Malin’s #CBR5 Review #128: Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey

Daisy Johanssen grew up in the town of Pemkowet in the Midwest. Her mother lives in a trailer and works as a seamstress, her father is an incubus accidentally summoned during an ill-advised Ouija board session when her mother was a teenager. Of course, you’d think being half-demon would make Daisy unusual in town, but there’s all manner of supernatural beings in Pemkowet, and tourists travel from all over the country to see fairies and trolls and naiads and the like. Hel, the Norse goddess of the underworld keeps the supernatural element in check, and Daisy is her agent in the mortal world, as well as acting as supernatural liaison with the local police department.

When a young, wealthy college kid drowns and everything suggests supernatural involvement, the tourist trade could be seriously affected. The local police are under a lot of pressure, and Hel isn’t all that happy with the situation either. Daisy has to work the case with Cody Fairfax, trying to hide the massive crush on him she’s nurtured since high school. She also has to keep a lid on her volatile temper, as giving into the temptations from her demonic dad could set in motion Armageddon.

Full review on my blog.

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Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #12: Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey

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When I reviewed Kushiel’s Dart, the first book in this series, I was surprised by people who commented saying that this third book was their least favorite. The words “boring”, “disappointing”, and “unrealistic” were used when, to me, the last book in the Phèdre cycle of the Kushiel series was anything but boring or disappointing. Honestly, it was my favorite of the three. As for unrealistic, I feel split between the desire to snark on how “realistic” a fantasy novel could be and the knowledge that the reason this was my favorite was because it touched me in what I felt were the realistic ways various characters dealt with love.

Because yes, it’s a fantasy novel about political intrigue, various pantheons and how they manipulate people (especially their chosen ones, such as Phèdre), and how hideously dark the human soul can go.  But at the core of it all is love.  The love of lovers, the love between parent and child, the love of a foster parent and child, the love for a mentor, the love for a dear friend, the love of someone who has hurt you but you still feel drawn to, and a sort of Stockholm syndrome love of a captor, the love of the gods that made and try to control you.  It’s all in here, and probably more I’m forgetting.  And personally, I think it was done well.  It’s not treacly or overly simple.  The storylines make sense and have been building over the course of two previous books.  There is an inherent complexity to the way everything works together that is emotionally satisfying. Continue reading

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #10: Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

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Kushiel’s Chosen is book two in the Phèdre no Delaunay trilogy cycle. My review of the first, Kushiel’s Dart, can be found here. Of the three, this was probably my least favorite, though it wasn’t because it was bad. I just preferred book three (review coming soon) most, followed very closely by book one.

The story of Kushiel’s Chosen still centers, of course, around Phèdre no Delaunay (de Montrève) and her sworn protector, Joscelin. Phèdre, with the scarlet mote in her eye and God-prescribed ability to translate pain into pleasure. Joscelin, with his austere loyalty to and love for Phèdre along with his precision Cassiline training. The two embark on a mission to uncover a traitor in the heart of their city and in the process, discover a much more intricate and deceptive plan than they could’ve ever imagined.

Phèdre winds up being betrayed in a fairly surprising turn and imprisoned in one of the most maddening high security prisons in her world. Because it is a heroine’s story, and this happens a little over half way in, you know she’s going to get out, but it’s the how that was interesting, but with a heavy dose of deus ex machina…literally.

Phèdre’s complex relationship with the enigmatic, dominant Melisande only becomes more complicated, but for me, there wasn’t nearly enough of their interactions in this book. However, there’s political intrigue to spare, battles for a kingdom, treachery from within a sect of the population supposededly immune to it, fantastic rescue/escapes, and as always, a lush world brimming with sexuality and sensuality.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #2: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiels-Dart-Jacqueline-CareyFor whatever reason, I don’t generally read sci-fi or fantasy – unless there’s a heavy magical slant.  This is probably why I missed Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series when it first came out over ten years ago.  However, yet another friend suggested I read it and I finally decided to give it a go.

Overall, this book is utterly fantastic…both because it is literally a fantasy novel where the author spins an entire world that is just enough like our Renaissance to be familar but different enough to be incredibly intriguing and progressive, but also because it is a fascinating saga of an amazing heroine.  Said heroine’s name is Phèdre, and she narrates her own life.  The book starts with her recollections of childhood until she is sold (at the age of 4 due to financial issues her parents had) into one of the Court of the Night-Blooming Flower, an elite group of courtesans divided into 13 houses based on individual skill set.  Phèdre is raised in one of the houses until a patron takes her on as his own pupil.

Because her left eye bears a scarlet mote,  Phèdre is regarded by some as a little freaky, but Anafiel Delaunay recognizes that she is a chosen one. He sees that she is a true anguisettte – one with the rare gift to transform pain into pleasure. Delaunay takes Phèdre in once she’s completed her cursory training amongst the Night-Blooming Flowers.  Under his care, she learns tumbling, multiple languages, politics, customs, oratory skills as Delaunay shapes her to be a spy of sorts to him.

The story moves effortlessly from Phèdre’s childhood to womanhood, from the tranquil home of Terre d’ Ange to the bitter, war-hungry vestiges of the Skaldic territories, and then back again, culminating in a war rife with betrayal, heroism, bloodshed, and glory.  One of the things I found most intriguing, though, was the novel’s treatment of sexuality, sexual preference, and BDSM.  For the most part, at least in Terra d’ Ange, bisexuality is common and widely accepted. Especially as it pertains to adepts of the Court of the Night-Blooming Flowers, where Courtesans are free to choose male and/or female patrons on a case by case basis. Sex itself is literally paying homage to a god’s sister, Naamah, who laid with strangers to keep her brother safe.  And two of the houses in the court deal with the “darker arts” of sadism and masochism, but they’re accepted as part of the human experience.

If you’re looking for a heroine and a storyline to grab your attention, beat it, sleep with it, and in the morning, pay you towards a really awesome  tattoo, this is a beautiful beginning in fulfilling that desire.  The review for book two will be coming soon.