Friday, June 27, 2008

Kushiel's Mercy; Jacqueline Carey

Third in the Imriel trilogy, Kushiel’s Mercy was released in June of this year by Grand Central Publishing. The first and second titles in this group are: Kushiel’s Justice and Kushiel’s Scion, both of which I’ve posted about. I don’t recommend reading this one without reading the first two, but to refresh our memory here’s a brief summary.

In Terre d’Ange there is one great traitoress, Melisande Shahrizai. Twice she’s come disturbingly close to overthrowing the rightful monarch, and twice she’s failed. To Phedre Delaunay has fallen the burden and the joy of raising Melisande’s tortured young son, Imriel de la Courcel. Unfortunately for Imriel, he’s also third in line for the throne so suspicion, mistrust and conspiracy theories dog him wherever he goes. In this book Imriel and Sidonie have decided to be lovers openly. However, Sidonie’s mother, Queen Ysandre, has strong opinions regarding Melisande’s son and her heir and their relationship. For Sidonie is her mother’s heir and Imriel can never escape his mother’s legacy. But Elua’s precept is strong in Terre d’Ange and even the monarch thinks twice about interfering between those deemed to love one another truly.

I must say, for me the strongest part of this novel was seeing Melisande from a whole new viewpoint- from that of her wounded and suspicious son. It was not delved into in any emotional depth, yet I enjoyed watching the mother-son interaction anyway. Melisande was rounded and humanized more than in the past. Imriel’s interactions with her had a tentative, “tread carefully” feel to them. The other section I really enjoyed was Leander and Sidonie. It gives away too much plot to explain, but let us say that a nefarious political plot has resulted in Sidonie sailing far away from Terre d’Ange. Over the series my impression of Imriel is that he’s young and had a long road ahead of him to establish his identity and his name separate from his mother. It is a tint unique to this trilogy, I think. Phedre’s trilogy is not touched with light tones and joy and growth in the same way.

The intimate scenes don’t have the same honey-sweet thick sensuality and dread of Phedre’s trilogy, and yet they are bound in joy and limned in love and the fierce (and frequent!) desire of two who are fated to be together. In the end third it seemed to me that one obstacle after another was thrown before them, one more barrier. One more problem. And yet, as frustrating and annoying as that was, the end made it all worth it. Not the wedding. The whispers between Leander (what a lovely Shakespearean name!) and Phedre. Melisande’s message. The intimation that all is not necessarily over yet.

The shift in tone and perspective to this trilogy from the first has been difficult. Essentially this is yet another coming of age book. Imriel is of a similar age to Phedre (in her first two books), yet he is lighter and younger in outlook than she ever was. A gift from her to him, I suppose. The gift of a childhood that otherwise he might never have had. One that she herself was denied. The other major problem I had was the device used to push Sidonie and Imriel apart and send Imriel on yet another quest. Not only was it unbelievable, but the reader is asked to believe it was effective over the entire population of the capitol city. Ysandre, Drustan, Joscelin, Phedre. Everyone. Except Imriel. I had to give that one a bye. It was simply too much. I sort of set it aside in my mind and kept on with the road adventure aspects of this last book.

Even with these issues Imriel’s adventures and attempts to thwart the will of the Gods have been fun to watch. Jacqueline Carey is a wonderful, lyrical writer, and her gifts are on display here. I found it well worth all of my anticipation.

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