“When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty who took pity on me.”
Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey, is not a novel for the squeamish. A very dark, extremely sensual plot is enveloped by graphic accounts of the sexual encounters of an anguisette, a woman who is destined to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I was enchanted and literally held spell-bound through each page. Phedre no Delaunay is a young woman born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into servitude as a child, she is raised by Anafiel Delaunay, the first person to recognize what Phadre is: Kushiel’s chosen. Through Delaunay’s tutelage, Phedre is trained equally in the courtly arts and in the skills of the bedchamber. In short, she is the most talented spy the land of Terre d’Ange has ever known.
And yet these are just things which you might glean from a glance at the back cover. The depth of Carey’s writing is without bounds, entwining a series of plots that will hold you speechless as each turn reveals a new piece to a vast jigsaw puzzle. Held in a world of deadly courtiers, cunning poets, heroic traitors, and a truly devilish villainess, the deeply laid conspiracies in this novel open up an entire world of luxuriance and sacrifice. Blood weaves its way through the pages off the edge of a fletchette, pulling into the waft and weave a fine line of biblical myth.
Peopling the storyline are characters so realistic that you cannot help but feel their laughter, their pain, and mourn with them. Phedre would not accept our pity, and throughout Kushiel’s Dart she strives to give every reason why pity is unacceptable. More than anything else, this is a book about survivors, and the core of steel that reveals itself in some people when they are pushed beyond their own limits.
Still again, I must stress that this is not a book for everyone. In truth, if books were rated as music and movies are, Kushiel’s Dart would warrant a Parental Advisory due to its graphic nature, extremely mature language, and explicit sexual content. Violence does abound within Kushiel’s Dart, mark of Phedre’s patron god and right in line with his lash, wielded to punish unrepentant sinners.
It has been a very long time since I found a novel which I enjoyed so completely as I have this one, and it is with sincere regret that I turn the last page but much joy that I open up the next book in the series. If you have the mettle it takes to live through Phedre no Delaunay, definitely pick this book up – you won’t regret it – and know “what it means to be D’Angeline”.