I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The world of Jacqueline Carey's historical fantasy novel Kushiel's Dart (2001), the first in her Kushiel's Legacy series, is composed of cultures with equivalents from our medieval world: Terre d'Ange (France), Aragon (Spain), Tiberium (Rome), Alba (England), Skaldi (Scandinavia), Akkad (Arabia), Tsingazi (Romany), and Yeshuite (Jew-Christian). Her original contribution to the genre is the religion she imagines based on the birth of Blessed Elua from the blood of the crucified Messiah mixed with the tears of the Magdelene in the soil of the grieving Earth, and on the divine companions like Kushiel who, attracted by Elua's beauty and "Love as thou wilt" ethos, followed him to settle in the rich and beautiful land of Terre d'Ange, where they mated with the indigenous humans (which is why the current d'Angelines are so graceful, beautiful, sophisticatedly sexual, and quick healing).
The first person narrator of Kushiel's Dart, Phedre no Delaunay, like many heroines of young adult fiction, is essentially orphaned and extraordinarily special. After being sold as a small child by her parents, Phedre is adopted by a charismatic, mysterious, and wealthy man, receives an extensive education (history, literature, languages, acrobatics, spying, and sex), grows into great beauty, intelligence, and empathy, and suffers adversity as she builds her identity and finds her place in her world while playing a key role in its momentous events.
What separates Phedre from YA heroines is the nature of her unique gift, for she is the only "anguissette" in the world, the only person who bears in her eye the blood-red mark (dart) of Kushiel, the divine embodiment of love through punishment and the mingling of delight and pain, so that she exudes at least as much pleasure-heat when lashed as when kissed. When occupying one of her many patrons' "pleasure-chambers" and having various shackles, whips, and blades applied to her person, Phedre becomes "awash in pleasure at the exquisite pain" and sees through red vision the bronze face of Kushiel. As with any gift of the gods, Kushiel's dart is both a curse and a blessing. Will Phedre remain a helpless victim of the impulses she comes to despise or find a way to wield her gift as a weapon to save her land?
Despite straining a bit for deep male voices, Ann Flosnik's reading of Kushiel's Dart is excellent, and I suspect that her refined manner and nasal and husky voice make listening to it more moving and exciting than reading it would be (though it was helpful to see the spelling of the many exotic proper names in a printed version).
Although Kushiel's Dart has many exciting, moving, and arousing scenes, and although the evolving relationships between Phedre and Alcuin, Delaunay, Hyacinthe, Joscelin, and Melisande are compelling, I felt that it all lasted longer than necessary. For example, Carey could have combined and condensed Phedre's two stints as bed-slave to two different Skaldi war leaders into one. And the section involving the Master of the Straits seemed in retrospect unnecessary and weighted the book too much towards the reality of the divine.
But if you like lines like, "my fingertips grazed his erect phallus, straining against the fabric of his hosen," and if you enjoy stories of romantic historical fantasy featuring political intrigue, dramatic fight scenes, and graphic and often kinky sex, and if you like books like Lois McMaster Bujold's Paladin of Chalion and Jay Lake's Green, you might like Kushiel's Dart. I enjoyed it, but I feel that I've had enough of Phedre for the time being.
After listening for 11 hours, I've had to switch to something else more fast paced. This book is so ploddingly slow, I just can't endure it right now. It's putting me to sleep at work while I listen to it. Who knows if I'll ever come back to finish it. In my experience, if the first several hours have put you to sleep - it generally doesn't get much better.
This is a great book, and the narrator is one of the best I've listened to. I generally only listen to audiobooks while I'm cleaning house, working out, ect, but I was so captivated by this series that I found myself staying up late to listen and my house sparkled! At first I thought it might be better to read it to help keep all the intricate details straight, but ended up preferring to listen because I enjoyed the narrator so much (I also would have driven myself crazy trying to figure out all the correct pronunciations). Although I would not recommend this to someone who is easily offended by graphic sex scenes or someone looking for a "light read", it is definitely right up my alley and I very much enjoyed it.
Even better as an audio book! I have always promised myself to go back and read this series again, but I've never found the time. BUT! As an audio book, the Kushiel series is AWESOME! I highly recommend it for adult readers who like their fantasy on the spicy side. (I also LOVE the narrator!) Be smart -- buy this one, and prepare to be amazed!
A better narrator! Did no one screen this woman for her ability to do anything except pronounce pseudo-french words?! Awful voice overall, terrible accents, grating and grotesque.
Literally anyone else. Dear lord, Dobby from Harry Potter would have been easier to listen to. Ramming nails in my ears would have been a more pleasurable experience.
She does not know how to pace. Parts that are read with a pause for effect she bowls over with the grace of a steamroller. She reads the Viking-esque barbarians as pseudo-asian Hun type characters. They're Nords! Are you so damned limited in your accents? Oh, thank the LAWD you don't pronounce the last three letters of 'linguisement' but all forbid you give the damn Nords Nordic accents. AUGH.
Book Addict.My preferred books are historical fictions, fantasy (supernatural) fictions, or just good fiction.
I've read over 250+ books, and it is definitely in the top ⅓rd of my favorite books.
Even though Phèdre is the heroine of the story, I also felt a strong connection to the supporting characters such as Anaphaèl (her master), Iacente (her best friend), and Joceline (her companion).
Love her reading and truly appreciated giving each character their own voice and personality.
The story and thanks to the narrator, I felt as if I were part of the adventure too as a silent friend and felt strong emotions at times, enough that I cried over the loss of some of Phèdre's companions as if I had lost someone dear to me myself. I strongly felt some of the stress and weight that Phèdre's decisions could entail for herself.
If you are looking for a new and different epic adventure, you won't be disappointed. The story is beautiful and beautifully read.
A hopeless audiophile with my books with me wherever i go! Dystopia - paranormal romance - and even some erotica - I'm over 50 - not Dead!
Phèdre steals the show - despite it all. She is an Anguisette - which in modern parlance probably means sexual masochist. I cannot say i completely 'get' the draw as described - but i did get the eloquence with which it was described. I totally got the stream-of-conscience type explorations into Phedra's thought processes as she grew up and into herself. And although her being an Aguisette was a pivotal reality - it was only a portion of the person we learned of, and that she grew in to! Phèdre was one of the most realistically crafted characters I've encountered in a long time! She was hot, she was cold, she loved as she hated, she vascillated, she fought and she won and she lost, she made decisions and doggedly stuck to them - despite! That was her gift to the reader - being real.
It was just too long for one sitting - and i found the enforced breaks in listening great opportunities to think on the way Carey gently challenged religious and moral tomes.
Carey has crafted an interesting world - with a different moral and religious structure - giving one pause to consider their own beliefs on occasion. There are many paralells that can be made between Jewish tennets and those Carey has laid out. It is all done without intent to insult, and i believe she has accomplished that! The blending of various cultures is well done! I am amused that this series, this first book written so many years ago, is only now coming to general popularity, as our society is starting to openly explore and be more accepting of "alternate" lifestyles and sexual practices.
Carey takes us on a long trip, where we meet some lovely people, and some very scarey ones, and some very very memorable ones, but they are all real! Despite the Medieval-style timeframe, the intrigues and betrayals, loyalties and conflicts, the myths and legends, and loves, it all feel very timeless. There are those little bits of detail in the descriptions of a setting or situation that Carey does so well, without the violence necessarily becoming overpowering.
Phèdre and Joscelin are. What they are evolves, changes, becomes victim and beneficiary of wants, needs, desires, schemes and betrayals, and friendships and loves and loyalties of all types, from almost every possible direction. And yet ...
I am going to continue with this series - I enjoy Phèdre's world. I want to see where she has yet to go - what she can accomplish! What she and Joscelin can accomplish.
And she reminds me in so many ways - that which yeilds is not necessarily weak!!!
If you like immersing yourself in a new world- detailed descriptions and plots of religions, politics, cultures- this is a great book. The narrator is great for the most part, because her tone gives an ethereal ambiance. Her voice for male characters could be a little more varied; sometimes I lost track of which male character was talking, despite the accents. Kushiel's Dart overall is a terrific story and great audiobook.
I liked the world of believable fantasy that is weaved. The story is a bit complex to follow in the beginning, but quickly becomes one that is easily and enticing to follow.
Heads up for some slight S&M and sexual references, but nothing is as obvious and extensive as with say 50 Shades, but enough that it makes for a good addition to the credibility of the main character.
This book is amazing in its scope, detail and complexity. It is also beautifully and intelligently written and researched. Carey's alternate world is detailed and believable, with clear parallels to our world. Anne Flosnik also does a fantastic job of narrating it. While it has sexual content of the more adventurous variety and is clearly not a book for those uptight about sexuality, the sex is never gratutious. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes fanstasy, or just good literature.