(Cover picture courtesy of Val’s Random Comments.)
The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassed 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.
Phèdre nó Delaunay is a woman pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Her path has been strange and dangerous, and through it all the devoted swordsman Joscelin has been at her side. Her very nature is a torturous thing for them both, but he is sworn to her and he has never violated his vow: to protect and serve.
But Phèdre’s plans put Joscelin’s pledge to the test, for she has never forgotten her childhood friend Hyacinthe. She has spent ten long years searching for the key to free him from his eternal indenture, a bargain he struck with the gods—to take Phèdre’s place as a sacrifice and save a nation. Phèdre cannot forgive—herself or the gods. She is determined to seize one last hope to redeem her friend, even if it means her death.
The search will bring Phèdre and Joscelin across the world, to distant courts where madness reigns and souls are currency, and down a fabled river to a land forgotten by most of the world.
And to a power so mighty that none dare speak its name.
What a great end to a great trilogy!
In Kushiel’s Avatar we finally see what happened to the east in Jacqueline Carey’s alternate Medieval era. Not only has the kingdom of Akkad not fallen, Egypt has not fallen either because in this version, Cleopatra beat Rome (called the Tiberian empire). But of course there’s a purpose to all this travel and it’s really twofold: Melisande’s son Imriel has gone missing and Phèdre has promised her she will do anything she can to find him.
What both poor Imriel and Phèdre endure at the court of the Mahrkragir is horrendous and it’s not temporary either. Even later in the book, both characters are wrestling with and trying to come to turns with what happened. I won’t go into more detail than that, but I think you can guess what happened to both of them. However, this is an important part of Imriel’s characterization and it adds a new dimension to Phèdre, who is settling down now that she is older (about 32 at the beginning) and taking less and less assignments. The dynamic between Phèdre and Joscelin has changed and it seems they have come to terms with Phèdre being Kushiel’s Chosen. Joscelin is quite a different character in the beginning of Kushiel’s Avatar and his character arc certainly is complete by the end of the book.
The plot involves, of course, a lot of travelling, but that is generally expected in fantasy/alternate history. There were times it was a little slow and things were sort of bogged down in Menekhet, but overall I was quite pleased with the pacing. It was definitely more character-driven than plot-driven, so it’s a good thing Phèdre can hold my attention as a character. I thought the ending wrapped things up a little too nicely, but I think all the characters deserve such an ending after all the suffering they went through. As I said, it’s a great ending to a great trilogy and I look forward to the spin-off trilogy about Imriel.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.