianity and paganism, daringly poses the question of "the sacred potential inherent in every sexual encounter." (Booklist). Wholly embracing her gods, and at great cost to herself, Ph¨¨dre gives herself away--sexually, and more--in Kushiel's Avatar to rescue an innocent boy and ultimately to save her friend, Hyacinthe, from a wrathful god.

    "Mortals conquer and slay; gods rise and fall. The games we play out on the board of earth echo across the vault of heaven." (Kushiel's Chosen)

    Some readers have complained, nonetheless, at the inapropriateness of a prostitute as heroine. But, like many heroes with humble often dubious beginnings, Ph¨¨dre is one chosen by a god, who provides her with the opportunity to demonstrate that her heart and soul are far from base:

    "We pay for sins we do not remember, and seek to do a will we can scarce fathom. That is what is is, to be a god's chosen." (Kushiel's Avatar)

    Yet for all that, this tale is not for the squeamish or the judgemental. As Kirkus Reviews contends, Kusiel's Legacy is "superbly detailed, fascinatingly textured and sometimes unbearably intense," punctuated with highly erotic and, at times, disturbing sexual episodes. The hero is a masochist, "whose disturbing sexuality drives the story... [which is as]...delicious as it is unsettling" (Emma Bull). T.M Wagner (of SF Reviews.net) sums it up eloquently: Kushiel's Legacy "is the real thing, a distaff examination of sex and power, unflinchingly forthright." And, he adds, "on no account is it recommended for faint hearts or weak stomachs." Indeed, I was equally spellbound and greatly disturbed by Ph¨¨dre's last great tryst with evil's desire in a place of true madness where souls are currency (Kushiel's Avatar). Her experience in Darsanga to rescue young Imriel, Melisande's son, will endure in my memory for a long time: the terrible things Ph¨¨dre endured; the devine way she prevailed. She overcame it all because of the divine love that shone brightly inside her (her name means "bright" in Greek). It empowered her to shine hope to the hopeless. But the experience left her shattered, in pieces. Make me whole, she later prayed in the Temple of Isis, make us all whole.

    Kushiel's Legacy is not a romance, although it is a great love story. It is a complex saga, woven with layer upon layer of threads revealed through a metaphoric tapestry, often counterpoint with contradiction and turbulent conflict of morality and values. This journey of self-discovery by a young child journeying into womanhood explores some of the deepest and most cherished virtues of humanity, by courageously dismantling "standard notions of...morality" (Locus). Virtues like honour and loyalty. Family. And love. Love, in all its aspects:

    Innocent love--a trusting love for a mother in the act of abandonment: ...She will sell me to this cruel old woman, I thought, and experienced a thrill of terror...My mother stood with my hand in hers and gazed down at my upturned face. It is my last memory of her, those great, dark, lambent eyes searching, searching my own, coming at last to rest upon the left. Through our joined hands, I felt the shudder she repressed.(Kushiel's Dart)

    Dangerous love--a curious love of forbidden flesh: "Ph¨¨dre." My name only; Melisande spoke it as if to place a finger on my soul, soft and commanding...held me captive and trembling before her..."Why do you struggle against your own desire?" Melisande lowered her head and kissed me. The shock of it went through me like a spear; I think I gasped...I swayed, dissolving under lips and tongue...my bones... molten fire, my flesh shaping itself to the form of her desire...(Kushiel's Chosen)

    Cruel love--a sacrificial, yielding love for one's enemy: The Mahrkagir...reached out to touch my cheek and his hand was cold, so cold...I felt his touch like fire, setting me ablaze between my thighs...I shut my teeth on a moan...A strange rill of energy surged between us. I tasted fear and desire, his mad smile, and lost myself in his dilated eyes. His hand trailed down my throat, cupping one breast...pinching my erect nipple as hard as he could. A bolt of pain shot through me and I stifled a moan. "Ill thoughts, ill words, ill deeds." He smiled tenderly at me, maintaining a pincerlike grip..."Your gods have chosen you for defilement. Is that not so?" I closed my eyes. "Yes." (Kushiel's Avatar)

    Tender love--a healing and exalting love for one's true beloved: That kiss, I cannot describe. It was like a poem, a prayer, a homecoming unlooked-for. It was like dungeon walls crumbling to reveal a glimpse of sky. It shook me to the very roots of my soul. All I could do was cling to him and gasp...And that is where time itself seemed to stretch and flow...and everything done by the Mahrkagir was undone, every cruelty, every iron thrust--undone, undone, undone, every kiss, every lick, every stroke, imprinting love upon my flesh, until I shuddered and knotted both hands in Joscelin's hair, calling his name out loud, and my climax followed with the inevitability of the spring-fed waters tumbling over the rocks. (Kushiel's Avatar)

    Divine love--a selfless compassionate love greater than oneself: It burned in me like strong wine, like the first taste of joie I had known as a child, like Melisande's touch...If I had not brought Imri out of the darkness of Darsanga , this brightness would never come to pass. Truly love was a wondrous force, now that I perceived the complexities of its workings...Joscelin...Every line, every plane of him was writ in an alphabet of flesh and bone, spelling out love. How had I never seen it? And Imriel...a tangled knot of fear and need, achingly vulnerable. It made my heart ache to look upon him. (Kushiel's Avatar)

    More than anything else, Carey's epic tale is a poem dedicated to love; exalting love in all its facets, from selfless yielding and sacrifice to the harsh lusty desires of a cruel heart. From the last line of Chapter 1 in the first book to the last line of the last book--Jacqueline Carey demonstrates that her Kushiel's Legacy is devoted to the power of love; how love can sustain us, how it shapes our lives, can move an empire, and empower us in our own singular heroic acts.

    Love as thou wilt.
    ...more info
  • Compelling writing that sucks you in
    Kushiel's Dart was quite a surprise to me. I was expectiing a lusty novel with little story line to support the book and came to read it only because of a friend. I will say now I will read more referrals in the future and leave my skepticism at the cover of the book.

    Kushiel's Dart is a well written political erotic fantasy told through the eyes of a female protagonist named Phedre(Faydra). It is vast in scope and can be overwhelming in the earlier chapters, but keep turning the pages because what unfolds is well worth wading through the confusion.

    Phedre's life is described from child to adult living in the land of Terra D'Ange and through this progression we as readers are rewarded at seeing the changes the lead of this book undergoes.

    As a child she is sold to a wealthy intellectual that basically makes her go to school each day and learn large array of languages, lineages and history to equip her for the remainder of the book.

    As Phedre matures to early womanhood the skills of her mark "Kushiel's Dart" and the knowledge she has learned as a child are woven together to make a very efficient interrogator to the assignations she works with. Through this comes confusion which can dissuade the reader, because her guardian Delanuay lets her know nothing of what the knowledge she extracts means. Soon the plot changes to a faster pace as the royal houses start having turmoil and Phedre becomes free from her bond to Delanuay.

    Through the turmoil of the royal houses Phedra soon finds herself in the Skaldic barbarian lands which is a well described harsh arctic climate with brute barbaric tribes that reside their. Phedre soon uncovers a plot against the throne of her homeland and escapes to warn her beloved country.

    The plot is described to the queen of Terra D'Ange and Phedre soon is off to sea sailing to get help from the Draiday. I won't ruin the ending but know it is very climatic.

    Carey has a winner with this book engrossing the reader for a huge 900 page book. The lead is fantastic, I particularly like the fact it is a female, so many times I read books with women described as weak and helpless leaving the men to be the heroes. Phedre also has an outstanding support of characters that surround her and the reader is able to know each of them personally through Carey's brilliant characterization. I could not put this book down, in fact I would escape to lunch from work just to take time to squeeze in a few more chapters of this incredible book. I highly recommend this book it has something for everyone, even those that normally don't pick up this type book will enjoy Carey's debut.

    ...more info
  • Loved it
    Not a steamy sex book, so you won't get that if that's what you're looking for, but it's intriguing with a very unusual, but strong heroine. There are some petty hot scenes, but there is SO much more to this. ...more info
  • Great talent!
    I only have two series on my keeper shelf, the Kushiel's series & the Outlander series. This author is extremely talented. She brings amazing depth to her characters, & I love the parallels between her fantasy world & the Renaissace era. I cant say enough good things about this series, it was a great experience!...more info
    I bought this book on a whim. I have seen it for years at the library, and finally bought it when I was in need for some summer entertainment. I was excited to find the first installment in a series that spent time on developing complex story lines, deep characters, awesome sex scenes and heart pounding adventure.

    A few words of warning:

    1. Complex story line: It is a bit difficult to get pass the first 50 or 100 pages, as the fantasy world is so complex. Carey weaves this story to contain political and religious intrigue in a fantasy world where is can be a bit confusing at first. If you are not an avid fantasy reader, and thus are not used to being thrust into a completely different world, this book might be a bit difficult
    2. Sex: The sex is great! However, Phadre is a courtesan, so don't be shocked by all the people she sleeps with. Also, the whole concept is she feels pleasure and pain simultaneously. Therefore, there is some hard core S and M stuff. The important thing to remember is that SHE LIKES IT. Some reviewers were disgusted with this concept, but it is further developed in later books in the series to show that there is a deeper meaning to this.
    3. Adventure: A lot happens, and rather quickly. For the first 250 to 300 pages, the scene is set up. We learn about the world Phadre lives in, her courtesan work, and her learning to be a spy. Then suddenly, she is thrust into a twisting and turning adventure. This is a book for readers who are in for a long, but worth while book.

    Yet with all this, I LOVED IT! I highly recommend it to any fantasy reader, romance reader or all around hard core reader (who is excited by 1000 page books).
    ...more info
  • Not Free SF Reader
    Subterfuge and sex.

    The main focus of this book is a young woman who is trained as a courtesan, but has a minor biological flaw. It turns out that this is important, and a rare sign of her being a supernaturally excellent example of a sadomasochistic sexual servant.

    Being really good as this also brings her to the attention of spymasters, given that sex and spying go rather well together.

    Reasonable book, but too long and hence gets tedious for me.

    ...more info