Jacqueline Carey – Kushiel’s Justice
Length: 889 pages
Started: 13 September 2013
Finished: 21 September 2013
Where did it come from? A local used bookstore.
Why do I have it? I loved the first trilogy, and there it was sitting in the used bookstore right on the day I was allowing myself to buy some birthday books.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 13 March 2013.
“Love as thou wilt” does
not mean that love won’t come at
a terrible price.
Summary: Imriel, the son of Terre D’Ange’s most famous traitor and third in line for the throne, has returned home after a year in Tiberium, determined to do his part to help his queen and country… and what Queen Ysandre requires of him is to wed an Alban princess, to help quell fears that the Albans are gaining an unfair influence in Terre D’Ange politics without an equivalent exchange. For Sidonie, Ysandre’s eldest daughter and heir, is half Alban… and she is also the woman with whom Imriel has fallen madly in love. And madly it is, for Sidonie is perhaps the most dangerous woman in Terre D’Ange for Imriel, given that his mother’s designs on the throne are far from forgotten. The two young lovers agree to put their passions second to their political duties, and Imriel travels to Alba to wed the princess Dorelei. But once he is there, he quickly gets caught up in a plot borne of ancient grudges and even older magic, and Terre D’Ange’s gods have no power in that foreign land, especially over one who has already broken the precept of “Love as thou wilt.”
Review: Cue obligatory bit of incoherent fangirly caps-lock-y babbling: AAAAAAAAAHHHH JACQUELINE CAREY’S BOOKS ARE SO GOOD YOU GUYS! SO GOOD!
I’m actually going to keep this review fairly short, because I’ve more or less said everything in my reviews of Carey’s other books. The writing is gorgeous, the stories are epic and sweeping and never draggy, the worldbuilding is immersive and lovely, and the characterizations are incredible. I still love Imriel (although still not *quite* as much as Phèdre and Joscelin), and my heart still aches for him, as he tries and tries to be his own man, free from the shackles and scars of his past. All of that I have said before, and all of it is 100% still true in this book.
On to some of the specific points of this book. As expected, my favorite parts of this book were when Imriel was in Terre D’Ange, surrounded by Phèdre and Joscelin and all of the other familiar characters. But to my surprise, I liked Imriel in Alba almost as much; Carey does a good job at both making this Celtic/Pictish-England-analog feel familiar but also adding in enough twists to keep it interesting. (Imriel doesn’t spent the whole book in Alba, either, although I don’t want to give away too many details. The new places he visited were also interesting, although I’m less familiar with their real-world history so I couldn’t always tell what twists had been applied to Carey’s interpretation.) But as much as geography matters in this book, it still falls secondary to the story and the characters, which were both great. Although I did miss familiar characters when they weren’t around (P&J, of course, but also Eamonn to an extent that surprised me), I quickly came to love the new characters as well. Also pleasantly surprising was that there was no sense of middle-of-the-trilogy-itis in this book. Imriel gains a lot of maturity in this book, but it’s not entirely (or even majorly?) character-driven; the plot and the characterization play off each other perfectly, and tell a whole, complete story. Plus, enough bits are set up that I can’t wait to dive into the final book; threads from the first trilogy and from this trilogy are all going to come together, and it should be fantastic.
I do, however, have two tiny quibbles about this book, both related to the characterization of Imriel’s voice. First, I really wished that everyone, but especially Imriel, would have stopped referring to Sidonie as “your girl”/”my girl”. She is 17 when this book starts, but even so, she is already a grown-ass woman, and it struck me as incongruous and jarring that Imriel wouldn’t refer to her as such. The second dialogue tic that bothered me, on the other hand, wasn’t a problem because it was out of character, but just because it struck my ear wrong. Namely: I found Imriel’s and Sidonie’s bedroom banter unfortunately un-sexy. Their interactions and flirting in public, fine, but alone together, not so much. But these books are so much more than just the sexytimes (although the sexytimes are fun too) that that really is just a minor quibble, and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Yes! Read it! It’s moderately well self-contained, but all of them are so good, and make this one so much richer, that you should really read them all.
I tipped my cup and downed the last swallow. “Joscelin, is love supposed to make you feel like you’re sick and dying, and mad enough to hit someone, and drunk with joy, and your heart’s a boulder in your chest trying to burst into a thousand pieces, all at once?”
“Mm-hmmm.” He finished his ale. “That would be love.” –p. 135
We were human, mortal and fallible. We forgot, we made errors, argued ambiguities, and twisted meanings to suit our own ends.
And in so doing, mayhap we reshaped the gods themselves.
Now that was a thought made me shudder to the bone. I wondered if it were true, and if it were, what would happen when some deity bent out of true by mortal ambition returned to set the record straight. –p. 654
First Line: By the time I was eighteen years of age – almost nineteen – I’d been many things.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 183: “But Dorelei only shook her head, her hair black and shining beneath the wreath of wilting stephanotis flowers that adorned it, held in place by pearl-headed pins.” – Any of various woody climbing plants of the genus Stephanotis, especially S. floribunda of Madagascar, cultivated for its showy fragrant white flowers.
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