(Cover picture courtesy of Coverbrowser.)
Having learned a lesson about thwarting the will of the gods, Imriel and Sidonie publicly confess their affair, only to see the country boil over in turmoil. Younger generations, infatuated by their heart-twisting, star-cross romance, defend the couple. Many others cannot forget the betrayals of Imriel’s mother, Melisande, who plunged their country into a bloody war that cost the lives of their fathers, brothers, and sons.
To quell the unrest, Ysandre, the queen, sets her decree. She will not divide the lovers, yet neither will she acknowledge them. If they marry, Sidonie will be disinherited, losing her claim on the throne.
There’s only one way they can truly be together. Imriel must perform an act of faith: search the world for his infamous mother and bring her back to Terre d’Ange to be executed for treason.
Facing a terrible choice, Imriel and Sidonie prepare ruefully for another long separation. But when a dark foreign force casts a shadow over Terre d’Ange and all the surrounding countries, their world is turned upside down, alliances of the unlikeliest kind are made, and Imriel and Sidonie learn that the god Elua always puts hearts together apurpose.
As with all books that bring an end to a series or trilogy, I was more than a little skeptical of Kushiel’s Mercy. I mean, other than bringing his mother to justice what could Imriel possibly do next? In all honesty, I need not have worried.
Kushiel’s Mercy isn’t just about Imriel’s heart-breaking hunt for his own mother. It’s about the ruthlessly ambitious Astegal of Carthage and Imriel’s fight to stop him before Astegal destroys everything Imriel holds dear. I suppose Astegal could have became this stereotypical over-ambitious general type we get so often in fantasy fiction, but this was not the case. He was ambitious and at times completely ruthless but he had good reasons for his actions and most of his moves made sense in the wider political context. Readers can certainly draw similarities between Astegal and Hannibal of the Second Punic War, but they’re not so similar that you feel like Jacqueline Carey is rehashing history.
As with all of Jacqueline Carey’s books, I love the characters the most. I loved how Imriel developed and how his personality did nearly a 360 at a certain point in the story. (I can’t explain without giving away too many spoilers.) However, this change made sense and I liked it when it was reversed in a way. Imriel’s other self had developed, but also the real Imriel had changed at the same time. His love for Sidonie is reminiscent of the love his foster parents shared and you get the feeling that he will do anything to save her.
The plot never really dragged because there was constant character development and there were enough twists and turns to keep my on my toes. Truly, I never know what to expect from Jacqueline Carey’s great writing style and I was pleasantly surprised that even in her later books (which can go downhill for some authors) she still has that old spark that made Kushiel’s Dart appeal to me so much.
Of course there is quite a bit of graphical sexual content that may not appeal to everyone which is why I’d recommend it for those at least 16+. Probably more like 18+ to be on the safe side. Still, Jacqueline Carey has created a wonderful fantasy world that’s believable based on her alternate version of history, populated it with wonderful character and brought her Imriel trilogy to a sound conclusion. What more could I ask for?
I give this book 5/5 stars.