Monday, February 1, 2010

Kushiel's Avatar

Wow, is it really February 1st already?!  Time flies when you're having fun, I suppose.

Anyway, I spent the afternoon reading the last 200 or so pages of Kushiel's Avatar, the first book on my Busy Bookworm Challenge list for the year.  I know, I know, I'm just now finishing the first book!  Shame on me!!  In my defense, I can say only that it's 750 pages and not a particularly quick read, and also that it's not the only book I've finished this month (as in, January, not February, not yet!). I also read The Great Gatsby and The Complete Poems of Sappho.

Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey is Book 3 of the Kushiel's Legacy series, preceded by Kushiel's Dart and Kushiel's Chosen, in that order.  For this reason, this review will be extremely thin on specifics, so as not to include spoilers that might ruin the books, Avatar included.

So then, first from Amazon:

"Terre d'Ange's inhabitants are the descendants of angels, a race of breathtaking beauty whose highest law is Love as Thou Wilt. Extraordinarily skilled as a courtesan as well as in diplomacy and espionage, Phèdre nó Delaunay has risen to be a queen's companion and peer of the realm.... Peace and her life were bought with the sacrifice of her friend Hyacinthe, who assumed an ancient, eternal contract as apprentice to the master of straights.  Phèdre [then] vowed to free him, and has finally discovered how. She must speak the true name of God, which will banish the embittered angel Rahab, who controls Hyacinthe's fate.  To discover the true name, Phèdre journeys to distant lands and dangerous places.... For Phèdre is the only living anguisette, chosen by the god Kushiel to experience pain and pleasure as one, and to maintain divine balance in the world.  At the hands of the insane warlord[...], Phèdre learns what true horror is, nearly losing her soul to keep the covenant with Kushiel.  As her spirit and strength drain away, the love of her life, Josceline the Cassiline warrior priest, must stand by.  Carey's lush, sensuous prose again makes her heroine's story a savory feast for mind and heart."

I chose this particular summary from Amazon, by way of Book List, because this one sums it all up without giving away too much.   A huge number of people who read this book enjoyed it, myself among them, though there are some reviewers (on Amazon, not professional reviewers) would have potential readers believe it's filled with depravity when it certainly isn't.  There is sex, and if that offends then this book (indeed, series) is not for you, and there is some element of torture but there isn't anything too horrible or graphic that it can't be taken in context.  I was certainly moved by the horror at times, but only when it was appropriate and not overly taken aback.  Amazon's review calls this adult fantasy, which for me summons up images of romance, and though it's not exactly that, this book was certainly not written for children.

The story is very tightly woven, with no discernible loose ends to be tied up.  Carey is meticulous in making sure that every thread is secured and follows through in a way that leaves readers satisfied.  Further, as the last book in the first trilogy of a series, it ties up not only it's own loose ends, but all of the loose ends left as plot threads from the two previous books in the series.  I was left only with the grim satisfaction that always finds me at the conclusion of a really satisfying book/series.

It's also of note, where this book and series are concerned, that the characters mature in such a way as to be believable and sympathetic.  I can see, quite clearly, every single character and how they interact.  The cast is somewhat large, but they're vivid, each with his or her own personality and style.  And, so as not to get lost, there's a "Dramatis Personae" in the beginning of the books that helps to keep everyone in perspective.  Although, it's really difficult for me to say that having read about half of the "Wheel of Time" where there are droves and droves of characters to be followed.

Anyhow, after a bit of a lull where the second book in the series is concerned, this book reignites the spark kindled by Kushiel's Dart (Book 1) and has left me wanting more.  Thankfully, there's more to be had since there's a second trilogy in the series!  Still, If I had to say anything was amiss with this book, I would say that at times it can be a bit melodramatic and that the story takes us so far away and to so many places it's sometimes hard to know how they've gotten to where they are.  She follows the characters on their long trek across the world and, much to my chagrin, all the way back.  I felt a bit like she could have skipped the details, either coming or going, and not lost anything but pages for the mercy.  Ultimately, almost every scene added to the story in some meaningful way, making the excess in description tolerable and at times charming, especially with the inclusion of one Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood, and a fantastically energetic young character.

Imriel is of particular note because, as it turns out, he is the narrator of the second trilogy of the Kushiel's Legacy series.  Imriel, having grown by then to young adulthood, narrates books 4-6.  Of this, I was particularly wary as when I get attached to a narrator, I want to keep them!  I wasn't sure how I would feel about the change, from Phèdre to Imriel, but having finished Avatar, I feel like I'm going to really enjoy the next 3 books.  I'm even wondering why I ever doubted it at all!  Besides, who can really resist a name like Imriel?!

So, there you have it and though I think this goes without saying, I highly recommend this series to everyone over the age of 18!  I loved it, it's one of the most beautifully written trilogies I've read in a very long time.  Jacqueline Carey is amazing in her ability to form prose that make your heart ache for their beauty!  To say she's eloquent seems an injustice, but will have to do.  I simply cannot wait to start the next book, and perhaps the next after that!

Now, I'm off to watch House and contemplate when I'll be able to start the next book.  Hopefully, my next review won't be nearly as long and rambling, but I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were you!