Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey
Published: Tor, 2007
Series: Book 5 of Kushiel’s Legacy

Warning, this book is the 5th in a series, so beware of spoilers for earlier books.

The Book:

“After the events of Kushiel’s Scion, Imriel de la Courcel has decided to accept his familial duty and marry a near stranger, Dorelei of Alba. For all her charms and virtues, Imriel soon finds that he does not feel the same spark with her that has recently ignited between him and Sidonie, heir to the throne of Terre d’Ange. The most sacred precept of blessed Elua is to love as thou wilt, but would anyone accept a traitor’s son romancing the d’Angeline heir?

Imriel follows his new bride to a foreign land, though his heart remains tied to Terre d’Ange.  Ancient forces in Alba, frightened for the future of their land and their people, see Imriel’s predicament and choose to use it as a weapon.  In addition to navigating politics and love, Imriel must now cope with interference from this new and dangerous source.” ~Allie

This is the fifth book I’ve read by Jacqueline Carey, and I also read this one as a part of a read-along. You can read our spoiler-filled discussions here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.  We’re going to finish off Imriel’s trilogy with another read-along soon, planned for October.

My Thoughts:

I have described the books of Kushiel’s Legacy up to this point as epic fantasy with some romance.  This would be the first in the series that I would describe as a romance in an epic fantasy setting.  Rather than revolving around major events in Terre d’Ange and elsewhere, Kushiel’s Justice revolves around Imriel’s romantic relationships and how they affect the people and societies around him. I’m not a particularly big fan of romance, and there were a few things in this romance that grated a little. Imriel’s idea of romantic love is very heavily focused on physical appearance and sexual attraction, though I hope that will mellow out a little as he grows older in the final book of the trilogy.  The story also contains several love triangles, and I disliked how the main one was resolved by external forces. However, I am still very engaged with Imriel’s life story and seeing how things progress in his world.

While the story is focused on Imriel’s romantic entanglements, it also involves a lot more than the state of Imriel’s heart.  His marriage to the Alban princess is symbolic of the opening of a previously isolated island nation to influence from other cultures.  While some in Alba are open to new ideas, others feel like outside influences will destroy them and their culture.  The conflict that Imriel’s marriage (and other lover) causes with this second group of people is a major driving force of the plot, and brings with it considerations of prejudice, vengeance, and a very just idea of redemption. I think that the conclusion of the story is going to have a major impact on the politics of Alba and Terre d’Ange, as we move into the final novel.

Kushiel’s Justice also serves up many of the treats I have come to expect from the series.  It was a pleasure to see how the many characters I’ve come to know in previous books have been faring.  I was especially happy that the older cast--Phedre, Joscelin, and the people of their generation--still play a role.  The novel also introduced the reader to new lands and cultures.  Alba (fantasy UK) has been on the periphery of the story for a while, but this is the first novel to really delve into their society.  Unexpectedly, we also get to journey to Vralia (fantasy Russia), and catch up with the continuing story of the Yeshuite people. I’m pretty sad that there’s only one novel left that is set in Phedre’s lifetime, but I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen in the final book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Kushiel’s Justice is the second book in Imriel’s trilogy in the wider series of the epic fantasy series Kushiel’s Legacy. While this novel serves up many of the things I enjoy in these novels, such as explorations of new lands and catching up with favorite characters, it also has a much stronger focus on romance than previous books in the series.  The events that take place in this period of Imriel’s life have wide-reaching political and cultural effects, but they are primarily instigated by Imriel’s love triangles.  This was not my favorite of the series (that would probably still be Kushiel’s Dart), but I’m looking forward to reading the final third of Imriel’s story!  

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