Monday, June 23, 2008

[Lisa's Take] Kushiel's Mercy - Jacqueline Carey

I suppose should quit procrastinating on this review and just get it done. With all 5 other books in the two Kusheline trilogies I’ve procrastinated long enough that I couldn’t finish the reviews off – I don’t know what it is about these books that make them hard for me to review. So. Being as this is the 3rd book in the trilogy, I’m not going to do a plot summary – the spoiler possibilities are too perilous. If you have no idea what the theme of this series is about, thing fantasy-heavy alternate history with a big dollop of sexuality mixed in. My opinion of the book overall is good, so I’m going to start with the bad and then end with the good so as not to leave off the review with negative commentary.

Kushiel’s Mercy is by far the most flat of all the Kusheline novels. There. I said it. I’ve felt like all 3 of the books from Imriel’s Trilogy have struggled – at the start of the trilogy it took Carey a loooong while to get Imriel’s voice established as clearly separate from Phedre’s (the narrator of the first 3 books). His voice was differentiated eventually, but I still felt like all 3 books fell a little short of the high standard set by the initial trilogy. This third book was absolutely the weakest of the trio, with a plot that was pathetically predictable and contrived – I mean, really. I called Every. Single. Major. Plot-point. I kid you not. The book also suffered quite a bit from the “and then this happened. And then this happened. And then this happened.” syndrome, which is always displeasing. The whole thing read much more like a romance novel than the sweeping, epic, fantasy-political drama that the first three books established – I very much got the impression of Carey saying “this is me, riding out my franchise! Wheee!”

All of that said... I still enjoyed the book. If there’s one thing that Carey does well, it’s evocative and beautiful prose, and as always her words were a pleasure to read. Though the plot was predictable, it was still interesting and it never dragged. I loved her characters, and the interlude in the middle of the book that’s narrated from a different character perspective was very well done (much more so than her initial transition to a new narrator back in the first of Imriel’s books). In spite of knowing how things were going to end, the book still got me pretty sappy and smiley. It’s saying something when flaws as big as the ones outlined above don’t manage to ruin the experience... I’m sure my healthy dose of nostalgia and attachedness to the characters helps, but there’s still something impressive there.

Overall: positive thoughts. I’ll absolutely continue buying her books if she continues producing them.

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