Kushiel's Dart (2001)
Anthologies: Emerald Magic (2004)
Kushiel's Dart (2001)
I've read and heard a number of glowing recommendations for Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series. It's a fantasy series written for a grownup audience, that focuses on the theme of sex and sexuality.
In Terre d'Ange, courtesans--members of the Night Court--are blessed, and have the choice of their occupation. In fact, the Night Court is particular about who it allows into it's ranks. perfection is a requirement. It is into this would that Phedre is born, only she was born with a scarlet mote in her eye that dedicates here to Kushiel--she is one for whom pleasure and pain are intermingled. Because of this mote her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, and she joins Alcuin as Anafiel's pupil.
What I found interesting about this book is how sex is depicted as something quite separate from love. Her assignations are described in detail, as she attempts to gain enough patronage to make her marque while gathering information for Anafiel. However, later in the book, when she is not using sex to gather information, the sex scenes are rarely described or are only alluded to, which I thought was very interesting.
I had to say that I didn't care much for the first half of the book. It struck me as slow and a little tedious, however, as Phedre grows and matures and starts acting for herself instead of for others, the story becomes more interesting. But for me, Jacqueline Carey took a little too long building the world and building Phedre into what she became. I found her far more interesting as a grown and independent actor than as a little more than a puppet.
I strongly disliked the final chapter of the book. I think it would have served far better as the first chapter in the sequel. As it is, the final chapter was not a conclusion to this book, but as an enticement into the next book. I really dislike it when authors do that. My desire to read the next book in a sequel should stand upon the merits and strengths of the previous books, not because the end of the books are teasers to force you to read the following books.
Oddly, I liked the cover of this book, except for one thing. Her marque is described as going straight up her spine, however, on the cover her marque appears on her side. It would have been far better had they just left the marque off entirely, instead of showing it wrong. Because aside from that grievous mistake, this is an excellent cover.
On the plus side, the writing is strong, as are most of the characters. I particularly liked Hyacinthe and Alcuin. I also found the pull between Melisande and Phedre interesting, as it had little do with how they felt, and everything to do with who they were.
Despite these strengths, I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Partially because of the first half of the book, which I didn't like, and partially because I just was not in the mood for this book. So I'm going to wait awhile before reading the rest of the series, until I am in the mood for it, so that I'll enjoy it more.
This book first caught my eye because I didn't expect to see Andrew Greeley's name in the fantasy section. Then I looked at the list of authors who wrote in this anthology: Charles de Lint, Diane Duane, Elizabeth Haydon, Morgan Llywelyn, Judith Tarr, Peter Tremayne, Jane Yolen. Even one of those names would have been enough inducement for me to pick up the book--but all those? And more!
Irish mythology, folktales, and fantasy. What more could I want?
Every story I read was excellent, although I did skip L.E. Modesitt Jr's science fiction story (I am rarely in the mood for science fiction.)
Herself - Diane Duane
Speir-Bhan - Tanith Lee
Troubles - Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
The Hermit and the Sidhe - Judith Tarr
The Merrow - Elizabeth Haydon
The Butter Spirit's Tithe - Charles de Lint
Banshee - Ray Bardbury
Peace in Heaven - Andrew Greeley
The Lady in Grey - Jane Lindskold
A Drop of Something Special in the Blood - Fred Saberhagen
For the Blood Is the Life - Peter Tremayne
Long the Clouds Are Over Me Tonight - Cecilia Dart-Thornton
The Swan Pilot - L.E. Modesitt, Jr
The Isle of Women - Jacqueline Carey
The Cat with No Name - Morgan Llywelyn
I probably would have recognized Charles de Lint's writing without seeing his name on the story. The Butter Spirit's Tithe is set in Newford (another giveaway that this is a de Lint story). Conn O'Neil has accidentally angered a butter spirit, and has to figure out how to remedy the situation, especially when the butter spirit claims that Conn will be his tithe to the devil.
I loved Elizabeth Haydon's The Merrow. It's the story of a mermaid marriage to a human, and even talks of the old tales where a sailor or fisherman hides a mermaid's item of power to keep the mermaid in her human form--and keep her as his wife. The tale is set during the Irish potato blight, as one town is trying to survive and concludes that traveling to America is the only way they'll survive.
The Hermit and the Sidhe by Judith Tarr was wonderful. Catholicism and faerie run through many Irish folktales and stories, and this tale brings the two together and into conflict.
I was quite surprised by Peter Tremayne's story For the Blood is the Life. I love his mysteries, and would never have guessed that this story--set in Modern Ireland--was one of his. On a similar vein to Peter Tremayne's story was Fred Saberhagen's A Drop of Something Special in the Blood.
Cecilia Dart-Thornton's Long the Clouds Are Over Me Tonight was a retelling of another familiar story from the Fionn mac Cumhail tales, and one I've read in other folktales. You know how things are going to turn out, yet you keep hoping things will be different this time. In this tale things were different, though in the way I'd expected.
This is an anthology that I will come back and read again, so if you're wondering whether you should make the purchase, my recommendation if definitely YES!