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Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey

I have to start off by saying that I adore this book. It is one of my all-time favorite books, and reading it again has only confirmed its status in my mind.

Phedre no Delauney (accents are included in her name, but I’m not sure how to write them here) is the only anguissette in living memory, doomed to experience pleasure and pain as one, marked by the god, Kushiel, with a dart in one of her eyes. Her world is a complex one, where everyone is playing a high-stakes political game. She is raised in the Night Court, where all Naamah’s servants – courtesans – are trained, but later learns how to use her patrons to the utmost from Anafiel Delauney, who owns her marque. There is also a great deal of adventure, war, love, and sex throughout this amazing long novel.

Phedre is a phenomenal character; a whore with a heart full of love, ready to give at any opportunity. She sacrifices, and sacrifices again. I have to say, though, that Joscelin has always stolen the show for me. The conflicts inside him and the way he develops are fascinating, and I love the end result. I could easily fall in love with almost all of Carey’s characters, but it isn’t as though they are perfect. They all have flaws, and they all feel real, which makes me love them even more. Except for Melisande, who I despise, with good reason, but at the same time, she is admirably intelligent. Read the book, and you can see what I mean.

That’s not to mention the complex, sweeping plot that encompasses the novel. It’s a bit slow in the beginning, while Phedre is learning and explaining much of her backstory, but once it picks up, it doesn’t stop, and draws the reader in. There isn’t anything I can say that isn’t spoiler-filled, and I would hate to spoil this book for anyone. It is over 900 pages long, but I wouldn’t cut out one word, especially because Carey’s prose is stunning and a sincere pleasure to read. I love the way this woman writes.

One warning, though. This book includes graphic, sexual scenes, often including violence. That said, it isn’t as though the encounters are described in excessive detail, and they are far from the center of the book, though important information is learned through them. If that puts you off at all, you should probably stay away.

This book is the first in a trilogy, and the next two are just as excellent as this one. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone who enjoys a deep, compelling, emotional read.

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