It may be that Jacqueline Carey will never recapture the magic she created in Terre d'Ange, but for once I agree wholeheartedly with one of the quotes...moreIt may be that Jacqueline Carey will never recapture the magic she created in Terre d'Ange, but for once I agree wholeheartedly with one of the quotes on the book jacket. "At the novel's heart is the kind of grace Carey is known for: an illumination of the strength that lies hidden inside all of us." (Eric Van Lustbader) Loup is a fabulous character, and the way Carey keeps the perspective focused on her allows the reader to see the subtle changes her fearlessness creates in those around her despite Loup not understanding them herself.(less)
I am very sad to say this is my least favorite novel of Terre d'Ange so far. This is partly because of the theme Carey is exploring in this novel, but...moreI am very sad to say this is my least favorite novel of Terre d'Ange so far. This is partly because of the theme Carey is exploring in this novel, but mostly because it simply does not measure up to the rest of the series.
Don't get me wrong -- I love this world with a deep and abiding passion, and I will buy the novels in hardcover the day they come out as long as Carey writes them. But this, the third trilogy set in the world of Terre d'Ange, is simply less powerful than the two trilogies that came before. It is less focused. The books are less focused than either Phedre's or Imriel's -- while the first six books in this series had definite beginnings, middles, and ends (that nonetheless contributed to the larger three-book story arc) both Naamah's Kiss and Naamah's Curse have minor endings that are clearly just pauses in the action rather than true endings to a book-long story arc; and Moirin herself is less focused -- she is seeking her destiny, but the only guideline she has is that she will cross many seas, so she just kind of wafts through the world waiting for her diadh-anam to flare up and let her know that this is a place she's supposed to be for a while. That passivity stands in stark contrast to Carey's best heroine, Phedre no Delaunay, who always had a sense of purpose and urgency to whatever she set her mind to. (Phedre also thought before embarking on any action, while Moirin just kind of jumps into bad situations and then goes "Ooops! I guess I shouldn't have done that.")
And the fact that I kept comparing the two protagonists to each other is symptomatic of the flaw in this book as well. They are both female first-person narrators in the same world, and Carey's skill is not so great that she gave them very distinctly different voices, so some comparison is natural. But in this book I have become convinced that Carey is deliberately comparing them to each other in her own mind, because so much of the action of this book echoes the action of Kushiel's Avatar, the third (and best) book featuring Phedre. Both books range into non-European lands (in Avatar it was Africa; here it is Asia); both books feature the protagonist's soul being made a battleground of the gods; the protagonist is tortured in both books as a part of that battle. (There are other parallels, but they would constitute spoilers for this book.) And at each point where there is this echo of the earlier heroine, Carey makes Moirin make the opposite choice.
Obviously, she did this to ensure that Moirin is NOT just a Phedre clone; but simply making Moirin the reverse of Phedre does not make a unique heroine -- being the anti-Phedre is no better than being Phedre-lite. She even gave Moirin an anti-Joscelin in Bao, and reversed the way their relationship worked -- in Kushiel's Justice Phedre drove Joscelin away, while here in Naamah's Curse Bao drives Moirin away through his actions and the difficulties they cause.
But the anti-Phedre trend continues even to the thematic level, and this is the point that I have to give the caveat: the theme Carey chooses to explore is well-executed, so I cannot say that the book is bad as a result of it; it simply is not to my taste, and so I disliked the book a bit as a result. In all the Phedre books there was an underlying theme of the gods' battles being worked out through their human followers -- Melisande is acting out her Kusheline nature in playing the game of Kings, and the battle between her and Phedre in the first two books emphasizes that the gods have created the battle and the battleground, and the humans are simply acting in accordance with their natures; the Mahrkagir, in the third book, is also acting as the avatar of a god, and Phedre is cast against him by her own gods. I loved this theme, because it allowed the human characters (even the villains) to be human, heroes of their own stories even as they are the villains in ours, while not at all lessening the visceral impact of the good vs. evil battle.
Here in Naamah's Curse, the theme itself is reversed. Instead of the humans acting in accordance with their gods, this novel is all about the ways humans can twist their gods to their own ends. The Khan of the Tatars, the Yesuite Rebbe, the Falconer and the Spider Queen -- all of them preach a twisted piety to serve their own human needs for power. And this made the book ugly to me. The battles between the gods had a certain purity to them, a sense of larger-than-life figures and motivations beyond our ken; the battles here are purely human ones despite all the talk of gods, and there is nothing pure about that. It is the darkest of the novels of Terre d'Ange to date, despite the fact that darker things happen in ALL of the other novels, and that made it hard for me to take it to my heart.
Still, anyone who has read the other novels has to read this one, and will have to read the next one as well to find out what Moirin's destiny finally is. And to show one way Carey has improved over time, this novel did at least have more humor than all the others combined, as well as the best one-liner ever, and one that echoes off the Phedre novels in all the right ways: "They say the gods use their chosen hard. Apparently, the gods are part of a vast conspiracy to share their chosen, too."(less)
The world Jacqueline Carey has created with this series continues to have a great deal of beauty and grace about it in this seventh novel. Her charact...moreThe world Jacqueline Carey has created with this series continues to have a great deal of beauty and grace about it in this seventh novel. Her characters are still fully-fleshed and wondrous, each one unique and each one worthy. Like the first books in the other two trilogies, this one starts at the beginning of its heroine's tale, and many people may find it slow going at first, for Moirin's journey to her destiny does not really start until she leaves for Ch'in 2/3 of the way through. More than the others, this one feels like the first book in a trilogy, despite its excellent resolution. Nonetheless, Carey remains one of the strongest authors in the fantasy genre today.
I must admit, however, that I begin to suspect she has already created the greatest protagonist she has in her in Phedre. Imriel and Moirin are both beautiful souls, and I follow their journeys breathlessly, continually delighted by their passion, their integrity, and the myriad ways they are nothing at all alike and yet still equally worthwhile as fantasy protagonists. But both fall far, far short of Phedre in one important respect: Phedre, even as a child, was always thinking about her situation and moving in ways to make what she wanted happen. Even when she was an unwitting tool of another character, she was the one performing the actions and in that way always ended up with the upper hand. Both Imriel and Moirin, admirable though they are, are not always the active movers of the plot. Imri is driven by his haunted past; Moirin is driven by her diadh-anam, and while both have plenty of their own will, they spend much of their novels trying to glean what they should do. Phedre always knew what she should do, even though the way to do it might be obscured, for she carried her moral compass within herself rather than looking outward for it.
Perhaps this makes Imri and Moirin more realistic or approachable as characters, but they are not quite so romantically heroic as Phedre was, and that leaves me wanting just the tiniest bit more.(less)
A delightful YA-oriented novella from one of the most awarded SF writers of this generation. Her screwball version of Orson Scott Card's Battle School...moreA delightful YA-oriented novella from one of the most awarded SF writers of this generation. Her screwball version of Orson Scott Card's Battle School is great fun, and the message of the importance of independent thought is always timely. Definitely worth seeking out, despite the limited release.(less)
The motif of this Connie Willis story is H.L. Mencken and con artists, and it is pure joy to read. Willis is rightly one of the most awarded authors i...moreThe motif of this Connie Willis story is H.L. Mencken and con artists, and it is pure joy to read. Willis is rightly one of the most awarded authors in science fiction, and her wit and humanism are on full display here. This story sparkles.(less)