This posting contains no spoilers.
With Tor Books rereleasing the original Kushiel trilogy in the trade paperback format starting Tuesday (January 13) with Kushiel’s Dart, I thought this would be a good time for me to point out how important this series was to me as a reader. As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that before picking up both Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey I generally didn’t read books by female authors. It wasn’t that I refused to for some made up reason I’d come up with to justify that fact, I just didn’t. At that point in my reading I read mostly thrillers and “harder” science fiction, and even today those are two genres dominated by male authors.
I clearly remember the day I bought those two books too. My wife and I were at BJ’s Wholesale club doing some shopping and I always spent time looking at the books they had. Back then they had a huge selection of not only best sellers but other stuff that bookstores would consider “stock”. Looking through the stacks of newer stuff I’d grabbed a couple things, and as I moved down the tables I saw they had stacks of stuff that were just tossed together. On top of one stack was The Wayfarer Redemption and Enchanter by Sara Douglas, and the stack next to it was Kushiel’s Dart.
I have no idea why I picked Kushiel’s Dart off the stack. The cover, while gorgeous, is not something that at the time indicated it would be something I’d like to read. And yet, I did pick it up and read the back. What it said had me hooked:
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.
It went right into my cart. Kushiel’s Chosen was under it in the stack, so I grabbed that one too. Then I picked up the two Douglass’ books and added tem to the cart. I then spent a half hour (or more) going through all the piles of books, but nothing else made it into my cart that day.
I soon learned there was a third book out for the series in hardcover called Kushiel’s Avatar, and as I like to read series all together I put the two I had on my to-read shelf (which at the time was really just a shelf, it was not the bookcase filled list it is today). Within a few days of Kushiel’s Avatar coming out in paperback I started the series. I couldn’t put them down.
Kushiel’s Dart is a tough read, I believe mostly because Carey didn’t have the experience of writing novels to know some of the things she could have done better. It’s still a very good book, and the lessons she obviously learned writing it are clearly evident in Kushiel’s Chosen and Kushiel’s Avatar. Those three books, called the “Phedre Trilogy”, rank up there with the best fantasy stories ever written.
The second three books are called the “Imriel Trilogy”, and without spoiling any of the plots of the first three books cover events that (obviously) take place after the first trilogy, and continue along the plotlines of the first three books centering around Imriel instead of Phedre being the main character. They are every bit as good as the first three. The (so far) final three books are refereed to as the “Moirin Trilogy”, and while good they don’t approach the first six books in quality. They’re set far in the future from the other two trilogies and in my opinion lost a lot of the magic the first six books had. Despite that fact if Carey announced a new trilogy in the universe I’d unhesitatingly purchase it.
I highly recommend this series, and now with the rerelease of the books they’ll be easy to find. The new covers look a lot more like 50 Shades of Grey as opposed to the same flavor as the older covers, which I suspect will cause some consternation from fans of the series (to say why will spoil some of the plotlines), but the new covers are fine with me. It will, hopefully, get more people to enjoy this series.