Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey
Published: Tor, 2008
Series: Book 6 of Kushiel’s Legacy

The Book:

“Imriel and Sidonie attempted to deny their love, but now they are determined to follow Elua’s edict to love as thou wilt. After the tragic death of Imriel’s wife, Dorelei, they have publicly acknowledged their romantic relationship.  Unfortunately, Imriel’s mother is the realm’s most famous traitor, and Sidonie is the heir to the throne.  Queen Ysandre is not willing to set aside old hatred and will only allow the lovers to marry if Imriel brings his estranged mother to justice.

Before this situation can be resolved, a delegation from Carthage throws the City of Elua into disarray.  Imriel and Sidonie’s love will be tested as never before, and they will both need all their wits and courage to protect the land they call home.” ~Allie

This is the sixth book of the Kushiel’s Legacy series, and the third book of Imriel’s trilogy.  I read this as a  part of a community read-along, and you can see the spoiler-filled discussion here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. Other bloggers who participated in the read-along include Lynn's Book Blog, Dab of Darkness, Emma Wolf, and Over the Effing Rainbow. I am going to mention one spoiler in the second paragraph below, because it is very important to my reaction to the book.

My Thoughts:

Now that I have finished the first two trilogies of the Kushiel’s Legacy series, I see two major differences between the style of Phedre’s story and that of Imriel’s.  As I have commented before, Phedre’s trilogy was more of an epic fantasy, while Imriel’s is more of a romance.  There are certainly romantic relationships and sexual content involved in all of the novels,  but these elements take a more central role in Imriel’s trilogy.  Through all the new lands and adventures, the story of Imriel and Sidonie is fundamentally about two lovers overcoming a wide variety of external political and magical obstacles to their love.  The second difference involves the treatment of magic. The supernatural elements of Phedre’s story were largely of a mysterious and religious nature, whereas Imriel more frequently encounters straightforward sorcery and spellcasting.  These are value-neutral differences, since reader preferences vary, but the information might be useful for potential readers.  For my part, I was more partial to the style of Phedre’s trilogy, though I still enjoyed Imriel’s story.

(spoiler) In addition, I was somewhat frustrated by the central conflict.  While the political complications of Sidonie and Imriel’s relationship are considered, the story centers on an external magical obstacle--a mind control spell that affects everyone in the City of Elua. Their relationship is erased from everyone’s minds, and an alternative reality--where Sidonie loves someone else--is created.  This was an interesting way to examine what parts of these characters are fundamental to their nature, and what can be manipulated through modification of memory.  It also served to test the strength of the bond between Sidonie and Imriel against powerful magic.  On the other hand, it meant that readers essentially spend a large amount of the book with ‘alternate universe’ versions of all the characters.  Since returning to a particular set of characters is one of the things I love about this series, I found this unsatisfying.  The story certainly had tension, and I wanted Sidonie and Imriel to prevail, but I was also extremely impatient for everyone to get their minds back. (end spoiler)

On the other hand, there is still a lot to enjoy in Kushiel’s Mercy, and I enjoyed seeing Imriel’s story wind to a satisfying conclusion.  It is always fun to return to the familiar characters in Phedre and Imriel’s generations, and the novel did not disappoint in terms of introducing new fantasy versions of real lands and cultures.  Carthage is an obvious destination, but we also get to see more of Aragonia and some Mediterranean islands.  I was also delighted to see that Melisande was playing a role in the story again.  She was an impressive charismatic villain in Phedre’s trilogy, and I had missed her scheming in Imriel’s story.  I have enjoyed following all of the characters through so many adventures, alongside some really excellent bloggers who shared their perspectives and insights.  I’m sad that this is the final novel that will feature this place and time, but we will see more of this world in the final trilogy of Kushiel’s Legacy!

My Rating: 3/5

Kushiel’s Mercy draws the second trilogy of Kushiel’s Legacy to a close and concludes the story of Imriel de la Courcel.  It was not my favorite of the series, partially due to the increased focus on romance and the straightforward style of sorcery. All the same, I enjoyed revisiting Imriel, Sidonie, and other familiar characters, and seeing on what paths their lives are leading them.  It’s hard to say goodbye to such a wonderful cast, but I’m looking forward to reading more of Carey’s work in the future!

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