Saturday, August 1, 2009

Books: 1st Half of Kusheline Cycle

Jacqueline Carey is a fantasy author. I adore her, truly. She's not for everyone, but I find that she writes a world so rich and detailed that you want to (and half believe that you can) reach out and touch it.

She has three series (four, I guess, if you separate the Terre d'Ange books, but I don't) - Terre d'Ange, The Sundering, and Santa Olivia. I *love* the Terre d'Ange books. Love, love, love. The Sundering...I found...dry? Ah. High fantasy, but it was missing *something*. Santa Olivia I have but haven't read yet. Though it has werewolves (or werewolf-like characters), so how can it go wrong? Don't answer that. I have faith in Ms. Carey.

But we're talking about Terre d'Ange here. The first three books in this universe are Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar. They're the story of Phedre no Delaunay.

I don't want to say too much about the actual plot of the books, because it's thick and complicated. If you like adventure and political intrigue set in ancient times, these books have it in spades. Sword fights and great battles, invasions, magic, trips to distant and fantastic lands only recognisable through the veil of fantasy. There is, however, a lot of sex in the books. Believe it or not, it's important to the plot. I promise, it is. And it's handled delicately - not there for titillation. And violence. And violent sex. No one should take what occurs in the books as realistic. It's a fantasy novel, fiction, and the society is very permissive. And still, it's part of the plot. Really. Phedre is... different, and necessary.

But here's the basic set up of the universe:

About 800 years ago, Yeshua ben Yosef, the only begotten son of the One God was crucified. When his blood and the Magdalene's tears mingled in the earth, they created a child, Elua. Elua was divine, through his father's line, but also part human, through his mother. He wandered the earth, claiming no place for his own, and was eventually imprisoned in Persia. Eight angels (Naamah, Cassiel, Kushiel, Anael, Azza, Camael, Eisheth, Shemhazai) took exception to this state of affairs, and descended to earth. Naamah lay with the King of Persia for Elua's freedom, and then the nine of them wandered the earth, looking for a place to settle. They were run out of every country because the people feared their old gods' reaction to Elua and the One Gods' angels' presence in their lands. They came to a land without a name, where the people had no gods. And they settled there and began to breed into the population. *Eventually*, the One God sent an angel (and then another, both of whom failed) to call them all back to Heaven. Otherwise, he said, their offspring would over run the earth, since they were essentially immortal. Elua refused on behalf of himself and the Companions and their children - they weren't meant for his Heaven, Elua claimed, as it was bloodless, and he was not. So the One God made for them a separate place, the True Terre d'Ange to Come, where they could go and all their descendants.

So that's the creation myth of Terre d'Ange. Of course, eight centuries later, the D'Angeline's don't show a whole lot of the angelic bloodline, except that they are all unfailingly beautiful and haughty and healthy. Left with the one precept of Blessed Elua - Love as Thou Wilt. They have their own intricate society and...Phedre is born. God-touched. Kushiel's Dart mars her eye. And she's born with a deeper purpose that no one can guess. The Companion's playing a gods' game with their offspring, to preserve them from a fate they don't know is coming.

The second half of the Kusheline Cycle is Imriel's story (I can't explain who he is, it's an integral part of the first half of the Cycle). It starts with Kushiel's Scion. And the first two lines of the book always speak to me:

What does it mean to be good?

When I was a child, I thought I knew. It was easy then.


  1. I'm totally unfamiliar with these, but you've definitely peaked my interest. Love you lots sweetie.

  2. Seems really interesting. I think I might read this :)

  3. The mythology made me a little uncomfortable, but I did like the first book. Never read any of the others.

    Also, lol @ the repeated "it's part of the plot!" statements. :D It is, of course, just reads funny.

  4. Yasemin,

    Well then, my work here is done. :)

  5. Candice,

    I encourage this! They're very good books!

  6. Sanil,

    Funnily enough, that's part of why I spelled it out in the post. Aside from the sex, the mythology is the thing that I could see making people uncomfortable. I just firmly set 'It's fiction' in my head, and blithely ignore the issues. :)

    I think all the books are worth reading, and they just get better.

    Heh. But it is! Part of the plot! ;) I just felt I had to keep saying it!

  7. I used to read a lot of fantasy but I haven't for years and then I 'discovered' a copy of C S Lewi's Cosmic Trilogy that a friend gave me some time back and read it voraciously. I'd forgotten how much I like it. I don't know about this series though, I'm half tempted and the other half of me, like Rivka, is a bit uncomfortable. I'll have a think before my next Amazon stop :)

  8. Margaret,

    Oh, fantasy's one of my 'home' genres. That and horror. :)

    Again, I say that this series isn't for everyone. I actually thought about including a 'warning: blasphemy' bit, but thought that was a bit much. It's *not* a central part (to my mind) of the story. But the history/mythology of the universe is woven into the story, so you can't ignore it.

    I'd say, if you can, borrow the first one from the library or at a used book store. That way, if you don't like it or it's too uncomfortable, you haven't spent too much on it. It is available in paperback if you do pick it up at Amazon.


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