our intrepid heroine Phèdre - courtesan supreme with a very special talent for transmuting pain into pleasure - makes her debut redux as a titled Lady and so re-enters various schemes and plots at a very different level. and it's not like there's much class warfare in either book anyway - the appeal of these books rest in the heavy-breathing erotic atmosphere combined with all sorts of courtly intrigue. it was handled poorly in the first book; its appearance here (during a sojourn in a version of Crete) was a bit painful but thankfully brief. it was nice to see a sadistic top actually portrayed as a good guy. he just needed to find a partner like Lady Phèdre to make him feel okay with himself. in the first book, I found the assertion that no one like her had been born in hundreds of years to be a bit hard to swallow - getting some degree of pleasure from some forms of pain is not exactly a super-rare attribute. okay Phèdre, I get it, you are definitely a very special person.
You would have thought that Countess Phèdre nó Delaunay would be satisfied with her new title, estates, and the love of the man she seems to love as well, the ex-warrior monk Joscelin, but the Chosen of Kushiel doesn't seem to be satisfied with kicking her heels in the genteel country society, so she decides to take the bate and go on a search for the treacherous and very alluring vileness Melisande Shahirizai , who escaped her imprisonment and death sentence. This of course puts a big dent into the relationship she has with Joscelin and that comes to a complete halt when he decides to start studding with this alternative World's Christians, who actually read much more like the Hasidim Jews of our world. Things between him and Phedre really go bad and this rift comes in play when he is not there to protect her. Queen Ysandre de la Courcey puts on a good show as well, but nothing and no one can compare with Melisande Shahirizai and the heat that comes off the pages when she is in any proximity to Phedre!!! Yes, this whole series is full of sexual relationships - after all, Phedre is a servant of Namaah, which makes her a highly paid prostitute and is also chosen by Kushiel. "...If you thought better of me, you would not be so surprised ..." Now I wish you all Happy Reading and many more wonderful Books to come!
I loved this book just as much as the first one. I think the feeling of less going on is mostly because there are fewer dramatic changes -- in the first book, there were a lot of milestones, and in this one, maybe not as much. The relationship between Joscelin and Phèdre was more painful than ever in this book, so I was very, very glad of the end. Of course." There's a lovely conclusion, ending the book with some closure and yet also with threads still waiting to be tied up in the final book of the trilogy. I'm tempted to buy the Imriel books already, but I think I'll wait until they're all out in paperback -- painful as that will be.
I remember there being a definite taboo appeal to the story, with the book itself representing something of a game-changer for me at the time. It was late last year that I finally got around to reading the second book in the series (prompted by a review copy of the new trade paperback edition), and I was finally ready to appreciate it. As powerful and original as I remember the first book being, the second revealed itself to be an even stronger read.
Its what I read on the eight minute dog walking breaks, what I read when I snapped awake at 4:30 in the morning but just could not face studying more right then, what I read when I took a half-hour breather twelve-hours out from the end when the euphoria started setting in, its what I read on the train in to my exams. But I barely noticed, because this book was pleasant in a white noise kind of way, and it was long so I didnt have to face finding something else to read, and it just tra-la-laed along for 600 pages whether I was paying attention or not.
The Kushiel's Legacy series takes place in a sort of Fantasy Counterpart Culture world where it's Europe, only not. What saves the book, and Phèdre, is the difficulty level at which Carey has set her game. In the first half of Kushiel's Chosen, we're re-introduced to Phèdre, Terre d'Ange, and being a Servant of Namaah. The main focus is on discovering how Melisande escaped custody at the end of Kushiel's Dart (and hence, where she has gone to ground). Kushiel's Chosen is sort of a political/spy thriller set in a fantasy world, albeit only in the sense that slow-moving historical fiction can be a thriller (as the events take place over the course of a year). (Also, of all the exposition that Carey skips in the second book, she doesn't re-explain the nature of the Cassilines, something I had forgotten in the year that managed to elapse between books.) By far, the most intriguing relationship is the one between Phèdre and Melisande. (The fact that she saves the kingdom and is commended by Ysandre for this at the end of the book doesn't exactly help.) As her nemesis, Melisande is a part of Phèdre's identity. I would go so far as to say that Melisande is the single person who best understands Phèdre, both as an anguissette and as spyshe certainly understands Phèdre better than Phèdre's love, Joscelin. And so, Kushiel's Chosen takes the best aspects of Kushiel's Dart and amplifies them, grafting on a better plot with more sinister intrigue and a stellar cast of supporting characters. More than just court drama (although Phèdre never hesitates to give us a play-by-play of what she's wearing), Kushiel's Chosen is the intimate dance between two like minds conducted with an entire continent as their battlefield. Phèdre and Melisande face off in a conflict that is both deeply political and deeply personal. Carey's skill as a writer is something that transcends genre, and while Kushiel's Chosen is fantasy in name, it is fantastic by nature.
But of course the adventure was far from over. At times you could almost believe it's a fantasy world without magic, just myths and legends for them, and then - as with the master of the straits in the 1st book - something just jumps out at you to show you that magic can touch Phedre's world. I don't have as much interesting in the Yeshuite mythology, as so far it's a bit of a mimicry of Jewish/christian beliefs, and as just doesn't shine as much as the other more fantasy elements, but it still hasn't bothered me much, and it does create some interesting characters. And now I've proved to myself that it's just as good, (and I've got this review out of the way - my personal rule) I am now so so ready to jump into the 3rd book!!
This is part of an epic long series (7 books in all, I believe?) and each of them is well over 500 pages+.
Phedre's sprawling adventures -- bouncing from place to place & one impossible situation to the next, all the while repeatedly separated from Joscelin & her closest companions -- smack of classic bodice shredding. Why is larger-than-life such a dirty concept these days?! The written world needs more Phedres, dammit.
In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
After returning she started her writing career while working at the art center of a local college.