Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Series: Book 7 of Kushiel’s Legacy

The Book:

Once there were great magicians born to the Maghuin Dhonn, the folk of the Brown Bear, the oldest tribe in Alba. But generations ago the greatest of them all broke a sacred oath and now only small gifts remain to them. Moirin possesses such gifts - she has the ability to summon the twilight and conceal herself, and the skill to coax plants to quicken. She has a secret, too. From childhood onwards, she has been able to sense the presence of unfamiliar gods in her life: the bright lady, the man with a seedling cupped in his palm.

Moirin is raised in the wilderness by her reclusive mother, Fainche, and it isn't until she is befriended by Cillian, son of the Lord of the Dalriada, that she learns her father was a D'Angeline priest dedicated to serving Naamah, goddess of desire. After Moirin undergoes the rites of adulthood, she finds divine acceptance... on the condition that she fulfils an unknown destiny, one that lies somewhere beyond the ocean. And that destiny promises both pleasure and pain, as she finds herself facing an ambitious mage, a noble warrior princess desperate to save her father's throne, and the spirit of a celestial dragon.” ~WWEnd.com

This is the latest in a Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series, which I am reading in a community read-along.  There are two books remaining in the series, and the read-along for the second-to-last is going to begin on June 5th!  As for Naamah’s Kiss, you can find our spoiler-laden discussion of the book here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.  I’ll keep this review as spoiler-light on plot points as possible.   

My Thoughts:

The Kushiel’s Legacy series is made of three trilogies.  The first follows the courtesan-spy Phedre, the second follows her foster-son Imriel, and the third skips several generations to focus on the Alban sorceress Moirin.  I loved Phedre’s story, and was pleased that she and her generation still played a small role in the second trilogy.  Moirin is still a descendant of characters from the previous two trilogies, but she is far enough removed in time that they are no longer alive to play an active role.  I was sad to leave those characters behind, but I appreciated at least seeing little nods to the legacies they left behind. This is also the first trilogy featuring a character whose home is not Terre d’Ange.  She still has some ties to the nation, but it is neither her home, nor her culture, nor the main focus for her adventuring. Altogether, Naamah’s Kiss is set in the same world as the previous six books, but it marks a large departure from the previous story.  I enjoyed it, but I also keenly missed the characters, cultures, and politics of the previous trilogies.

During Imriel’s trilogy, I had noted that the series was trending toward a heavier focus on romance and progressively more common and overt magic. This remains partially true as we move into Moirin’s trilogy.  She has magical powers, and many of the supporting characters do as well.  The magic is reliably repeatable and unambiguous, which contrasts sharply with the divine touches in Phedre’s life. I enjoyed seeing Moirin explore and develop her own powers, and to learn how they can be used and misused.  As for romance, there is plenty, but it is not the driving force of the story. Moirin is a very sensual and sexually uninhibited woman, and her story involves a variety of lovers.  Her many romantic steps and missteps are definitely relevant to how things turn out, but so are d’Angeline politics, magic, and conflicts with science and dragons in a fantasy version of China (“Chi’n”).  

The course of the story is strongly directed by the idea of Moirin’s established destiny, which I felt made her something of a passenger in her own life.  Moirin possesses a ‘diadh-anam’, a spark within that directs her to her proper path. This bothered me, because she would sometimes make major life-changing decisions for no other reason than that her diadh-anam told her to do so.  I felt like the plot was therefore not driven by the characters or the circumstances in which they found themselves, but by an external mystical force.  Moirin was certainly directed on an interesting path, though, and I enjoyed seeing Chi’n as well as seeing how Terre d’Ange had changed over the years.  This round of Moirin’s adventures are wrapped up in a single novel, but there are enough hints and open plot threads to have a rough guess where the next two volumes might take her.  I’m looking forward to seeing what is next on her journey!  

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

Naamah’s Kiss is the seventh book in the Kushiel’s Legacy series, and the first volume of Moirin’s trilogy.  It leaves behind all the characters from the previous volumes, and starts a new tale with a cast several generations in the future.  The heroine in this round is Moirin, an Alban sorceress who has magical gifts from multiple divine lineages.  The magic has become more overt and reliable than ever, and romantic passion is a major force in Moirin’s life. However, she is primarily driven by her destiny, which leads her across oceans to solve problems in strange lands. I felt that the idea of a fixed destiny made her feel passive, but I must admit that it led her to some exciting adventures!   

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