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Naamah's Blessing (Kushiel's Legacy) Hardcover – June 29, 2011
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About the Author
Jacqueline Carey's previous publications include various short stories, essays, a nonfiction book, Angels: Celestial Spirits in Legend and Art, as well as the nationally bestselling series Kushiel's Legacy.
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*SPOILERS AHEAD (POSSIBLY)*
The first and biggest reason that the Naamah trilogy falls short of the mark of the previous books is that when it all boils down, the plots of these books feels forced. One of the biggest attractions to me in Carey's previous novels was how well her plots flowed into each other. While they make take place in a super natural world, the characters in her books reacted, in my opinion, very realistically to the situations surrounding them. When hard decisions were to be made, the characters struggled, and sometimes chose wrong, with significant cost to those around them. When trouble came up, it did so through a believable means consistent with the story. When the characters prevailed, it was through hard work and often great cost to themselves, which made the victory all the more richer and drew the reader in even more. One could relate to Phedre and Joscelin, Imriel and Sidonie. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for Moirin and Bao. A huge part of the reason for this is that Carey relies far to heavily on Moirin's diadh-anam as a plot-driving force in the book, to the point where it can be called nothing other that a deus ex machina. When Moirin has a hard decision to make, her diadh-anam tells her what to do. When she "falls in love" with Bao, it because her diadh-anam compeled her to. When she doesn't know what to do next, suprise, her diadh-anam draws her over another ocean. When shes in mortal danger, her diadh-anam manages to protect her somehow. It's just lazy, in my opinion. I remember Phedre spending *chapters* struggling over where to find Imriel, thorough investigations, impossible decision, emotional trauma. Now, it more like Moirin the puppet than Moirin the character. Phedre and Imriel followed Kushiel, yes, but they were still their independent selves, having to make their own decision. Kusheil's justice, not Kushiel's puppet. The other side to this is that the conflicts themselves are forced. Whenever Carey concludes one conflict-arc, she just pops another one up in some distant land, and has Moirin's diadh-anam pull her across the sea to some other stereotypical country with no connection whatsoever to the previous problem, and then starts all over again. Most troubling, perhaps, is that we never really see any real consequence for when Moirin makes the wrong decisions. Yes, something bad happens, and yes some people die, but there is never any real fear for the characters. Where is Phedre, hopelessly locked away in Darsanga, with nothing more that a shred of a plan to rely on? Where is Imriel, trudging across the Skaldic wilderness hunting Berlik, with nothing more that a memory of Sidonie keeping him alive? Its just not there.
Which brings me to my second reason, which is that, unlike the rich cultural differences and realistic national conflicts portrayed in the Kushiel series, every single county in the Naamah series feels one dimensional and stereotypical. Part of the problem is that Moirin doesn't spend enough time in any of them to really draw the reader in, but the bigger problem is that, once again, it seems Carey has gotten lazy again. Instead of the rich conflict with the Skaldi from first trilogy, with Phedre drawn into a distant culture with its own barbaric traditions, or even the lovable and more familiar Alba from the second trilogy, Carey seems to just pick some stereotype from each place Morin visits and focuses on that. In Chi'in, we see the five styles of breathing, and a dragon. IN Bhodostani, we see the typical Indian mudras, and the Hindu cast system. In the Amazon (I'm not going to attempt to write the names), we see Incan human sacrifices, and lots of deadly bugs. Big deal. If I wanted a fourth grade cultural lesson, I could wikipedia any of these cultures. Where's the depth? The conflict? The notion that perhaps, theres some truth to both sides? Furthermore, when it comes down to it, despite Carey's clear stereotyping, all the characters still essentially feel like they are built from the same mold. They speak different languages (which, by the way, never really seems to be a real problem in the books, unlike the previous trilogies), wear different clothes, have a tradition or two thats a little strange, but they all seem essentially European in the end, which is sad. Part of what I loved about Carey's previous books was her very ability to make multi-dimensional characters, and to show just how cultural differences could impact a conflict. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite carry over to this trilogy.
I could go on for another couple of paragraphs about the other problems with this trilogy, but the big ones are already listed above. Instead, I do want to also discuss the good aspects to this trilogy, because my point is not to dissuade you completely from reading it. I did read the entire trilogy, and I did enjoy it, just not as much as the previous novels. First, despite her flaws, Moirin is a lovable character. She may be a Phedre-lite, as others have put it, but that doesn't mean she isn't interesting. She has her own charm, and while it falls more along the fun lines than the relatable lines like Phedre, I still enjoyed her as a reader. Second, while somewhat disconnected, the action in the books is still good. and there are certainly several good page turners throughout the trilogy. The romance, while somewhat different that in the previous two series, is still good, and Moirin certainly doesn't fail to live up to her lineage as Naamah's child. The series also manages to tie up nicely questions left unanswered my the Imirel books, such as whether Imriel and Sidonie have children, and what happens to Alias, etc. Finally, for all its failings, the Naamah trilogy is still clearly a Carey series and contains much of what I loved about her previous books, albiet in lesser amounts. As I said earlier, if you're a Carey fan, find a library, read the books. You'll still enjoy them. If you want to help contribute to Carey and buy a book. buy the first one, its the best. Enjoy your reading, and love as thou wilt.
This book opens with Bao and Moirin heading back to Terre D’Ange from the far east. They’ve been on a ship for months and are just coming upon Marsilikos where they learn that Raphael de Mereliot’s sister has passed away. From there, it’s on to Terre D’Ange and the royal court where things are not well on many fronts.
King Daniel has been thrown into a deep funk by the death of his second beloved wife, Jehanne. Even though they have a toddler, Daniel can barely stand to spend time with her because she so resembles her deceased mom. Moirin and Bao can see right away that Desiree is suffering from neglect. Meanwhile, Prince Thierry, Desiree’s much older half-brother, went on a trade and exploration voyage to Terra Nova. Word reaches the court that Thierry has disappeared but Moirin is convinced he’s still alive.
Leaving the D’Angeline court in a bit of a disarray, Bao and Moirin make their way to Terra Nova on a quest to seek out Thierry and bring him back to set things aright. Of course, it’s not that straight forward. There’s plenty of hazards and Moirin and Bao have their doubts from time to time.
Terra Nova adventuring was deadly dangerous, thrilling, and so very well done. There’s human sacrifice, deadly ants, sorcery, Aragonians, native allies and enemies, betrayal, old loves, new friends, and gods that demand to be satisfied. I was impressed with how the blood sacrifices were addressed in this story. Human sacrifice was part of more than one culture in Terra Nova. While this is difficult for Moirin to wrap her mind around, she does try and eventually she and Bao have to make a hard choice on this front.
The jungle scene was great too. So many insects, reptiles, and plants! There’s plenty of reasons the Aragonians want a monopoly on trade agreements with the local government. Terra Nova offers not only riches but novelty goods that Aragonia has never seen. However, the Aragonians have not been fully honest with the first Terre D’Ange expedition nor have they treated the local population with respect. Moirin, always the polite young lass, offers much in the way of mutual respect and the Nahuatl king recognizes this.
The ants! Oh my! The ants were terrifying. We run into them perhaps half way through the book after the group has survived more than one betrayal along with flooded rivers and illness. Raphael had traveled with Thierry on the first ill-fated expedition and in the heart of the jungle, Moirin and her companions finally come across him. Their joy at finding him alive is short lived as they soon learn the state of things.
All of Moirin’s powers are put to use in this tale. Cloaking herself in Twilight serves her well in more than one instance. Then her ability to quicken green growing things saves plenty of people. She also puts her linguistic skills to use as more than one culture makes up this adventure in Terra Nova.
One of my favorite scenes is with the Nahuatl King. He offers Moirin vital info and a skilled guide to help track Thierry in exchange for a night with her. He also offers his youngest wife to Bao for one night, claiming that is more than enough honor for any man. Moirin’s counter was awesome. She lays out her own great deeds and skills and declares that one night with her is more than enough honor for any man. It was a great scene.
In the end, Bao has to do one last thing to prove himself. There’s some loss in this tale but much happiness. New ties have been made and a strong foundation laid for Moirin’s future. I definitely enjoyed this book a bit more than Book 2, Naamah’s Curse. This was not only a solid, satisfying ending for this trilogy but also for the entire Terre D’Ange Cycle.
The Narration: Anne Flosnik brings us home as Moirin in this final book of the series. I think I say this every time, but Flosnik has got some skills on her! Yet more accents are added to her repertoire as we explore Terra Nova. Also, there’s some strong emotions in this book, what with human sacrifice and what not. Flosnik does a great job expressing these often nuanced emotions. Her male voices are believable and all her characters are distinct. A most excellent narration all around.
I usually love seeing the gods at work in the characters' lives, and that's something that drew me to the books in the first place. However, I fear that Moirin's saga relies a bit too heavily on deus ex machina. Moirin is always following her diadh-anam or Naamah's urgings or true dreams. She seems to have very little real agency, and we get the feeling that she, like us, is just waiting around to see how everything will turn out. I wish we saw her with a much more active role in these amazing stories. When she does, it's always through a gift from some god anyway. I guess I would have liked to see more of Moirin the (possibly fallible) human heroine and less Moirin the vessel waiting to be used.
Still, the story was fun, and I liked the way it closed the Circle of Shalomon, so to speak. I loved seeing Terra Nova and meeting their people and gods. The climax seemed to be missing something for me, but I'm not sure what. It may just be that deus ex machina bit. Still, the ending was solid and a great conclusion for this trilogy.