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Kushiel's Dart Mass Market Paperback – March 15, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 660 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Kushiel's Legacy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

HThis brilliant and daring debut, set in a skewed Renaissance world (people worship Jesus-like "Blessed Elua" but also demigods), catapults Carey immediately into the top rank of fantasy novelists. In the character of PhŠdre n¢ Delaunay, "a whore's unwanted get" sold into indentured servitude in opulent Night Court, the author has created a particularly strong and memorable female lead, and has surrounded her with a large and varied cast, from nobles and priests to soldiers and peasants. An engrossing plot focuses first on court intrigue and treachery, then, in a surprising shift, on high adventure, travel in barbarian lands including Alba (England) and war. Two demigods rule PhŠdre: Naamah, for sensual love; and Kushiel, for sado-masochistic pain, his "dart" being a blood spot in PhŠdre's eye. Not everyone will go for PhŠdre's graphic if elegantly described sexual encounters, which usually involve the infliction of pain, whether from lashing, branding or even cutting. PhŠdre, however, is no clich‚d sexpot but a complex character motivated by religious zeal. In one amusing scene, a group of sailors on the march chants: "Whip us till we're on the floor, we'll turn around and ask for more, we're PhŠdre's Boys!" At the end, the heroine reminds one of an equally strong-minded sister whose home was Tara. No mere feminist novel, this is an assured and magnificent book that will appeal to both male and female readers. (June 4)Forecast: With blurbs from Delia Sherman and Storm Constantine, plus major print advertising both genre and mainstream, this first novel could rack up impressive sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Trained from childhood to a life of servitude and espionage, Ph?dre n? Delaunay serves her master, Anafiel, as a courtesan and spy, ferreting out the dangerous secrets of the noble houses of Terre d'Ange. When she uncovers a treasonous conspiracy, however, her life takes on a new and deadly purpose. Set in a world reminiscent of late medieval and early Renaissance Europe, Carey's first novel portrays a society based upon political and sexual intrigue. The author's sensual prose, suitable for adult readers, should appeal to fans of Tanith Lee, Storm Constantine, and Terry Goodkind. Recommended for adult fantasy collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy; 1st edition (March 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765342987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765342980
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.5 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (660 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacqueline Carey is the author of the New York Times bestselling Kushiel's Legacy series of historical fantasy novels, The Sundering epic fantasy duology, postmodern fables "Santa Olivia" and "Saints Astray," and the Agent of Hel contemporary fantasy series. Carey lives in west Michigan. Although often asked by inquiring fans, she does not, in fact, have any tattoos.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have to say I had really low expectations going into this book. I bought it to read to my wife, who has a vision disability, but loves the fantasy genre, and there is very little serious romantic fantasy out there, even less available on audiotape. I reluctantly chose this one, figuring I'd suffer through it for her entertainment. From the premise of the book, described on the back cover, I expected it to be a practically endless sequence of raunchy sadomasochistic sexual encounters weakly tied together by a paper-thin plot. Can you blame me? Here's what it says of the main character: "chosen [by some divine power] to forever experience pleasure and pain as one.... trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bed-chamber..." How could that possibly have prepared me for the depth and skill of storytelling I was in for by reading this book?

We hear the story as told by Phèdre, who bears the mark of "Kushiel's Dart," as the scarlet mote in her eye is referred to. This first volume in the trilogy starts with her humble beginnings as the "unwanted get" of a woman of little social consequence, her indenture into the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers, and her rise into the highest social circles of the city. That's merely the first act. The trilogy is set in an alternate history of Europe, where the principal difference seems to be that in this novel, the French may actually be justified in their claim to divinity. The story's main location is geographically analogous to our world's France, but in Phèdre's world, it is called Terre D'Ange (Land of Angels), because the inhabitants (D'Angelines) are descended from divine beings who left the holy land over a thousand years previously.
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By A Customer on September 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Others have written about the plot, so I'll concentrate on who would probably like this book best, and who should probably avoid it.
Fantasy readers who like magic-focused stories---there's not enough magic here, except in the symbolic and vaguely mystical sense, to interest you. This world's magic is all psychological. Anyone looking for standard fantasy or sci-fi---avoid this book. There's nothing standard about it. The story is set in an alternate version of Europe, but this is just a trick to allow the reader to more easily comprehend the cultural and political complexity that Carey has written into this novel. Once the reader figures out that the Skaldi, for example, are basically Scandinavian/Vikings with all the attendant cultural tropes, that saves the necessity for tedious culture-building and lets the author get to the real meat of the story---the characters. Speaking of which, people who like a world-focused story should also avoid this. This story is not about the decadent country of Terre D'Ange and its people and troubles. The story is about a very complex woman who lives in this world, loves it, suffers for it, and ultimately triumphs. A key theme of the novel is, "That which yields is not always weak."
And---it must be said---people who have even the slightest unease about reinterpretations of the Christian faith, or people who are even slightly squidged by alternative sexuality of any kind---this is not the book for you. You'll find yourself wondering why the author is spending so much time on the sex, or why she's chosen to reinterpret Christianity in this fashion, and frankly---if you have to ask, you shouldn't be reading this book. Might as well ask why Frank Herbert chose to reinterpret Islam, Catholicism, and gender politics in "Dune".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a first-time novel by Jacqueline Carey, and honestly---it's books like this that restore my faith in the publishing industry. =P I have read novels by long-time writers which were nowhere near as richly detailed, powerfully written, or just plain interesting. Now I know that publishers aren't just looking for the next Robert Jordan or Mercedes Lackey. They *do* actually care about quality.
Anyway, enough babbling. The story is set in a kind of alternate Europe, primarily in a pseudo-France called Terre d'Ange. In this world, Judeo-Christianity never got much of a foothold, because in this world God had a red-headed stepchild, so to speak. Basically, everything's the same as in our world until the crucifixion of Christ. At that point, Mary Magdalene wept at the cross's feet, and her tears mingled with the blood and produced a kind of angel/god creature called Elua. Some considered Elua an abomination or a mistake, but thirteen angels decided to follow him, reckoning that he was a child of God whether God chose to acknowledge him or not (and God didn't). Also following Elua was a woman named Naamah, a whore who decided to protect and care for this innocent creature by selling herself for his needs---to buy food, to bargain for his life, etc. Elua wandered for a long time and eventually found the land of Terre d'Ange, where the people welcomed him, and he and his angels settled down there.
In the present time of the novel, the people of Terre d'Ange are known throughout the world for their beauty and grace, since they're all the descendants of angels.
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