Jacqueline Carey – Kushiel’s Scion
Length: 950 pages
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Started: 15 August 2013
Finished: 24 August 2013
Where did it come from? The library booksale.
Why do I have it? I totally fell in love with the first three Kushiel books last year. (Although if we’re being technical I bought this one the day before I started the first one. So I probably picked it up because I loved Carey’s Sundering duology, and then buying it encouraged me to start the first one.) Original blame for getting me hooked on the Carey’s books is split between Memory, Meghan, and Clare.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 11 August 2012.
The teen years are hard
enough without a past of
betrayal and death.
Summary: Imriel de la Courcel has been through much darkness in his young life. Born the son of Melisande Shahrizai, Terre d’Ange’s most hated traitor; raised as a temple orphan; kidnapped and sold into the darkest and most degrading slavery imaginable; then finally rescued by Phèdre and Joscelin, two of Terre D’Ange’s fiercest and most-loved champions. Imriel has been formally recognized as a Prince of the Blood by Queen Ysandre, third in line for the throne after her own daughters. But he is not trusted, and except for Phèdre and her household, he is surrounded both by people who would prefer to see him dead because of his mother’s tainted bloodline, and by those who would use him as the center of their plots to restore the throne to one of pure D’Angeline blood. But apart from these external machinations, Imriel must struggle with his own internal conflicts. Torn by dark desires and haunted by the horrible events of his past, he must find out for himself who he is, and how he can accomplish his greatest aim: to overcome the darkness within himself, and to be good.
Review: I have been struggling to write this review, rather than just pouring out a page’s worth of “Aaaaaaaah ohmygods you guys this book is so good and Carey is amazing and aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh SO GOOD!” (Plus, I think I used up my quota on that sort of thing with my review of Saga last week.) So I will try to quiet down the squeeing fangirl in my head long enough to get my thoughts about this book into coherent order, but rest assured, she’s definitely still in there.
The three things I love most about Carey’s books, and the Kushiel series in particular, are her characters, her writing, and her world. So I’m going to start with that last one, even though it’s less important than the other two in terms of my overall enjoyment, because it’s what drew me back into this series. I read the first three Kushiel books at about this time last year, but I’d left Kushiel’s Scion sitting on the TBR shelf, mostly because my time available for reading has dropped dramatically in 2013, and I was leery of starting another trilogy of chunksters, even though I knew I’d love them. But then August rolled around, and maybe it was the time of year, I don’t know, but I found myself craving Terre d’Ange. And so despite my limited reading time, despite the imminent start of a new semester, I dove in, and oh my goodness, it felt like coming home. I love Terre d’Ange, love its love of beauty, and of desire, and of love itself, and I was able to slip back into Carey’s world as if I’d never been away. The first half of the book is not particularly action-packed – it’s much more of Imriel growing up, and coming to terms with himself and his place in D’Angeline society – but I did not care in the slightest, I was so happy just to be immersed in Carey’s world again. In the second half of the book, Imriel goes to Tiberium, and the pace of the plot picks up a bit, and while I certainly enjoyed that part of the story as well, there’s just something special about Terre d’Ange.
Imriel going to Tiberium also meant an influx of new characters, as well as the absence of many familiar ones – most particularly, Phèdre and Joscelin. I love Imriel as a narrator – he’s fascinated me and broken my heart ever since he first showed up in Kushiel’s Avatar – and he’s as exquisitely drawn as I’ve come to expect from Carey’s characters. But at the same time, Phèdre and Joscelin will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will admit that the parts of this book that made me the most teary-eyed always involved them, and their love for each other, and for Imriel.
(That said, as much as I love Phèdre, I don’t understand why she’s on the cover of what is clearly Imriel’s book. Were they worried that fans of the first trilogy wouldn’t buy a book without her on the cover?)
All of this, of course, my love for the characters and the place and the story and the book as a whole, flows primarily from Carey’s gorgeous writing. Her prose is lush and lovely and descriptive and evocative and resonant. It reminds me quite a bit of Guy Gavriel Kay‘s writing, actually; not that their stylings are necessarily similar (although in some ways they are), but they both have a way of crafting scenes and characters so that something that should be minor becomes rich and emotionally powerful and resonant to where it just catches you right in the gut and takes your breath away.
So, in short: Aaaaaaaaaaaah SO GOOD! 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Imriel does a good job of summarizing the pertinent events of his past, so I don’t think readers that started with this book would be totally lost, per se… but this book is infinitely richer for having read about those events first hand, plus the Phèdre trilogy is so amazing that I can’t recommend anyone start anywhere but at the beginning. The series as a whole, though, gets my highest recommendation for anyone who likes complex and mature epic fantasy.
An acolyte knelt before me, drawing one foot into her blue-robed lap, unlacing my boot. I balanced awkwardly on the other foot, meeting the old priest’s gaze. It was amused and kind, deep with unspoken wisdom.
“Kushiel’s scion,” he said to me. “What seek you here on this Longest Night?”
“I don’t know, I said honestly. My foot freed, I stood, half unshod. The marble floor felt like ice. “What will I find, my lord priest?”
The wrinkles around his eyes grew deeper as he smiled. “Love, child! What else? You will find it and lose it, again and again. And with each finding and each loss, you will become more than before. What you make of it is yours to choose.” –p. 76
First Line: What does it mean to be good?
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 450: ““He’s denouncing Deccus’ pantomime on the grounds that it diminishes the imperium of our noble city. The aedile who sanctioned its performance is defending it.”” – An elected official of ancient Rome who was responsible for public works and games and who supervised markets, the grain supply, and the water supply.
- p. 509: ““The masters answer to the epopts.”” – One instructed in the mysteries of a secret system.
- p. 719: “Brigitta was clad in white, too: a long white gown, with a gold cingulum tied around the waist in an elaborate knot.” – A girdlelike marking or structure, such as a band or ridge, on an animal.
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