Kim's Reviews > Naamah's Kiss

Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
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's review
Jul 23, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Read in July, 2009

Naamah's Kiss is set some 150 years after Carey's remarkable Kushiel trilogies, but the reader who has not read the earlier books can still enjoy this one, I think. In fact, if you attempted to read the Kushiel books and were ill at ease (as I was, initially) with the BDSM content, Moirin's adventures may be more your speed. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of sex here---Moirin is half D'Angeline and her father is a priest of Naamah, goddess of desire---and it's hot sex, with multiple partners of both genders. However, Moirin is neither courtesan nor marked by Kushiel, as was Phedre in the earlier series, so her approach to lovemaking is more instinctual and (at least slightly) more conventional.

At the beginning of the novel, Moirin lives with her mother in a cave in Alba; they are of the Maghuinn Dhonn, the people of the Brown Bear, who once had magical powers but lost them due to murder and broken oaths centuries before. Yet, as mentioned, Moirin is also half D'Angeline, and when she has a vision revealing her destiny lies overseas, she takes advantage of this to travel to Terre d'Ange seeking her father. She finds him, along with fascinating new friends and lovers, becomes embroiled in forbidden magic and court intrigue, and eventually finds herself compelled by destiny to travel all the way to Ch'in.

Like most fans of theKushiel's Legacy series, I loved the character Phedre no Delaunay, and was very curious to see how Moirin would measure up. Well, Moirin, as I've mentioned, has the passions of a D'Angeline but not the polish of a courtesan, and no talent (or need for) espionage at all. She has also grown up as someone who needs to fend for herself, so although she becomes quite pampered in Terre D'Ange, she is a fine archer and can both hunt and defend herself. She is intelligent and in the course of the book she learns to read and picks up several languages, but what she studies the most are the breathing techniques and Taoist philosophy taught by Master Lo Feng, one of my favorite characters. In fact, the "book-learning" pursued by Phedre and her colleague Alcuin in Kushiel's Dart takes on a sinister cast when Moirin gets involved with occultists in Terre D'Ange. So I'd sum up by saying I liked Moirin very much---she was very different from Phedre, but definitely strong-willed and appealing all the same.

If there is one complaint I have about Naamah's Kiss, it's the way that magic is handled here. In the first of the two Kushiel trilogies, there wasn't much magic at all; it crept in gradually over the course of the second, and then exploded with a bang in Kushiel's Mercy, book six. I love magic---probably why I read fantasy---and was surprised to find myself not missing it much in the Kushiel books, and occasionally annoyed at the way it appeared. In Naamah's Kiss, magic plays a much bigger part. When the Maghuin Dhonn were cursed centuries before, they lost all their magical ability except the skill to "summon the twilight" (which I thought was really cool) but Moirin also seems to have an earth magic the others have lost. Her skill increases through her training with Lo Feng and even in her involvement in occult experimentation---this manner of increasing her powers felt very organic, but I couldn't help wondering if her powers were too much? There's one instance in particular, towards the end, when I felt her power just showed up because the plot needed it---there was groundwork laid, but not enough. And it may be just an issue of pacing---the powers she has at the end of book one would not concern me at all, if she had them by the end of book three.

In sum, despite some quibbles, I found this to be a terrific read, with a winning heroine, elegant and sensuous description, and a world which only fascinates me more the more it is revealed.
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