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11 August 2006 @ 07:00 pm
Kushiel's Scion, by Jacqueline Carey  
Title: Kushiel's Scion
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Fantasy

Summary: At the age of fourteen, Imriel de la Courcel has already experienced enough adventure to last a lifetime. But he has finally returned to Terre d'Ange to claim his title and true heritage: as the son of Melisande Shahrizai, the greatest political traitor in d'Angeline history, and Benedict de la Courcel, uncle to the current Queen, which makes him third in line for the throne of Terre d'Ange.

He struggles to escape the shadow of his parents' treachery while coming to terms with the dark passions of his Shahrizai blood, trying to do his best to live up to the considerable legacy of his beloved foster parents, Phedre and Joscelin, both of whom are decorated heroes of the realm. Still unhealed from the traumas of his ruined childhood, he is driven to "be good," but the complications and intrigues of court life eventually drive him away from his homeland once again.

Unable to face the expectations pushed on him by the d'Angeline court, he travels to Tiberium, where he hopes to finally find some comfort in his own skin. Here, he lives the impoverished life of a gentleman-scholar and is able to be nothing more than another face in the crowd.

Or so he would if he didn't become involved with Claudia Fulvia, a sensual senator's wife inextricably tangled in intrigue herself, and her brother, Lucius Tadius, who is haunted by the ghosts of his family. In the adventures of a year, Imriel finally learns to accept himself and his responsibilities to his realm, making choices on the decisions that drove him away.

Now if he could just survive the Siege of Lucca...

Review: I know, I know... Crappy summary. But if you've ever read anything by Carey, you know how complicated her books are.

Kushiel's Scion is the sequel to the trilogy Kushiel's Legacy (Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar), which are all narrated by Phedre Delaunay, Imriel's foster mother. When I picked the first one up, I was overwhelmed by the pace and scope of the storyline, but as I read through the trilogy, I found myself in love with the world Carey had created, which is basically Renaissance Europe set in an alternate universe. Her rich depiction and truly imaginative turns of plot kept me guessing until the end. Not to mention the tastefully written S & M heavy smut. Sounds like an oxymoron, but she does it somehow, and she does it well. By the time I finished Avatar, I was hooked.

Naturally, when Scion came out, I picked it up as soon as possible. It's good. But not great. However, I do think that I've gotten too used to the impossible deeds of Phedre, who is a God's Chosen. And honestly, after reading about retrieving the Name of God, any other accomplishment just seems trivial, you know?

But generally speaking...

Good points: Carey continues to write beautifully. After the first trilogy, a lot of people said that she writes fantasy the way it's meant to be written, and I heartily agree. Though it gets purple, the elaborate language is absolutely perfect for her characters. Imriel's not quite as descriptive as Phedre, so Scion's a bit more straightforward. But the detail, the meticulously researched cultures, the complicated characters... It's all there. She manages to make everything grandiose without being pretentious.

Like the first books, she really thinks things through here. Her continuity is pretty much spotless, and everything is so logical. There isn't a moment where you have to force yourself to gloss over an obvious hole in the plot. Everything works believably. And even though she throws in many supernatural elements, they feel natural. The stories and characters revolve heavily around gods and religions, but it's never overbearing. There are clear parallels drawn to Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, etc., but it's all very skillfully woven into the lives of the characters, and there's no obvious bias one way or another. One thing that's stated by the characters is that d'Angelines understand that they are Earth's youngest children and respect the deities of all nations, and she gives equal respect and introspection everywhere.

Bad points: the plot's kind of boring. But like I said, when you're used to the adventures of a God-Chosen heroine, everything seems boring. But on the other hand, I feel like she really limited her scope with this one. I think it was intentional, because Imriel isn't like Phedre. Carey said herself that he's trying to make a name for himself outside the auspices of his foster parents, so he has to build it up. Overall, though, it just wasn't as fun, because Imriel does his best to avoid trouble instead of throwing himself into it, like Phedre.

Another problem, I think, is that unlike the first trilogy, there isn't a compelling villain at work. Melisande Shahrizai has got to be one of the best villains ever created, and while the entire book is tainted by her presence--how not, when it's about her son--it's a completely different side of her here. But there's no one to take her place. The Duke of Valpetra is bad but not devious, and the demons that Imriel faces are either completely internal or are forces of nature that he can't get around.

Speaking of which...

Carey's semi-trademark is that she always has two plots in one book. The main character always goes on what amounts to two quests. I felt like the second half of the book was really forced. With Dart, I had problems with the pacing, but I understood why Phedre had to go on. But with Scion, it's like Carey suddenly decided that Imriel needed some action, too, so she throws this story in out of nowhere. It's kind of hinted at, but still. The book is such a nice character study, and then it just suddenly switches tack.

So overall... Still a good read, but it wasn't her best. Hopefully, the second book will live up to expectations.

(Sorry this is so long... >.<)
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