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Kushiel's Dart (book 1 of the Kushiel Series) by Jacqueline Carey

Review by Caleyna

You've probably heard of this book before. It's getting lots of hype in the world of fantasy. The first few pages of the book are blurbs from fantasy greats, praising it to high heaven. How can my book review add anything to the chorus already being sung by Robin Hobb, Robert Jordan, George RR Martin, Juliet Marillier, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, Locus, and on and on and on? It can't. However, I like to review books, esp books I like, so I'm going to take a stab and singing some more praises.

Carey, a historian by trade, has set her book in an alternate Europe, Europa. The main country seems to be similiar to Italy, in that it harvests olives and grapes, but it is very unique in many other ways. The people are literally descended from angels, the companions of an alternate Christ's son. The people worship the angels and Christ's son, Elua, to the exclusion of the Yshuite God. The worship is very different from what you might expect. Our main character is an servant of one of the worshipped angels. Her means of worship? Prostituting herself.

Yes, all that you've heard about this book is true. It involves S&M. The main character enjoys pain with her pleasure. There's whipping and spanking and all that good stuff. This isn't one you want to let your 12 year old read, but if you are a mature adult it is very enjoyable. This doesn't mean it is pornographic or erotic literature. There are actually very few sex scenes, considering the main character's profession. Only a couple are described in any detail, though the first third of the book is heavly focused on Phedre's desire.

Phedre, the main character, is not your typical fantasy gal. She doesn't have any magic powers. She can't wield a sword or daggers or any other blade. She's not a princess in disguise. She's simply a very intelligent, very well trained spy/whore. She's also a talented liguist, which serves her well on her adventures.

So just what do her adventures entail? I can't tell you. To even hint at the plot would be to ruin the surprise. The book is told in first person, with Phedre looking back at her life and hinting what has happened. The reader knows things have been bad, but doesn't know how all the small pieces fit into the bigger whole. Carey does an excellent job managing the plot, with a perfect blend of foreshadowing and mystery.

The plot of spectacular, the writing superb, and the characters believable. This is one of those rare first books that deserve all the hype they get. My advice to the reader: Don't buy this book! If you do, you'll just be in agony until the third and final volume is available. I wish I would have waited for the completed triology, but now I'm anxiously awaiting the complete series.

As you can guess, I'm going to give this book a high grade. It honestly deserves it, and not just from my "just read euphoria" that I often get with an enjoyable book. I hesitate to give any book a 5 out of 5 amulets, but I can't think of a single flaw that would require a reduced score. Truly, this is one of the best fantasy books I've read. I look forward to seeing a lot more of Carey.

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