|Jacqueline Carey: Kushiel's Dart|
(Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-87238-0
But this time I'm glad that she insisted. Yes, Kushiel's Dart achieves 701 pages, and yes, I would definitely label it "epic" and "impressive." But Carey's twisted Renaissance world and her sensual heroine, Phedre, captured my notoriously short attention span from the first chapter. Phedre, a "whore's unwanted get" -- and only 4-years old -- watches as her mother sells her to Cereus House, one of the 13 Houses of the Night Court, a notorious and influential courtesan's guild in the land of Terra d' Ange.
Unfortunately, the Dowayne of Cereus House deems Phedre's beauty flawed. A red fleck in the iris of the young girl's left eye renders her useless -- or so the Dowayne thinks. Far from being a flaw, the mote in Phedre's eye marks her as a bearer of Kushiel's Dart and as an anguisette (one who receives pleasure from pain). Kushiel, an acolyte of the god, Elua, willingly accepted pain for his God. But Kushiel also fought for his god, and the title "Kushiel's Dart" can mean more than just Phedre's enjoyment of what we would call "rough-trade."
Phedre's journey towards adulthood and through her richly varied world engrosses as well as captivates. Well-populated with fascinating and very real characters, Carey manages to pull off the hat trick of writing Phedre's sexual adventures sensually but without descending into either too much or too little description.
Most importantly, Carey adds what I consider the most essential element of all in a book of this size -- humor. I loved the group of seafarer's that eventually join up with Phedre and chant: "We like to hurt, we like to bleed, daily flogging do we need, we're Phedre's Boys!" Gotta love a gal with that kind of sense of humor.
And you gotta love a book with the balls to present you with a no-nonsense, I-love-to-be-whipped, smart heroine. I don't just highly recommend this book -- I insist you go out and buy it. Or I'll sic Phedre's boys on you.
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