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Kushiel's Dart

Posted by phduffy on 2006-12-19 21:59:51
 
Kushiel's Dart is a fantasy novel by Jacqueline Carey. I've also heard it described as an alternate history, but I think that fantasy in is a more appropriate term. It's set in a world where Christ's blood mixed with the tears of Mary Magdelene to from the angel Elua. Elua was unwanted by God, and began wondering the earth. 13 angel abandoned heaven and joined Elua as his companions. One of the companions was forced to sleep with a King in order to grant Elua safe passage. This means that the society that worships Elua (Terre D'Ange) is full of free love. In fact, there are honoured houses that raise children for no other purpose than to sleep with others. Terre D'Ange is basically France, and England and Ireland and Spain are all mentioned.

And this is where the novel beings. Phedre is sold by her parents into one of these houses. However, Phedre has what appears to be a spot of blood in one of her eyes. This marks her as "Kushiel's Dart". Kushiel was one of Elua's companions, and specifically the companion who found pleasure in pain. So, a noble buys Phedre from the house she was sold to, and raises her to be a master of languages and culture.

Oh yeah, he also sells her virginity to someone for a whole bunch of money, and a shot at learning from one her owner's enemies. So Phedre goes through being sold as a sex toy to nobles, and training and learning, and essentially becoming a spy.

Then, both she and her owner are betrayed, and she has to go on the run. She ends up being involved in all kinds of political intrigue. Attempted assassinations, barbarian invations and more.

The setting for the novel is interesting, but is mostly used to set up the sexual themes. Homosexuality and sado-machism are prevalent. While Phedre is sold for sex throughout the novel, it's not quite the same as someone being sold for sex in a modern socitey. There's a certain amount of respect, and indeed, religious respect, that goes with it. The novel is based on all the twists and turns, which play a much bigger role than battles or magic (which is almost non-existent).

While I've definitely been in the mood for novels not based on Tolkien lately, I did think that this was a little bloated. At 912 pages, it was a bit much, and I think would have been better had it been 150 pages shorter.