Release Date: March 15, 2002
Published by: Tor Books
Source: Purchased at Amazon
Author Links: Site | FB | Twitter
A nation born of angels, vast and intricate and surrounded by danger... a woman born to servitude, unknowingly given access to the secrets of the realm...
Born with a scarlet mote in her left eye, Phédre nó Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child. When her bond is purchased by an enigmatic nobleman, she is trained in history, theology, politics, foreign languages, the arts of pleasure. And above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Exquisite courtesan, talented spy... and unlikely heroine. But when Phédre stumbles upon a plot that threatens her homeland, Terre d'Ange, she has no choice.
Betrayed into captivity in the barbarous northland of Skaldia and accompanied only by a disdainful young warrior-priest, Phédre makes a harrowing escape and an even more harrowing journey to return to her people and deliver a warning of the impending invasion. And that proves only the first step in a quest that will take her to the edge of despair and beyond.
Phédre nó Delaunay is the woman who holds the keys to her realm's deadly secrets, and whose courage will decide the very future of her world.
Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age and the birth of a new. It is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. A world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, deposed rulers and a besieged Queen, a warrior-priest, the Prince of Travelers, barbarian warlords, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess... all seen through the unflinching eyes of an unforgettable heroine.
Kushiel's Dart was too lengthy. The politics were often difficult to follow. There were too many characters to keep up with and I struggled with the pronunciation of their names and various locations. Despite this novel's numerous flaws, I loved it. And I'm not sure I can explain why...but I'll try.
Phédre isn't the female lead that I'm used to. She's a spy, of sorts, but her strength lies in seduction. She gains information and an advantage over others by using sex. But it's not just any type of sex that her targets find appealing. Phédre's sexual pleasure comes from pain and there are many patrons who pay handsomely just to be able to inflict it upon her. Initially, this concept made her seem like a weak character to me. She was always the submissive and allowed others to hurt and humiliate her. But the more I got to know her and was able to see how this worked in her favor, the more I liked her. I'll admit to being fascinated by her sexual encounters and was curious as to what each patron would request of her. It was often very entertaining and I was a little disappointed as the story progressed and these scenes became less and less frequent.
I also enjoyed several of the secondary characters. Both the good and the bad. I did find myself unimpressed with Phédre's love interest. I understood his dedication to his sworn oaths, but his reactions were a bit over the top at times and he often came across as weak and a bit whiny.
The fantasy elements of Kushiel's Dart are surprisingly subtle. The story focuses more on the political maneuvering, plotting, and backstabbing. It all builds toward a war that wraps up quickly near the end and delivers a happily ever after for Phédre nó Delaunay. I do realize that this is one book in a series, but this easily could have been a standalone and I would have been just as pleased.
I can't exactly say who I would recommend this to. I was captivated by Phédre's story, but I also understand the many negative reviews I have read. It's not an easy story to follow and it seems unnecessarily lengthy. I don't mind admitting that I did quite a bit of skimming. Although I've failed to properly explain why, I feel it's entirely deserving of 4 stars and I'm glad I took a chance on it. If you've had this on your TBR list for ages, like I have, I would encourage you to give it a try.