An Alternate History Fantasy Series Review
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Phèdre is labeled as "a whore's unwanted get,” and sold by her mother into servitude to the greatest of the 13 houses of the Night Court. However, Phèdre is flawed goods due to a scarlet mote in her eye and therefore unsuited for full status as a courtesan. That is before it is discovered that she is one for who pain and pleasure are the same. The Dowager of Cereus House, thinking herself shrewd, contacts a nobleman who is known to appreciate unique individuals. Anafiel Delaunay takes one look at Phèdre and recognizes her for what she is, an anguissette and the demi-god Kushiel's chosen. He eagerly purchases her indenture, for a fraction of what it is worth, and adopts Phèdre into his household. Once Phèdre is released into Delaunay's custody at the age of ten, her training begins in earnest. Under Delaunay's tutelage, she will learn no less then five languages, the arts of a highly trained courtesan and the skills of an accomplished spy. These talents will take her to places she could have never imagined, place her in the role of both slave and heroine, and forge her into a weapon used ruthlessly by gods. Along the way Phèdre will find love and lose it, suffer from pain, and find pleasure in it, but through it all she will remain true the main tenet of her faith, "Love as thou wilt".
Genre: Fantasy Series, Alternate History, Erotic, Adult
Series: Kushiel's Legacy: Phedre Trilogy
Publisher: Tor Fantasy
Book Reviews: Kushiel's Dart - Kushiel's Chosen - Kushiel's Avatar
This is not your typical fantasy and Phèdre is not your typical heroine. In a world that resembles Renaissance France, Jacqueline Carey creates a society based on the worship of love and sex and peopled with the descendants of angels. Then, as if that is not interesting enough, she creates a heroine who is a spy, a courtesan and not even your normal courtesan, but one who derives her greatest pleasure by receiving pain and yielding to it. Carey goes on to create a great cast of secondary characters and throughout the series, explores other ancient cultures and religions adding her own special flavor to each. You will find very little magic in this series outside the magic of her lyrical prose. The few instances of magic are spiritual in nature and so reserved for gods, angels and the occasional seer. Not to fear though, the creativeness of the world, the intense political intrigue, the high adventure and intricate swordplay will cast their own spell.
OK, that was the good stuff, now for the warnings. This is not a series everybody can enjoy. Masochism, torture, and sadism are an important part of whom and what Phèdre is and play an active role in the story. So does sex in all its forms and in very erotic and sensual detail. Granted it is all handled in a mature and reverent manner, it is after all, in the majority of instances, part of Phèdre's religion but if you are bothered by that sort of thing then you might want to avoid reading this series. Another minor consideration is the fact that this entire series is written in first person and from Phèdre's viewpoint. Personally, I think it is one of the best first person series I have ever read but I am aware that some readers dislike first person narratives. My last warning is on the prose. Carey writes with a lyrical, elegant prose that I thoroughly enjoyed. Some of you however may not like it but the story is set in a Renaissance type world and I feel the prose fits both the setting and Phèdre's personality.
Now, that I have all that out of the way, let me say that this series is one of my personal favorites. Not only does it deviate from the normal fantasy tropes, it does so in an engrossing and captivating way. Phèdre is everything I love in a strong heroine, flawed but determined, loyal to a fault, willing to put her goals before her own safety and happiness and yet not so strong that she ever forgets that she cannot do everything alone. To make things even better, the secondary characters are every bit as endearing as Phèdre. In most cases, even the main antagonists have understandable motives. This is one of those series that I will likely read repeatedly, picking up details I missed each time, while enjoying it every bit as much as I did the first time around. That is, in my opinion, the highest praise I can ever give a series. There is another trilogy that is a part of Kushiel's Legacy that was written after this one and centers on one of the characters who appears in Kushiel's Avatar. If you enjoyed the Phèdre Trilogy I highly suggest moving on to the Imriel Trilogy.
Jacqueline Carey Website
Similar Reads from LibraryThing
Kushiel's Chosen and Kushiel's Avatar are available in Kindle
Kushiel's Chosen is available in eBook.
All are available in Audio
See individual reviews for more information.