Kushiel’s Dart

by Jacqueline Carey

Another book club pick, this one was a gentle foray into the world of BDSM. Yes, you read that right. No, it’s not graphic at all. It’s probably the most gentle BDSM ever. Mostly it’s an epic fantasy complete with army battles, political court intrigue, and oh yeah, a religion based on sex. Yes, there are some sexy scenes but they don’t go into a lot of detail. I’ve seen and heard worse on HBO.

I had a hard time reading this one. At first, it took me awhile to get used to the voice. The language is rich, lush, and a bit flowery. The narrater is the main character Phedre, and the story is told as though she’s writing a journal. I got used to it fairly quickly though, and by the end of the book I couldn’t imagine it any other way because it simply was Phedre’s voice.

I didn’t like the politics when it was just a list of names and happenings. There was a lot of backstory and world building at the beginning, and I just couldn’t wrap my brain around all the name dumping. I started skimming the long paragraphs and stopping for the dialogue. The dialogue indicated something was actually happening with the main characters, and those bits were interesting. Then it would go back to court intrigue in the year dot, and who slept with who and did what, and my eyes blurred. I was about to give up when I asked others why I should keep reading. They told me “it gets really good about 40% of the way in.”

That’s a long time to wait for something to get good. Especially with a book this long.

However, I toughed it out. Why? Because I really did like the main characters. I wanted to know what happened to them. I just didn’t care about the history behind it. I don’t even like learning about my own history, much less anyone else’s. So I persevered, and continued skimming.

And then it started to get juicy. There was murder, intrigue, accusations on all sides, some sex of course, a kidnapping, barbarians and slavery. And all of it happening to the main characters. Finally we were out of the history lesson and on to the good stuff! They were right, it really does get better about 40% of the way in (if you read on a Kindle). I stopped skimming and started hanging on every word until the battle scenes, which I also skipped because that’s just not my thing.

First Line: “Lest anyone should suppose that I am a cuckoo’s child, got on the wrong side of the blanket by lusty peasant stock and sold into indenture in a shortfallen season, I may say that I am House-born and reared in the Night Court proper, for all the good it did me.

It is hard for me to resent my parents, although I envy them their naivete. No one even told them, when I was born, that they gifted me with an ill-luck name. Phedre, they called me, neither one knowing that it is a Hellene name, and cursed.”

I think this gives the flavor for the language of the entire book, and it’s a stumbling block for some. But for me it helped build the world, and Phedre’s character along with it. The first line did draw me in, because I wanted to know exactly what the Night Court was.

I enjoyed the world she created, which seemed to blend a lot of Christian, Muslim and other religions along with a good bit of Greek mythology. I liked the basic story. I found the idea of the religion they follow fascinating. Sex is a holy, serious thing that is meant to be enjoyed any way you like, no stigma attached. Those who practice the “art” are revered and respected, for the most part. It’s refreshing to see a world like that.

For those who like Game of Thrones, this has a lot of the same epic feel, especially during the battle scenes. Armies are moving and aligning, war is waged, power changes hands. And through it all, court intrigue. If that’s your kind of thing you’ll probably like this.

If it’s not, skip over the bits that bore you and hang on for the good bits. They are worth the wait.