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. :)