December 26, 2019

Series Review: Phedre's Trilogy

It's been three years since I first talked about Kushiel's Dart on the blog, back when Rachel & I read it for our Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge (speaking of which, you'll have to keep an eye out for an announcement about this in early 2020!). (Macky's actually the first person who wrote about it - here are his thoughts!) I don't think I could have expressed my feelings about Kushiel's Dart any better than the way I did back then, so here's a couple of choice quotes from that review to kick off this post:
"Kushiel's Dart is the kind of densely written fantasy read that will satisfy those of us with a taste for getting lost in worlds and characters and stories... It brought me to the brink of hope, the depths of despair, the fires of anger and the light of joy; it is sincerely one of the most epic first novels in a series I have ever read. I can declare this with all honesty, because upon finishing Kushiel's Dart, I raved about it to my husband for a good long [while]. The skill Carey uses in telling her story, in developing her character's voice, in laying out this plot - it's undeniable, and it's so, so brilliant."
This year, I had a pet project where I asked family and friends to pick out one book a month from my TBR for me to read (and I'll do an entire post on that, featuring all the books I read and the people who picked them out), and for my birthday month in August, Macky challenge me to complete the first trilogy in this world - and I did!

Kushiel’s Chosen and Kushiel’s Avatar are books two and three respectively in Phedre’s Trilogy, following Phedre after the events that take place in Kushiel’s Dart. The first book shows how Phedre grows up under the tutelage of Delaunay to become an anguisette and spy that gets involved in the future of her kingdom in unexpected ways, though these actions are not necessarily always her choice. The second picks up shortly after where we left off, spinning an entirely new story heralded by the betrayals and twists in the first. It’s also the story where Phedre has truly grown into herself and her role, and where she consciously makes choices even knowing the danger and difficulties that await her (and it’s my favorite for that reason in particular). And the third has a bit of a time jump and change in plot, as Phedre is drawn back to a world she’d left behind because of very specific circumstances. At this point, Phedre has arrived at her peak and is operating from there in order to use all the skills she has to her benefit and the benefit of those she cares for.

I really love this series, friends, and I’m glad I finally finished this first trilogy! There’s an excellent plot riddled with spies and quests and political maneuvering and family and friendships and romance. There’s a fascinating world that is riddled with just enough detail to truly bring it to life for the reader. There’s a large cast of characters, flawed individuals who are all in the gray area and have an appealing complexity across the board. 

And then, there is Phedre, the star of this series, a courtesan and anguisette. She is the reason I adore the books so dang much. Readers really see her grow from a child into the adult woman who knows how far she is willing to go, what skills she has to her advantage and a heart that always yearns to do right by those she loves. She’s constantly challenge with obstacles (and higher stakes) that have her questioning herself or suffering on behalf of others, but she continually rises to the challenge to do what feels like the right thing for her anyway. I was so emotionally invested in her story, and it was so satisfying to make it all the way to the end of her trilogy.

The first trilogy alone is pretty dense. But it was worth every second I spent reading these books and I can see myself revisiting them in the future. In fact, just getting these thoughts out in order to share this review has already convinced me I need to plan on rereading this trilogy already because it's just that good. I would certainly recommend it (though check out my note below for a few content warnings)! 

(Note: There are definitely warnings for rape, assault, violence, physical and emotional abuse and slavery, and there are multiple mentions of sex and sexual acts throughout the story.)

Kushiel's Dart was published June 23, 2001 by Tor Books.
Kushiel's Choice was published April 6, 2002 by Tor Books.
Kushiel's Avatar was published April 1, 2003 by Tor Books.


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