Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey
|Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey|
|Reviewer: Kimberly Saunders|
|Summary: A richly imagined alternative time line fantasy set in medieval Europe that grips the reader. It could be shocking in places if unprepared for the erotic nature of the Kushiel saga.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 768||Date: August 2008|
Set in the same alternative Renaissance time line as Carey's previous three Kushiel novels, this is the first of a trilogy focusing on Imriel nó Montrève de la Courcel. Whilst it is able to stand on its own by giving some needed background information within the story, told from Imriel's point of view, it is actually a continuation of the Kushiel saga featuring Imriel's now foster mother, the anguisette former courtesan Phèdre nó Delauney. It's a tale of a young boy's quest to discover who he really is as a human being and to find his true place in the world, when all he has known before was a lie.
His parents were of the royal house in the land of Terre D'Ange and committed treason in a grab for the throne. His father escaped his sentence by dying before he could be executed, and his mother by fleeing and taking refuge in a temple. After giving birth to Imriel, his mother sent him away to a monastery where he grew up happy and carefree, believing himself an ordinary child. Taken by passing slavers at the age of ten, he endured horrific sexual abuse at the hands of a dark prince and his minions, only escaping when the queen of Terre D'Ange charges Phèdre and Joscelin to find the missing prince of the Blood and to return him to the bosom of the family his parents betrayed.
As you might guess from the my use of the word saga earlier, this is an epic novel. A real doorstopper of a book, it is not something to just pick up lightly and try to read in snatches on a train. A real page turner, this re imagining of the Renaissance world is rich and textured. It's an easy world to slide into, with ancient place names (such as Alba for Scotland) giving us points of reference. The multitude of gods worshipped are rather central to the storyline, with the Christ-like Elua and Kushiel being the most prominent in the story's importance. Kushiel himself is a dark godling/angel, but not a devil figure, being numbered amongst Elua's companions.
Kushiel is the Punisher: He gave them pain like balm, and they begged him for it, finding not redemption, but a love that transcended the divine. His followers and mortal descendents are sado-masochists, who seem to search for the divine through pleasurable pain. The story is ripe with sexual tensions and some readers may feel uncomfortable with the discussion of the child sex abuse Imriel suffered, as well as the graphic sexual scenes of his later adulthood. It's all tastefully done, however, and actually central to the story and its politics. It's disturbing when it is supposed to be, and in other places beautiful, though definitely not for younger readers or the sensitive as it quite graphicly plumbs both the depraved and the gently sublime ends of the sexual spectrum, along with bloody battle scenes with their requisite gore. Not a moment of reading time is wasted on scenes that are unimportant, however. The book is not meant to merely titillate, but to explore along with Imriel as he comes to grips with his legacy as a Prince of the Blood and his dark heritage.
The ending of the book ties up quite neatly, though with an awareness that just as Imriel has now moved forward into a new chapter of his life, the saga will continue into the next book picking up where we left Imriel. Having encountered tantalising hints of as yet unrevealed intrigues in the background, the reader is left looking forward to seeing more of this personable young prince and seeing him continue to right old wrongs as he finds his way. It leaves a promise of more convoluted plots, swashbuckling adventure aplenty, dark sorcery lurking in the wings, and tortuous romance, both literally and figuratively speaking. It's a promise I find myself hoping that Jacqueline Carey can deliver on as well as she did in this novel, and looking forward to finding out.
I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this type of book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.
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Agnès Denie said:
Dear Kimberly Saunders, First of all, thank you for reviewing this book, and doing it so positively. I love the entire saga, so I am always happy to find a good review. I have studied the European mythologies for years and I know my way around them. I find it annoying when an author has just lent items from my intellectual, and put them back on the wrong place, that is blend existing mythology in a manner that is untrue to the nature of the religion it is part and parcel of. I have a deep, deep respect for the way mrs. Carey takes mythologies from near and far and strands them together in a way that is respectful to the original source. The best example would be the treatment of Asherat of the Sea.
I have a few (minor) issues with your review though: I wouldn't interpret Elua christ-like. The christians that figure in the book are called Yeshuites. There is something for that name. The man we know in our culture as Jesus Christ would have been called Yeshua ben Joseph (Joshua son of Joseph) by his contemporaries. Although Phèdre and her family have tremendous respect for the Yeshuites, they are themselves not a member of that religion. From her treatment of other European mythologies, I suspect that Jacqueline Carey knows full well what she is doing here.
And I'm not sure your time estimation is correct either. Considering the relatively recent fall of Tiberium (Rome) and the spreading of christianity throughout 'Europe', I had it dated as early Medieval. This is strengtened by the explicitly pagan nature of the cultures she describes so well. Those would have been more or less exterminated later.
We tend to think of the Middle Ages as a dark period, something between the light of the Greco-Roman period and the Renaissance. I suspect something like that happened to your dating.
Or -entirely possible- did I miss hints?
Regards, Agnès Denie
Kimberly Saunders replied:
Hi, thanks for your comment. I think a lot of the book is open to interpretation. On my part, firstly, I called him Christ-like as it states firmly Elua sprang up from the blood of Yeshua ben Josef, and came to the people, commanding, Love as they wilt. So I stand by it, especially as in a few places, hymns and prayers to Elua were quoted, and a character would say..is that a Yeshuite prayer/hymn? Thirdly, I said Christ-like as in Christ, the word meaning Saviour/Redeemer. Elua is the and founder of Terre D'Ange, and the place he holds in their culture is god/redeemer/saviour like...What would Elua do/say sort of thing. Also, Elua's life follows a warped parallel to that of Yeshua. He wanders, sharing his philosophy, is rejected by the people as not being the One True Son of God, reviled, etc, even gets disciples/followers in the form of the angels who Fall to follow him,.and so on. I myself found Carey's Cycle of Elua most interesting, and I read it online as a bit of research before composing my review. I am not stating that they are Christians at all As a scholar myself of comparative religions and mythologies, I think this is one of those sticky points that is open for interpretation, so some of us will get this from it, and others that.
As for my timeline, I actually sat down and reviewed her alternative timeline. It is completely alternative from long before the time we read about.. It's NOT Rome, it is Tiberium, so the changes in history came way before as even the name differs. Instead of a Middle ages, I placed it more closely to a Renaissance time because of a few factors. Foremost, in this time universities of great learning are flourishing. People have come freely across Europe and from what we would know as Egypt to study in Tiberium and great places of learning have been established in Terre D'Ange. Scrolls and other written forms of knowledge are freely exchanged and available. Likewise philosophy is respected again, and changes in the role of women is occurring. Art and sculpture are found worthy of commissioning by patrons witht eh use of light and colour being exploed, and the topic matter matches many of those of the great Renaissance painters. Whether not the time period dates to OUR Renaissance period is debatable, but they are most definitely in one. I think its important when reading this sort of thing, to not get tangled up too much about dates and what we know of our history, as this is another, parallel, world, and accomplishments and failures may come at differing times. So while we suffered the Dark Ages, it looks as if this world did not at least as we knew them, and Rome/Tibrium did not fall so much as withdraw into its own borders, still freely trading with other nations and encouraging scholars and artists. I noted the absence of the Roman Catholic Church here, as it was present in our own history, and likewise the lack of presence of Yeshuites in what is here Great Britain, due to Alba and Eire being cut off for so long by Hyacinthe, so I am guessing that as she speaks of Elua's birth over one thousand years previously, that the schism of the timelime happened around the Rise and spread of Tiberium and that of Elua and his followers' actions which had some profound political effects in the day, culminating in the founding of Terre D'Ange, which is a geo-political entity.
Anyway, her world is hers, and it was a fun visit to it, and I also enjoyed hearing your ideas and comments.