Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Writer's View - Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

From Goodreads: The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.
Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new

The Writer's View

This is epic fantasy at its best. Epic fantasy is my first and oldest love in fiction. I don't read it much anymore because the books are too long. But every once in a while I stumble across an epic fantasy author who really knocks it out of the park. Jacqueline Carey is one of those authors. Yes, this book was LONG (30+ hours!) but so magnificently redered that it was impossible not to love every minute.

In a nut shell: Phedre is marked by Kushiel, the God of S&M. (Carey uses much more elegant language, but that's it in a nut shell.) She is trained in the art of sex and S&M from a very young age. Plain and pleasure are one for her. Her high threshold for pain and her unique training as a professional courtesan make her one of the most unusual heroines I have ever encountered. Readers get to see her being whipped, cut, beaten, and downright tortured. Then we get to see her turn those skills to the advantage of her nation when it is attacked by the enemy. It's just awesome!

There were a few pain points in this book, but they are pain points common in epic fantasy. For one, there were way too many characers with really long, LONG, complicated names. To be honest, I couldn't keep track of them all. The political intrigue is also VERY complex, as it spans about 20 years. I honestly couldn't follow all of this either, but as I got the overall gist of things this didn't dull my enjoyment.

Fiction Biography

This book spans about 20 years of Phedre's life. It was written as a fictional biography. I found this to be a really fascinating technique that worked really well for this novel. Because it spanned such a long time period, the narrator was able to deliver a lot of information in summary. Some readers may consider this info-dumping, and maybe it was, but I think it worked very well in this novel. And since the bookis written as a reflection of the past, Phedre is able to tell readers when we encounter an important scene or meet a character who will be important later. Since there were so many characters, this was actually very hlepful. I've never encountered a technique like this before. I'm not sure it's something every writer should endeavor. Carey is such a fantastic writer that she pulled it off without a hitch, but for some reason I have an inkling many writers would not be able to say the same thing, myself included. :)


  1. I haven't heard of this book before, but it does sound good. That's really neat the way it was written.

  2. I read this book years ago, and I did like it, but I didn't ever go on to read the rest of the series. I guess the whole S&M thing left me on the fence. She did an interesting twist on it, but you know, I guess I just wasn't sure I wanted to read more about it. I haven't read the other books in this series, if you do, it will be interesting what you think and to hear how the story pans out. I did read this great series Angelique (8 books) that is unfortunately out of print. It was written by a French husband and wife, they go by the author name Sergeanne Golon. Anyway it was the best balance between sex and story and history and MYSTICISM that I have ever read. A few years I got the used ones before they were running between $60 and $400 a pop like some of them are now,'s hard to find that balance where the story is really there and the sex is not overshadowing. I think Carey almost did that here, too, with Kushiel's Dart, but I guess for me, not quite.

  3. I haven't heard of this book either. Sounds like a very heavy read. Doesn't sound like my kind of style, but I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

  4. I've seen this one around and wondered about it. It seems a little too long and complicated for me but I do love me an epic fantasy.

  5. 30+ hours is just out of control long. I can see that alone putting a lot of people off this book. I usually don't mind there being too many characters if theire names are easy to remember but I can barely remember the heroines name in this one. A lot of the techniques in this book are ones that all authors should probably treads carefully around. It's amazing that this one managed to balance them all!

  6. Sounds like an interesting concept, but I don't know if there's ever a book I'd devote that much time to.

  7. This is my most favorite series EVER! I about squeal anytime I see it on a blog (cause it's almost never). This first book is my least favorite of them all. The second is my most favorite. And the third is also amazing. The second trilogy has new characters, but with Phedre and Joscelin are more in the background, and it's not AS good but is still pretty amazing. The third trilogy is actually a prequel trilogy and I'm still reading it and it's AMAZING too. They are very long books and the only reason I haven't reread these books a hundred times. I VERY highly urge you to continue the series, and be sure to let me know what you thought! This is a series I'd like to do a discussion group with, cause when I read them I feel like I NEED to talk about them. SO FLIPPING good!
    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! After reading this, I know that you're my kind of people!

    1. Yes, she does do the sex stuff in a way that's very elegant. But it's her world and characters that REALLY blow me away!

  8. Oh I've never heard of this series before it sounds so different from anything I've read. Pretty freaking long, though, hah. I'd need to be well prepared to get into this O_O