(Cover picture courtesy of Lusty Reader.)
The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. The inhabiting race rose from the seed of angels and men, and they live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.
Phèdre nó Delaunay was sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobelman, the first to recognize that she is one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. He trained Phèdre in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber—and, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze.
When she stumbled upon a plot that threatened the very foundations of her homeland, she gave up almost everything she held dear to save it. She survived, and lived to have others tell her story, and if they embellished the tale with fabric of mythical splendor, they weren’t far off the mark.
The hands of the gods weigh heavily upon Phèdre’s brow, and they are not finished with her. While the young queen who sits upon the throne is well loved by the people, there are those who believe another should wear the crown…and those who escaped the wrath of the mighty are not yet done with their schemes for power and revenge.
While it may disappoint some readers, Kushiel’s Chosen has much less sex and far more political intrigue than Kushiel’s Dart did, which suits me just fine. But hey, each to their own.
The thing I most admire about Jacqueline Carey’s novels is how she weaves mythology and history together to establish Terre d’Ange and all the lands around it. As I mentioned in my review of Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey draws on real historical events and combines them with the tale of Elua and his Companions to create an alternate Medieval Europe. To truly appreciate the scope of her world-building it helps to have a background in ancient history, particularly that of ancient Rome. It’s not necessary to understand the books, but it really does enhance your reading experience.
There were a few times I was annoyed at Phèdre for being a Mary Sue, but then I realized something: she is a rarity, the first anguisette in three generations and was the ambassador to Alba for the Queen Ysandre. Of course she’s going to be revered and looked on with curiosity by people. That’s what happens when people achieve legendary status within their own lifetime. Phèdre also goes through a lot more character development, particularly when she’s in Kriti. She’s a lot more aware of her actions and how they affect people and by the end of the novel she’s a better person for it.
The plot of Kushiel’s Chosen is much faster than that of the first book, mainly because we don’t have to go through Phèdre’s childhood again. Instead, we can skip right to the action where she’s trying to figure out where Melisande escaped to and why she sent the sangoire cloak back. The search for Melisande is, of course, more complicated than it seems at first but it really is amazing what Phèdre goes through in order to find her. Hint: Melisande is not hiding where you would expect her to be. In hindsight I probably should have guessed where she was hiding, but I had no idea until the dramatic reveal. In the hands of most authors, a reveal like that would be very cliché, but Jacqueline Carey definitely pulled it off.
I give this book 5/5 stars.