Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey
Published: Gollancz/Grand Central Publishing (2010)
Series: Book 8 of Kushiel’s Legacy

The Book:

“Moirin has finished her task in Ch’in, far from her European home.  In the process, she has split her diadh-anam, the soul-spark of her people, to guard her love Bao from death.  However, this has made him her literal soulmate--a role he never agreed to fill. Bao flees to seek out his own origins, and to come to terms with his renewed life and unasked-for purpose.

Moirin, frustrated by his desertion, follows after him. However, the lands are treacherous for a lone woman far from home. She will find many friends and some enemies as she struggles across countries to reunite with her soulmate.” ~Allie

This long-delayed review is for a novel read during a community read-along, and you can see our spoiler-filled discussions here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.  This is the second book of the third trilogy of Kushiel’s Legacy, and I will be finishing up with a review of the final book soon.

My Thoughts:

Naamah’s Curse provides some things I always expect and enjoy from the Kushiel’s Legacy series; a focus on exploring fantasy versions of a variety of cultures over the course of many adventures.  Up until Moirin’s departure to Ch’in (fantasy China) in the previous novel, the series had primarily focused on Europe. In Naamah’s Curse, Moirin departs from Ch’in to travel through fantasy versions of several Asian cultures in her quest to reunite with Bao.  It’s always a lot of fun to see the outsider protagonist encounter new cultures and come to appreciate new ways of life.  However, I felt that Moirin sometimes tended to bring more judgment to the cultures she encountered than other protagonists have in the past, and she also seems to have more of a drive to change them to fit her own ideals.

Though she has many adventures, Moirin’s lack of agency continues to be a problem in this series.  All of her major (and some minor) decisions continue to be directed by her diadh-anam, which gives the sense that she is simply serving as a very obedient puppet.  In this book, her diadh-anam has even taken over her love life and emotions.  It has determined that Bao is her soulmate, and neither of them have any more say in the matter.  Given the series’s usual theme of “Love as thou wilt”, I was disappointed to see this trilogy’s romance end up as “love as you’re told”.  I was not even particularly sympathetic to their romance, given that they are sometimes shockingly callous about how their great love affects other people’s lives.  Bao, in particular, makes some very serious and destructive decisions, and they seem to be more glossed over than realistically resolved.  

While Moirin doesn’t seem to have very much free will, she’s also pretty heavily overpowered. Multiple deities speak with her regularly, and imbue her with a wide variety of magical powers. Her bear-witch gives her stealth powers and the ability to remove memories.  Various d’Angeline angels give her powers related to sex, communing with plants and animals, and magically making plants bloom. Her divine powers enable her to heal those beyond the aid of medicine and to open doors to the spirit realm.  She has picked up a charm for finding lost things, and seems to have developed a natural genius for language.  She’s also absolutely gorgeous, a master archer, a survivalist, and able to inspire protective love in nearly anyone who isn’t evil.  Given all these advantages, it seems nearly impossible for her to fail--except in situations where people interfere with her superpowers (like Superman and Kryptonite). Despite my complaints, I did continue reading the series to see the end of Moirin’s journey.

My Rating: 2.5/5

In the second book of Moirin’s trilogy, she explores many cultures in a fantasy version of Asia.  As usual, I enjoyed seeing her encounter different ways of life, and enjoyed seeing the adventures she encounters in her life.  At the same time, I still feel like her diadh-anam is leading her by the nose on a path she likely would not otherwise have taken.  Now, her diadh-anam also controls her romantic feelings and relationships, so her and Bao’s bond is no longer of their own free will. She is also getting pretty overfull of natural advantages and mystical powers, so that her successes often feel too easy and assured.  I continued on to finish Moirin’s trilogy, but I think Phedre’s trilogy is going to continue to be my favorite section of the overall series.

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