The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good....and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission....and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.This started out a little slow for me. It dragged along for about the first 150 pages. Then the action started and I couldn't put it down. To oversimplify the plot, this is the story of Phedre, a masochist who sleeps with her patrons not only for money, but also for state secrets. So, there were some S&M scenes written into the book, but they weren't too terribly graphic. The characters were well-written, as was the plot, once it really got started.
Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair....and beyond.
Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear. Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. 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.
I would have given this five stars, but I did have a few things holding me back. Almost the only thing that made this book fall into the fantasy category was the fact that it's set in a made-up world that is very obviously based on Europe. There is only one character who uses magic, and I didn't feel like he fit into the novel very well. I kept wondering what on earth this guy had to do with anything, and then I realized that he is the setup for one of the sequels. The author's use of foreshadowing is somewhat heavy-handed, but I believe this was her first novel, so I'm willing to overlook it. And the last thing that drove me crazy was that there were too many characters in the novel. I couldn't keep up with who was who and whose side they were on. There is a cast of characters at the beginning to assist with this, but I hate flipping back and forth like that because I lose the whole flow of the plot. So I just kept reading and eventually I would pick it back up from the context.
Overall, if you like fantasy, and you're not too squeamish (like I said, the S&M scenes were more suggested than spelled out in graphic detail, but they definitely were S&M) you will probably enjoy this book. I intend to check out the sequel on my next trip to the library.
Reviewed sometime in 2007
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Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore, and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.