[Reviewer's Note: want to know just how bad I am about leaving partially-finished reviews sitting around? Here's a review I started over 4 years ago. I'm presenting it with no changes (and resisting the urge to comment at length). My only disclaimer is: yes, this is a very, very old and incomplete review.]
It took me somewhere in the range of 2 and a half years to read this book. The first time I tried I made it a little over two hundred pages before I decided it was trite and dull, so I put it down. Buuut… then lots of people whose opinions I trust started saying how great and amazing it was. For quite a while I ignored them entirely, but eventually I was looking for a nice epic read, so I decided to give Kushiel a second chance. So I started over from the beginning… and as it turns out, I stopped within 10 pages of the plot thickening and the book actually getting good. Go figure.
This book is the first in a trilogy that follows Phedre no Delauny, a girl who has been marked by the god of punishment. Called an Anguisette, she is cursed to find pleasure in the taking of pain. Kushiel’s dart follows her through childhood and her training in the arts of espionage, and then (once the plot –finally- thickens) out into the wide world as she struggles to return home and foil a plot to overthrow the ruling powers in her home land of Terre d’Ange.
What originally turned me off about these books is that Carey relies heavily on the catch of the Anguisette to carry (no pun intended) her through the first half of the book. Until she proved to me that there was a lot more to the novel than what came across as a fairly trite twist on “life of a god-touched individual” I was a skeptic. Eventually though, she really hit her stride and the book opened up to be truly epic. The history and theology of Terre d’Ange may well be the most interesting and intriguing of any epic fantasy that I’ve had the pleasure (or pain) of reading.
Once I finally got around to giving Kushiel’s Dart a second chance, I ate through all thousand pages in perhaps a week and a half. It was just that tasty. Then I went on to read each of her next 3 books in rapid succession – so on to the next review!
The first thing I noticed when I started when this second installment in the Kusheline Trilogy began is that the map in the front of the book was zoomed out by a few levels. My first thought was “what? It can get more epic than the first?” and my second thought was “Hah, that’s totally Europe. I didn’t realize she ripped off Europe!” …but really the second thought is sort of peripheral. I was just entertained.
ANYway, Kushiel’s Chosen opens with Phedre resolving to track down and bring to justice the participant at the heart of the thrown-overthrowing-plot from the first book. Have I mentioned that this summary is exceptionally hard to write without spoilers? Phedre sets out with the aid of her Perfect Companion to follow a set of rumors surrounding said perpetrator. Of course, the plotting goes deeper than anyone could have guessed and when the pieces of the puzzle start to come together we end up with political intrigue, imprisonment on an island dungeon, kidnapping by pirates, and all sorts of other excitement.
Much like the map, the plot in this book takes a step out to be even more expansive and impressive. Where the first book examined Terre d’Ange’s history and theology, this second book studies the nature of love and betrayal. Yet again I was caught up and powered through this epic in a week or so – and it was oh so worth it.
Gyeh. Here I thought writing a plot summary one-book-removed was difficult… how do I summarize two books removed without being horribly spoileriffic?