...and it was a shame that a book with so much potential should leave me exhausted from laboring through the last 300 pages instead of rushing out to...and it was a shame that a book with so much potential should leave me exhausted from laboring through the last 300 pages instead of rushing out to buy Kushiel #2.
The story is built around the intriguing concept of an alternate renaissance world (with a religion that coincidentally dovetails with themes from Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code)--and is the only fantasy novel I've read with a map of Europe in the front. Although the names of countries and cities have been changed, they all still had historical roots (in OUR world!) and can be deciphered by any reader with a slight classical background. Kudos to Carey for the obviously extensive research she conducted to give her setting authenticity.
The main character Phedre of Terre D'Ange (Land of Angels...aka France) is bought and raised by an erudite nobleman with a hidden agenda of espionage. He has Phedre trained as a courtesan, but in this alternate world the "arts of the bedroom" are related to religious zeal--and the detailed cultural picture of Terre d'Ange painted by the author had me believing it, too. In her acceptable role in society as courtesan, Phedre aids her master by collecting information from her various high-brow clients. Treason and political intrigue gradually sift to the surface...and suddenly Phedre's world is turned upside-down.
This is where the book gets very good. I loved watching Phedre and her uptight body-guard named Josslin come to terms with Barbaric Skaldi tribes. And with each other. Here the characters were at their fullest and held my concert. But what goes up must come down, as the saying goes. Once this major plot point is resolved, the rest of the story drags on, a 300 page anticlimax. The emotion I had felt as the story unfolded suddenly faded.
One aspect of the book that jarred me was that for the most part, the story is rooted in the realism of alternate history. For more than 600 pages, the laws of physics etc. are obeyed. Then towards the end several undeniably *magical* occurrences were so out of place that I could no longer suspend my belief, and my faith in this beautiful alternate world sprung a leak.
It also got annoying the way the author repeated herself, describing the same thing over and over (300+ pages could have been omitted!) Yes, I know that kneeling "abeyante" was the first thing Phedre learned at the Night Court...I don't need to be told every single time she kneels (and she sure kneels a lot)!
To sum it up, Kushiels Dart had all the political intrigue, spies and plots I had hoped for, but for all the plot complexities and researched background, didn't have the depth and believability I'd hoped for. ...more
I began this book because I liked the concept: a nurse in post-war 1945 warps backwards in time to 1743 Scotland where she finds love and adventure inI began this book because I liked the concept: a nurse in post-war 1945 warps backwards in time to 1743 Scotland where she finds love and adventure in the Highlands...why did I finish the book? Most likely due to a sense of literary masochism (although I suffered through the S&M kind too in the latter pages--be warned!). The tragic irony is that in the beginning I had assumed the story would actually go somewhere, instead of looping around the same track multiple times, where nurse Claire and her kilt-clad lover gallivant, fight, make love, get captured, beaten, rescued (not necessarily in that order) over...and over...and over...
Jamie, the hot-blooded Scot, was probably the best developed character (relatively), although it may have been just the brogue. And he had the tendency to say the most inane things sometimes (a particular metaphor involving duckweed comes to mind...gag!). Claire is "feisty" and "spunky" (read: annoying), very erratic in behavior, and overall not very likable. At one point, potential intriguing material is wasted--Jamie must punish Claire, who has endangered the lives of his clansmen with her stupidity. This could have been a psychologically interesting scene, but instead it turns into a kiss & make-up/out session while the characters remain static. Another interesting time-traveling character is wasted later in the story, disposed of without answering some intriguing questions about the consequences of time travel. Issues remain simplistic and complexity, though tantalizingly dangled, is never pursued.
I could rant for pages about what I didn't like--long expositionary sections containing important "clues" to the story, lots of superficial description of people/places, but nothing that develops the characters. And mistakes--picking fruit in April? Really? Am I the only one who noticed this? And finally, the bland language that served merely to record the action as if narrating a movie. But for all my griping, the book didn't really plunge into the abyss until around page 300 when the situation takes a really ridiculous turn, and the ending, smacking of religious-Freudian-voodoo did NOT do it for me at all. Blah....more