July 22, 2015

It Runs in the Family: Read as Thou Will

Macky has returned with another series review for the month of July! He's tackling the well-known fantasy series, Kushiel's Legacy by Jacqueline Carey, for my readers. Please make note of his trigger warning below before proceeding to read the review:

*TRIGGER WARNING: I don't talk about any triggers in this review, but for the series itself, I have to put it out there that some of the sex in the series is non-consensual. Abuse is a horrible reality and should never be endured by anyone. That said, please exercise discretion upon reading this series in light of how it can or may affect one's mental and emotional well-being.*

by Jacqueline Carey
Series: Phedre's Trilogy #1-3 + Imriel's Trilogy #1-3 (also Kushiel's Legacy #1-6)
Publisher: Tor Fantasy
Publication Date: March 15, 2002 / March 14, 2003 / March 13, 2004 / June 12, 2006 / June 14, 2007 / June 12, 2008
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Kindle e-book

I don't read romance novels; my one attempt ever at reading erotica was Anne Rice's Beauty series. But at the ripe age of 32, and at the urging of a dear friend after a lovely conversation that touched a little upon 50 Shades of Gray, I decided to go out on a limb and try reading Kushiel's Dart.

So, there I was in our apartment's living room, listening to my friend explain how the main character was (like the rest of her race) a descendant of angels who had decided to live on earth with the man who sprang from the tears of Magdalene mixed with the blood of Yeshua from his death on the cross... favored in her time particularly by one Kushiel, the almighty god's punisher of the sinful. She bears in one of her eyes a scarlet mote, like a rose petal floating in dark water, known in their history as Kushiel's dart, which sets her apart from all her race. It marks her as one who has a specific proclivity to experience sexual desire from having pain and humiliation inflicted on her. Her body heals fast and clean as part of the preternatural blessing, a small blessing in light of the difficult road set before her - the path of an anguisette, the first in over a hundred years.

And, I thought, sold. Well-written sexy times, plus amazing (albeit blasphemous) lore? Definitely worth a venture into this story. I figured that, if it were anything like the Anne Rice novels, I could always do an internet search to find out what happened.

There I was, reading about Phedre's life story, not a bit of erotica in sight and tons of court intrigue, and I tell Alexa, "Babe, there's so... much... court... intrigue.. It's like if spies were hoes and someone decided to write about that. Where's all the well-written sexy times?" Not my best moment, I admit, but hear me out. I was not expecting well-written court politics and agendas, with characters so interesting and charismatic. I had thought it was just erotica. Plus, I never do too well with stories heavy on the court intrigue.

But I gave Phedre a chance. I watched her grow up, going from an unwanted whore's get to a confident young woman with purpose, chief of which was her entry into the service of Naamah (or as Captain Malcolm Reynolds might call it, "whoring"). Sex is sacred to Phedre's race of angelic descendants, what with the angel Namaah laying with kings and paupers for the sake of the one they followed, Blessed Elua, grandson of the almighty, begotten from the begotten son of god. Her kingdom, Terre D’Ange, is basically a polyamorous society with a religion founded on free love and a celebration of sexual freedom. 

So imagine if your “pimp”, a marginally affluent noble of the kingdom had an agenda to gather very specific intel held by people of “singular tastes", and you are someone who just so happens to genuinely enjoy yourself on the opposite end of a switch or crop or whip. To cap it all off, you are the first of a rare breed of god-touched individuals that the world hasn’t seen in a hundred years who takes the pleasure from pain to divine levels of ecstasy. You’d basically just get about anyone to talk if you played your cards right. And play them she did. Oh Phedre… how far she’s gone. I love her. After reading all six books that specifically had anything to do with her, it’s safe to say that Phedre has become close to my heart in the way that family is.

Sure, the sex scenes were super steamy (and in Phedre’s case, a lot were violent), but they worked in the context of the narrative. Some of the scenes were a bit gratuitous, but by the time you get to those moments, you’ve probably grown to love the series. We’re talking six books here, after all. And you won’t get far if you can’t get past the mystical fantasy-justified BDSM or the court intrigue in which desires are used as weapons disarm hearts and keys to unlock destinies. 

It’s a book I recommend you fully surrender to and love as you will. Walk away and be at peace if it doesn’t suit your tastes. But if you find yourself well met with Phedre’s world, you’ll cry with her, laugh with her and most importantly, you will love with her. You'll see that the human heart has such an immense capacity for love, that it is able, if given the chance, to take what is horrid and broken and ugly in this world, and turn it into something beautiful, enduring and good.


  1. Lisa @ Captivated ReaderJuly 22, 2015 at 12:55 PM

    Wow, love your review!! It's really well written! I haven't read anything by Jacqueline Carey, but am familiar with her name and have seen the Kushiel's Legacy series. Now I'm intrigued and will have to add Kushiel's Dart to my ever growing reading wishlist!!

  2. Macky will be so happy to hear that! I actually found myself really intrigued as well when he first started mentioning it to me (as he was reading). I know a bunch of readers who love the series, so it makes me just as curious.


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