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Publisher's Summary

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond.

Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart - a massive tale about the violent death of an old age and the birth of a new.

©2008 Jacqueline Carey; (P)2009 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This brilliant and daring debut catapults Carey immediately into the top rank of fantasy novelists." (Publishers Weekly)
"A very sophisticated fantasy, intricately plotted and a fascinating audiobook." (Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

The Kushiel series in order

I have read all the books in this series...and I love all of them. Jacqueline Carey is an excellent author. Unfortunately, Audio books did not number her books, so it is hard to figure out what book to read first, or what order they are in. I have solved that oversight.
Kushiel's Legacy series in order: Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar, Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, Kushiel's Mercy and the last book in this wonderful series, Naamah's Kiss

162 of 164 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Selin
  • Greenwood, MO, United States
  • 03-01-10

Worth every minute and penny

Before purchasing this novel, I read the reviews. So many mixed reviews...I decided to give it a try anyway.
This novel is not for you if you like a 5 hour novel. Jacqueline Carey creates a world, solid characters, and a different way of life in this novel which does take time.
I almost want to say don't listen if you're too religious but that is not it. This novel is very religious...in its own way.
But, you do have to have an open mind and accept that things are different and so is Phedre.
As another reviewer wrote, the masochistic sex piece is there only as an explanation and not as a part of the plot. And, not so much of it either.
The narrator was difficult to understand in the first 30 minutes or so but now I absolutely love her. Anne Flosnik is my 2nd favorite after Davina Porter.
I thought after Outlander I wouldn't like a series but I was wrong.
Another reviewer was also correct about the names and locations. Since they are new and heavily in the French language, it does become somewhat difficult to follow who's who and where in their world they are from. I just decided to go with it and at the end grasped most characters with minimal difficulty.
Phedre has the courage of a lion but doesn't seem to know it. She does what she does for the good of her country and people. (I am not talking about the sex!)
But one must admit...a bit of sex never reduces the intrigue of a novel either. :)
I am now so in to this novel that I am purchasing the second one rather than waiting for my credit.
I have decided lengthy novels are better than the short ones which has no time to develop characters or plot lines.
Great read! Give it a try!

51 of 53 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

One of my favorite fantasy novels

This richly-textured fantasy novel is set in an alternate-history pagan Europe where the Picts still rule Alba (Britain), the Celts rule France (called Terre D'Ange in this book), and Christianity is but a minor offshoot of Judaism. Kushiel's Dart is the story of the coming-of-age of the courtesan Phedre no Delauny, who bears the mark of the fallen angel Kushiel, he who rules over the darker arts of love--submission, dominance, and the infliction of pain as an erotic pastime.

Indentured to the enigmatic nobleman Anafiel no Delauny and trained in the arts of both love and espionage, Phedre is at first merely a pawn in his intrigues among the nobility. But she is highly intelligent and strong-willed, and soon comes to realize that Delauny's aims are worthy. Then disaster strikes.

Captured and sold into slavery by one of Delauny's enemies, Phedre and her sworn bodyguard Joscelin uncover a traitorous plot to betray Terre D'Ange to barbarous Skaldic invaders who are being unified by the charismatic warleader Waldemar Selig. Now, Phedre and Joscelin must find a way to escape their captivity and warn the newly-crowned Queen of Terre D'Ange of the coming invasion.

The narrator has a very pleasant, English-accented voice, and manages to give each character an individual voice. I enjoyed her reading of this very long book, and am looking forward to listening to the other two volumes in this trilogy.

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Shannon
  • Anadarko, OK, USA
  • 08-14-09

Selected readers will love this book.

This series was recommended by a friend. I usually read paranormal type romances, mostly vampires. I was also warned about the Sadism and Masochism. Truly, this plays a roll only to explain Phedra's character. She was born a masochist, it defined her and who she was. It also made her unbelievably strong. That strength was needed for her to succeed in her travails. It is not a book about sex. There is graphic sex included, but it is included to support the plot. Most people know that more things are revealed in pillow talk than in other conversations. I was intrigued from word one, and never read the actual book, Audible was my introduction. However, it is not an "easy read" you actually have to pay attention to what is going on.

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ava
  • Carlsbad, NM, USA
  • 10-01-09

Much better than I thought it would be

I tried to read this book nearly a year ago, but just couldn't get into it. At first impression, it was a little startling for my tastes and I finally put it away thinking this one was not for me. Recently, though, I was looking for a good long audiobook to fill up some travel time, and came across the reviews here. They were good enought that I thought that I'd give it one more try. I'm glad I did.

It's still startling in some aspects. The high emphasis on sexuality as related to pain is still a little off-putting, but it is well incorporated into the storyline. The main character is fascinating; however some of the secondary characters could use a little more fleshing out.

The narrator is reminiscent of Davina Porter. Ms. Flosnik's range of voices is not quite as strong as Ms. Porter's, but she has a style and tone that are very pleasant to listen to. Unlike some narrators I have heard, her voice does not become annoying after a while, nor does it easily fade into background jabber.

All in all, I found myself enjoying this audiobook enough that I'm downloading the next book in the series. I recommend this audiobook highly for mature listeners.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

To Love as Thou Wilt While Craving the Whip

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Helen
  • Austin Texas
  • 05-06-09

Bittersweet!

This is a book of love and hate and the fine line between the two...as a story and for the listener. This may be one of those books better read than listened to, unless you already read the book. Reason being, the first 7 hours are a first person narrative of lands, people, clans, cultures, houses, roles, gods, relations, duties and more...you need a map and outline which the book provides (after I googled in frustration with my utter confusion). During the first part, the first person narrator reminded me of a foreign correspondent report for CNN...I was just waiting for the "this is Christine Amanpor reporting from the Middle East". Because the ratings were so high I figured the book had to get better and less confusing...and it does. The second have of the book continues Phedre narration but with more character dialogue and less summary. What follows is a unique take, a rollicking medieval tale of love, war, friendship, oaths, sword fights, honor and duty, and bettrayal...and the narration becomes more interesting and at times riveting. Yes there is "deviant" sex (in our 21st century standards)on the part of Phedra,the narrator, who must experience pain with pleasure but you understand her plight more as the story evolves and are taken with her courageous spirit and appreciate her forgiving nature. By the end of the book you truly admire the message provided in the story. This is a first book for Jacqueline Carey, and for such an intricate sage it is very impressive. Two books follow this one. If you google Kushiels Chosen at books.google.com you can see a map and list of families/lands which will help in understanding the plots and dimensions of the book. There are three other books developed with different characters.

46 of 53 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Carol
  • Massachusetts
  • 02-20-17

A unique (and complete!) epic fantasy series

Noticed this title, a long-time favorite of mine, is being offered in a “first-in-series” sale on Audible, and decided to give this book and the whole series a shout-out.

The books of "Kushiel's Legacy" are a finished and polished epic, no wondering about when the next volume will come out. Comprising two connected trilogies, each of the six books is complete in itself, but they need to be read in order. They are remarkable for the complexity, likeability, and immediacy of the many characters, their unique take on religion, and an amazing world that’s recognizably based in medieval Europe, but with a slight shift to the magical. It’s as if author Jacqueline Carey thought, “What if instead of a middle ages dominated by religious hatred and persecutions we had a Europe where many different religions, as well as magic, were accepted at face value, and instead of moral certitude there reigned an attitude of ‘love as thou wilt.’”

This is the world of Phaedre, born an anguisette who experiences pain and pleasure as one. Kushiel, as in some Judeo-Christian traditions, is the angel of punishment. Phaedre, narrator of the first three volumes, is raised as a courtesan of exquisite and unique talents and is exactingly schooled in the politics of Terre d’Ange (“Land of the Angels,” analogous to France) and its potential allies and enemies, which she visits (voluntarily or not) in the course of the first trilogy. In the second trilogy, the focus shifts to Imriel, prince of Terre d’Ange, who has been fostered by Phaedre and her consort Joscelin (a warrior-priest of the celibate order of the Angel Casiel—and how *that* love story plays out is worthy of Shakespeare!).

The Phaedre volumes are narrated by Anne Flosnik, who took some getting used to but I came to accept; having already read the books, Phaedre was so indelibly etched in my own mind that I’m not sure any narrator could have satisfied me. Imriel’s books are narrated by the ever-reliable and always enjoyable Simon Vance.

A quick rundown of the series in order:

“Kushiel’s Dart.” A superb classic. Phaedre’s life from early childhood to about 20. Can be read alone or as the start of the series, but is an absolutely necessary foundation for the rest of the books. Explicit S&M sex scenes and one heartbreaking loss.

“Kushiel’s Chosen.” My favorite of the six books. Swashbuckling adventures in Serenissima (Venice) and on the islands of the Mediterranean. Pirates. Plot twists and turns that I never saw coming. More sex scenes. Love triumphs.

“Kushiel’s Avatar.” In many ways the most violent of the trilogy. Takes Phaedre into slavery in the mystical Mideast in a quest to save the life of young Prince Imriel and to fulfil her vow to rescue a dear friend from a life of eternal isolation and misery.

“Kushiel’s Scion” Shift in focus to Prince Imriel de la Courcel, from his adolescence in Terre d’Ange through his college days in Tiberium (Rome). Starts slow, boffo ending.

“Kushiel’s Justice” The slowest of the six books. A sexy start turns into Imriel’s tortured quest for vengeance and atonement. The journey takes him through Skaldia (northern Germany) and into Vralia (Russia). Too much snow and angst, and not enough of the supporting characters that make the other books so wonderful.

“Kushiel’s Mercy” AND it all comes together. The journeys set in motion in Phaedre’s first adventures reach a climax, and it all meshes wonderfully. There’s more magic and less sex in this one than the others, but there’s plenty of edge-of-your-seat adventure and what-will-happen-next.

It should be obvious from all the reviews that if you dislike explicit and/or non-traditional sex, or are troubled by stories that treat religion in highly non-orthodox ways, this series is not for you. But if you like epic fantasy, I think this story equals (although it is much different from) Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” (aka “Game of Thrones”)—*and* it is complete!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • chris
  • Kelowna, BC, Canada
  • 03-29-09

Twisted and unusual

The first part of the book is about courtly intrigue, and describes the setting and characters. The culture and main character are so unusual it kept me reading. Just when I thought the story was starting to sag, the real story begins. The timing and manner of the start of act two were predictable, but the events afterward were not.

Graphic sex pervades the book, as it is integral to the main character. This didn't bother me although it seemed the author had a point to make, with their god saying "love as thou wilt". In fact the protagonist uses sex as her primary, and only, weapon. The author spends enough time describing the culture that the characters' use of sex all makes sense.

The ending was happy without being overly so, and set up a sequel. I felt it coming before finding out that this was in fact part of a series. That isn't a bad thing, but this book could also stand alone.

18 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A total surprise.....

WOW, this book was amazing, it was very hard in the first 2 parts of the book, alot of information is opened up, lots of names are thrown out there that there is some confusion in trying to keep them all in your mind, but as you move forward into the story you find that the key people are easy to keep track of, its a wonderful love story in which I have no ideal of place or time span she writes of, I fell in love with Phedra and her bravesness, I listened to all 3 and now looking forward to the last 3.....

8 of 9 people found this review helpful