The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.
Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.
Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.
Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.
So, this is one of the best epic fantasy novels I've read in awhile. I put it up there almost with Patrick Rothfuss status - so you know that I really liked this book!
What I didn't like:
- It was sooo long! I'm normally okay with this, but there are so many names to keep track of and so much action that takes place...I almost feel as if I read three books within the space of one. Then, to top it all off, the ending makes it obvious that there is more story to tell. I knew this beforehand, but after going through so much with Phedre I just felt too exhausted to embark on the next novel!
- The world-building....wow. Seriously you guys, the world building is absolutely top-notch in Kushiel's Dart! I was completely immersed in this strange Europe-like polytheistic world with its various dens of iniquity.
- Also, the characters were just so fully-fleshed and amazing! I loved Phedre, Hyacinthe, Delaunay, Alcuin, Joscelin (he's my fave), and pretty much every single character she produced - they were all so real.
- Armchair reading (fantasy-style)! You travel to so many lands, meet so many different people/entities, and witness such daring feats...that before you know it, you've chewed off all of your fingernails!
- Lastly, it was such an emotional roller-coaster - you never stop being interested. It is such a multifaceted story: friendships, families, romance, betrayal, survival, and above all - hope!
- Um, the world in which Phedre exists is one where there is a very casual attitude towards sex and Phedre herself is a courtesan with special tastes. The god Kushiel (her patron god) is the god of pain...so, uh, to sum it up she's into S&M. For some folks this is an automatic turn-off, but hear me out! While the book does let you know about episodes of er, pain and pleasure...it doesn't go into detail. There are no explicit sex scenes - just a slight description of events without going into too much detail. I thought it was tastefully done, considering the taboo subject matter.
The Introverted Reader