Geoff Gerrietts's Reviews > Kushiel's Avatar

Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey
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's review
Jul 10, 2007

really liked it
Read in June, 2007

Carey writes very well. Her turns of phrase and choice of imagery are excellent. Her command of language is exquisite. She tells a deep and detailed story through well-imagined characters. I have found this true of all her books, and I can readily recommend them to anyone who can enjoy fantastical fiction.

I don't want to spend too long on the whole series, but I haven't written an in-depth review of these books yet, so I'll quickly cover the highlights. Carey's world is detailed and vibrant, with a rich theological backstory and a history just five degrees off the history with which we are familiar. Her main character is a spy, a sexual masochist, and a fate-stricken toy of the gods: all three aspects reinforce the others. As this setup may signify, the stories are rich in political intrigue, the prose is sensual bordering on luxuriant, and the scope of the books is epic.

Occasionally, Carey's turns of phrase will reveal to me the wide-eyed fangirl behind the sophisticated writer, and I cherish those moments almost as much as the passages that leave me feeling awe. Occasionally, her editor lets a misspelling slip through -- usually one word where another was meant -- or a "roleplayer's cliche" slips out into the ordinarily inventive phrasing. In those moments, I feel I know Ms. Carey like an old friend.

This book in particular is the culmination of Phedre's story, and it is a fitting swan song for our anguisette. The story ranges across the Middle East and Africa, offering looks at several cultures. The book comes to climax three times and rides each out gracefully into buildup for the next. Each climax is warranted, but having multiples is not entirely without cost.

In some ways, this book feels slightly cramped. In certain scenes, the ordinarily sumptuous dialogue and in-depth characterization has been elided in favor of advancing the story. Here I'm thinking primarily of scenes at court in Egypt and Africa; much of the journey through Africa seemed to unfold more quickly than expected.

Also, in previous volumes, we saw a great deal of Phedre's masochistic sexuality; in this volume, we dwell on how awkward it is for her a great deal, but we spend very little time exploring that aspect of her sexuality, and much more on her romantic life. Where previous volumes read like sensual or erotic fantasy, this volume definitely reads more like romantic fantasy. I don't begrudge Phedre her love, but it was a different kind of story.

These observations aside, the story was epic and sweeping, the writing as elegant and well-tooled as ever, and the characters rich and fascinating. Carey's attention to theological detail and delicate touch with myth make this volume almost more philosophical intrigue than political, but no less enthralling for that. This volume caps off Phedre's story very nicely, a graceful glide into a warm loving glow.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Dawn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:31AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dawn Love to know what you think. Currently reading second series.

Tracie Stokka Your review is well-written and eloquent.

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