Everett Renshaw's Reviews > Kushiel's Dart

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
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Apr 28, 12

bookshelves: gave-up-on
Read in March, 2012

Carey���s prose is beautiful. The world of Terre D���Ange, an alternate history version of Renaissance France, is complex, lavish, and exotic. It reminds me a lot of Dune in its ��� I don���t know ��� what���s the word? Grandiosity? Splendor? Otherworldliness?

That being said, I���m stopping after chapter 25, page 242 (of 901 ��� it���s big) for a number of reasons:

Kushiel���s Dart is not within the realm of fantasy that I prefer. It���s more of an alternate history fantasy, whereas I���m more fond of the kind of fantasy where impossible stuff can happen. I can like alternate history, but not without a compelling plot and characters (see below).

Politics is a major driving force in Kushiel���s Dart, but it is simply too complex for me to keep track of it all. Adding to that, the names are very difficult to keep straight, as they are all French and they all look the same to my uncultured American eyes. (And, reading on a Kindle, it���s impossible to flip to the glossary ��� somebody needs to solve that problem.)

But mainly, unfortunately, I can���t discern the plot. I don���t know what anyone���s goals or motivations are. For example: Delauney is a mysterious character with a mysterious past, but since he���s also a major character, it would be nice to have some idea of why he has Phedre and Alcuin gathering information for him. Is it for revenge? Personal gain? A daring bid to become king? It���s anybody���s guess. Phedre (the narrator) doesn���t know (at least at the time of the events), so unfortunately I don���t know either. The book unfolds a lot like an autobiography: Phedre telling her life story. Albeit she tells it in a wonderful voice (you know how you can listen to some people talk all day? They have that certain quality of tone or inflection or charisma that is just pleasant to listen to? That���s what the narrator���s voice in this book is like), but still, there���s a frustrating lack of substance. In the first 242 pages, Phedre herself doesn���t seem to have any motivations except to ���love as thou wilt.��� I suppose that���s a fine life goal, but it lacks a narrative arc. The book is obviously building toward something but I can���t even guess what it might be. (Okay, well, I can guess it will probably be a confrontation.)

The characters also suffer a bit from a lack of flaws or internal struggles that affect the plot. Everyone seems to be in the place they want to be in their life (except Alcuin, but we only see his story tangentially). Nobody seems to be striving to overcome any obstacles ��� certainly not Phedre, the narrator. She is thusfar just a passive observer of a bunch of inexplicable political machinations by Delauney. It���s as if the ���inciting incident��� of the hero���s journey hasn���t happened yet and all we���re seeing is backstory. I suppose it has to happen later in the book, but surely it should be somewhere within the first 242 pages? (With my luck, I���m probably stopping right before it happens.)
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