Hippoi Athanatoi

Kushiel’s Dart

A well-written, engrossing novel awaits anyone who dares to pick up this new entry into the fantasy genre. Be warned, however, that this is truly an adult novel, with much of the tale centered around the erotic nature of living as a pleasure slave in the politically-unstable realm of Terre d’Ange (Land of Angels). The main character and narrator, Phèdre, is born in a kingdom where everyone is beautiful and no wonder, for they all claim to be descended from angels that rejected Heaven to follow Blessed Elua, the offspring of the martyred Son of God Yeshua and Mother Earth. But Phèdre is imperfect, marred by a small spot of crimson in one eye, and thus without prospects within the Houses of the Night Court. But when Anafiel Delaunay recognises her mark for what it truly is, namely Kushiel’s dart, she is given a chance to serve Naamah after all, albeit in a special way. For Kushiel is the Angel of Pain and Punishment, and the bearer of his mark is an "anguiesette", a perfect masochist of sorts. This may give you an idea of the tone of the erotic passages.

Still, don’t let that frighten you. The eroticism feeds into the very dangerous politics that in some ways might remind one of a Dorothy Dunnett, a Guy Gavriel Kay, or even a George R. R. Martin. Set in a pseudo-Renaissance, Carey plays with the subtle changes from our world wrought by the different events of her world’s history, setting Terre d’Ange (obviously a France-analogue) against the barbaric Skaldi (a mixture of various Germanics, primarily Scandinavian) and the vipers in its own nest, nobles willing to destroy everything to grasp the throne from the ailing, aged king who has only a grand-daughter for his heir. Magic figures heavily towards the end, although in a surprising way that’s likely to leave a reader thoughtful about the nature of her artfully depicted world.

While this novel is the first of a trilogy, it does stand on its own fairly well, wrapping up the primary plots while leaving one or two dangling threads to provide impetuous for the next novel. Given the richness of the world, the depth of the characters, and the enjoyment (visceral, erotic, etc.) that one can get out of the novel, I expect most readers will choose to get them as well.

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