Jacqueline Carey – Kushiel’s Mercy
87. Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey (2008)
Kushiel’s Legacy, Book 6
Length: 808 pages
Started: 20 October 2013
Finished: 07 November 2013
Where did it come from? Bought used from Amazon.
Why do I have it? I loved the first five books and had to finish the series.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 14 September 2013.
When your true love has
magical Stockholm syndrome,
saving her is tough.
Summary: Imriel de la Courcel, son of Melisande Shahrizai, the greatest traitor Terre d’Ange has ever known, now stands third in line for the throne. That fact makes his relationship with Sidonie, the heir to Queen Ysandre, quite inconvenient. Most people believe that it is a sham, that Imriel is making a bid for power, but Imriel and Sidonie have denied Elua’s precept of “love as thou wilt” before, to disastrous consequences, and they are not willing to be separated again. Ysandre has decreed that she sanction their union only if Imriel can find his mother and bring her to justice, otherwise Sidonie risks being disinherited. But once again, circumstances intervene, and an envoy from Carthage comes secretly bearing dire magics that leave Imriel mad and Sidonie taken off to foreign lands, believing herself to be the willing bride of another. And now Imriel must sacrifice everything, down to the deepest core of his being, if he wants to rescue her and save his homeland from the delusions that are tearing it apart.
Review: I have said before, many times (many many times), how amazing Jacqueline Carey’s writing is, how incredible her characters are, how rich her worldbuilding is, how much I love Phèdre and Joscelin and Imriel and Terre d’Ange and the Kushiel books and just about everything to do with this series. In fact, my saying as much usually takes the form of a very caps-lock-y “OH MY GODS YOU GUYS THESE BOOKS ARE SO AMAZING WHY AM I ONLY READING THEM NOW EVERYONE I KNOW SHOULD BE READING THEM IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE EEEEEEEE! SO GOOD!” And this book didn’t let me down on any of those fronts, so rather than spending paragraphs of this review in fangirly squee-ing mode, let’s just take all of that as a given, shall we? Splendid.
So, some particular things I liked about this book. Carey’s very good about plotting long, epic books that each have satisfying and relatively stand-alone plot arcs but also function as part of a greater whole. This installment, like all of the others, had plenty of twists and turns, and complications, and details that muddy up the waters just when you think you see where things are going to go. This book in particular did a nice job of dealing with the idea of the sins of previous generations being visited upon the next generation, and of having to deal with your past, even when it’s not of your own making, before you can embrace your future. I also absolutely loved the way that this book played with the ideas of personality and memory and free will and identity, and how all of those things interact, and the various ways each of those could be subverted, and the effects that it would have. (And although the overriding theme is essentially “true love conquers all”, I definitely appreciated that true love didn’t conquer all without a fair number of struggles. If all it took was Imriel and Sidonie meeting each other again and they instantly fell into each other’s arms with all of the magic dissolved, I’d have been pretty disappointed, but Carey’s much more subtle than that.)
“Gods.” I groaned. “I know it’s not old history to those who lived it, but I get infernally tired of having our lives shackled to the past.”
Overall, this book does an very nice job with bringing not only Imriel’s trilogy, but also the Kushiel series as a whole to a satisfying conclusions. There are a couple of exceptions, and they’re the reason I’m docking this book half a star, and they both have to do with my expectations that were fostered in previous books that didn’t quite pan out in this one. And those things are: Melisande and the Unseen Guild. Especially in Kushiel’s Scion, it’s made out to seem like the Unseen Guild is going to have some huge role to play in the climax of the series, and they’re mentioned a bit in the beginning of this book, but it winds up sort of fizzling out and becoming a non-starter. Secondly, I was hoping there was going to be a last bit with Melisande. She shows up again in this book, and she’s instrumental in driving parts of the plot forward, but – like with the Unseen Guild – I was expecting her to have a more pivotal role in the climax. She also seems to have mellowed a bit since she’s gotten older, and to some extent I buy that – there are some nice scenes between her and Imriel involving Elua’s precept – but I was expecting her to have at least a little of her old spark, some final scheme or machination that came in to play at the end, but there just… wasn’t.
But, to be fair, on the whole, I was so busy enjoying all of the elements that *were* there that I didn’t really bother too much over the few that I thought there should have been but weren’t. This series was amazing, and I’m already torn between picking up Carey’s newer books, or starting a re-read of the Phèdre books. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Don’t start with the last book, but the Kushiel books (either the Imriel books or the series as a whole) are so amazingly good, and rich, and absorbing, and wonderfully written, and full of amazing characters, that if you like grown-up epic fantasy, you should definitely be reading them.
First Line: There are people in my country who have never traveled beyond the boundaries of Terre d’Ange.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- Location 3492: ““it is the tophet,” he said. “Many children are buried there.”” – a place in the valley immediately to the southwest of Jerusalem; the Shrine of Moloch, where human sacrifices were offered.
- Location 4166: “I found Sunjata in the palaestra, stretching his limbs.” – a building with a courtyard for training in wrestling and other sports, usu. part of a gymnasium.
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