“The Eye of the World” Graphic Novel, Volumes Three and Four

Not surprisingly, after my last post, I read Volumes Three, Four, and Five straight through. I still haven’t read Volume Six, though (primarily because I didn’t have it yet), so I’ll save my review for Volume Five until then to be symmetrical. Anyway. here we go. I’m assuming you’ve read the novel version of The Eye of the World and I might allude to future books, but no  spoilers.

Volume Three

eotwv3The party is forced to retreat to the abandoned and dangerous Mines of Moria Shadar Logoth since they’re surrounded by Orcs Trollocs and there’s nowhere to go. Every time I reread this book, I’m always struck by how many story beats The Eye of the World seems to have borrowed from Lord of the Rings – that’s probably why I wasn’t really interested in reading the series after I read it for the first time (and now I want to reread the series every few months, it seems like). Anyway, Shadar Logoth is creepy, and Mordeth looked very different from how I’d imagined him, but I liked the way he was depicted. I know Mat has to go through his whole insane phase before he becomes awesome, but I was really hoping somehow that he wouldn’t touch that dagger. Unfortunately, he did, although the full effects aren’t apparent in this book.

Anyway, the party finally splits up (I say “finally” because I’m mostly used to everyone being in different places and having their own story – I guess everyone doesn’t diverge fully until The Shadow Rising, but I like the multiple character arcs). Egwene and Perrin head into the woods and run into Elyas (who also looks very different than I thought he would – for some reason, I never imagined him with a beard, although when I thought about it, he’s not really likely to shave living in the woods with wolves…) and the Tinkers. The Tinkers were exactly as I’d pictured them, especially Aram. I forgot all about the dying Aiel speaking of the Eye of the World story, but it was nice to see it illustrated. I was glad to get to the wolves, too – it’s the first sign we get of Perrin’s destiny – he and Mat so much more interesting than Rand.

Although, Mat is not interesting yet – he escapes with Rand and Thom onto Bayle Domon’s ship, heading for Whitebridge. I love Bayle Domon, and I also forgot about how he said the Trollocs seemed to be following him for some reason. The reason won’t become clear until later books, but it’s such a small thing to miss! Also we see the Tower of Ghenjei! Mat is sulking his way through the whole trip, but Rand is finding himself strangely exhilarated. They go into Whitebridge and have the encounter with a Fade, and Thom is awesome. They flee Whitebridge and Rand insists that the rest of their party must be alive, since the Darkfriends are looking for them. Elsewhere, Egwene and Perrin are also affirming to each other that the rest of the party must be alive. It’s a good place to end the volume.

Volume Four

eotwv4Volume Four wasn’t as exciting as the previous one – Mat and Rand are on the road to Caemlyn, and don’t do very much. They have a bunch of encounters with low-level Darkfriends – Howal Gode, Paitr, Mili Skane (although we don’t know that yet) that they narrowly escape from. The dream featuring Ba’alzamon and Howal Gode is particularly gruesome. Also, side note: it’s way clearer who Ba’alzamon is when you actually see him, I didn’t really realize what was going on with him until I reread the series. But when you can compare his face to his other appearance, it makes a lot more sense.

So Rand and Mat play music in inns and work in farms, Rand attracts the eye of a cooped up farmgirl, Mat gets more and more suspicious and scary, and complains a lot. He does not say “my precious” at any point, but he’s basically turning into Gollum. That sequence has always been one of my least favourites (I can’t bear to see Mat like that!), so I was glad to see it done. But they meet some nice people too, and they finally get to Caemlyn, and the grandness of the city is the last panel of the volume.

Egwene and Perrin continue to travel with the Tinkers until Elyas deems it necessary for them to leave. That sign comes fairly suddenly, and they part ways. I like Egwene and Perrin’s friendship, I wish they had more opportunities to explore that, especially given their shared future talent. They make for Caemlyn, but are chased by swarms of ravens intent on pecking them to death. You wouldn’t think that birds would be that scary, but the short scene where a fox is torn apart in seconds is given very effective/disturbing page time. They make for an abandoned Ogier stedding, where a giant statue of Arthur Hawkwing was once built and abandoned. The statue is very well done, and conveyed the eerie atmosphere of the place admirably.

But then the Whitecloaks show up (I really do not like the Whitecloaks, I want to balefire them all, zealots are frustrating) and kill Hopper (HOPPER!) and Perrin goes all berserker, and Egwene and Perrin are captured. The commander, Bornhald seems like a nice guy, but a nice guy who’s a zealot is still not a very nice guy, and Perrin is destined for execution. I don’t even understand why the Whitecloaks started chasing the wolves in the first place; why couldn’t they have just made their camp and left? Anyway, Perrin and Egwene are firmly in Whitecloak hands now.

And yeah, Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve are in these two volumes too (I don’t remember which one), and Nynaeve learns that she can channel. Lan and Nynaeve express their mutual admiration for one another in subtle ways (another thing which I totally did not pick up on on my first read) and Moiraine is slightly frustrated. But they’re not in this very much.

The next volume is a lot of fun – especially introductions to Loial and Elayne. I’m looking forward to reviewing it.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Three by Robert Jordan & Chuck Dixon (The Wheel of Time Graphic Novels, #3)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Four by Robert Jordan & Chuck Dixon (The Wheel of Time Graphic Novels, #4)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

The Belgariad by David Eddings


The Belgariad is a five book series, and one of the classics of fantasy. I’ve had a copy of the first book, Pawn of Prophecy sitting around for a couple of years after I found it for really cheap at a Half-Price Books, but I just got around to reading it last month, and quickly tore through the rest of the series.

The plot of the Belgariad is pretty stereotypical – an oblivious farmboy is actually the Chosen One of a prophecy and has to go on a quest with a band of flawed heroes and a wise and greying old wizard to retrieve a magical item. The characters and self-awareness really make it a great read, though. I found out afterwards that the series is so entrenched in fantasy tropes on purpose, and the whole thing stemmed from a challenge to write a really cliched series that was also engaging. Here’s Eddings talking about it:

The story itself is fairly elemental – Good vs. Evil, Nice Guys vs. Nasty Guys (or Them vs. Us). It has the usual Quest, the Magic (or Holy) Thingamajig, the Mighty Sorcerer, the Innocent Hero, and the Not Quite So Innocent Heroine — along with a widely varied group of Mighty Warriors with assorted character faults. It wanders around for five books until it finally climaxes with the traditional duel between “Our Hero” and the “Bad Guy.” (Would it spoil anything for you if I tell you that our side wins?)

There are certainly some flaws with the series – the dialogue is very blithe, and everyone just gets straight to the heart of the matter. It’s refreshing in a way, but it sometimes makes it hard to engage with the characters. Also, I wasn’t really a fan of the racial stereotyping – everyone from a particular race acts exactly according to the characteristics of their race – Thulls are stupid, Sendars are practical, Drasnians are sneaky, Tolnedrans are avaricious, Arends are dense. It’s still a good series, though, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel series, the Mallorean and the companion books, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on each of the books individually – SPOILERS ENSUE.

Pawn of Prophecy

This is pretty much what you’d expect – sinister figures come looking for farmboy Garion just as the all-powerful Orb of Aldur is stolen, and he must go on a quest to retrieve it with his protector, Aunt Pol (who is not-so-secretly Polgara the Sorceress), her father (the aforementioned Wise Wizard) Belgarath, Silk and Barak, nobles of their respective empires, and the regular guy, Durnik. We go through a couple of different countries, where it’s revealed that the long-awaited prophecy is coming to fruition, and Garion is (obliviously) the center of it all. This novel is mainly setup and worldbuilding, the quest gets started and we start to get to know the characters.

Queen of Sorcery

Our Heroes are still on their quest to retrieve the Orb of Aldur – they’re not in any terrible hurry since they keep stopping by the center of government in every country they pass to warn them to muster their armies up for the coming fulfillment of prophecy. The quest also picks up Ce’Nedra, Garion’s intended bride (although neither of them know it) and there’s some awful snake queen with insatiable sexual appetite stuff that’s a cliche I would have been happy to do without. Also, Garion goes through two of the more important Hero phases – whining/sulking/fighting against his destiny, and the development of his obligatory magical powers.

Ce’Nedra is pretty intolerable in this book – she’s very spoilt, I couldn’t believe that she was actually supposed to be the main love interest.

Magician’s Gambit

The first half of the book is pretty similar to the rest of the first two – we tour more countries and pick up more quest members. The story is entirely driven by prophecy, and the series’ self-awareness is taken to a whole new level as we discover that the prophecy is sentient and controls Garion’s actions sometimes. In the second half of the book we finally enter enemy territory and the Orb is recovered. It’s a bit frustrating that Garion still thinks that he’s some unimportant ward of Polgara’s, and everything’s going to go back to the way it was, but Polgara and Silk are awesome characters, so that’s okay. Ce’Nedra continues to be whiny and awful, though.

Castle of Wizardry

The fellowship escapes with the Orb of Aldur, and Garion is finally told that he is the long-lost descendant of the Rivan King, although not until he’s actually in Riva. There’s a nice scene where Polgara, Garion and Ce’Nedra go back to the farm where Garion grew up, and he realizes that he really doesn’t belong there anymore. Of course, then he’s made the Rivan King, and he is thrust straight back into confusion as he becomes the ruler of a place he knows absolutely nothing about, and he does the only sensible thing – runs away (with Silk and Belgarath). Unfortunately, he’s not actually escaping his responsibilities, though – he’s hastening the fated meeting between himself and the evil god Torak, so that he can save as many innocent lives as possible.

One good thing about Garion’s departure is that Ce’Nedra grows up a bit. She’s pretty hilarious when she realizes that she has to marry him, but just as she’s coming to terms with it, he’s gone to an uncertain future. She pulls together and maneuvers herself into a position of authority and rallies the kingdoms together.

Enchanters’ End Game

This also goes pretty much as you’d predict from the last book of the series – Garion and Torak meet and fight, but really its a duel of Prophecies taking over their bodies. The two opposing hordes meet in several battles, and lives are lost and people are irreparably injured on both sides. Everything ends happily, though, and almost everyone gets paired up – even Polgara, in one of the more touching / hilarious sequences. Silk just gets paired up with a business venture though, which is great.

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #1)
Del Rey, 1982 | Buy the book

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #2)
Del Rey, 1982 | Buy the book

Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #3)
Del Rey, 1983 | Buy the book

Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #4)
Del Rey, 1984 | Buy the book

Enchanters’ End Game by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #5)
Del Rey, 1984 | Buy the book

“Valour and Vanity” by Mary Robinette Kowal

Valour-and-VanityJane and Vincent are back in the fourth Glamourist Histories book, Valour and Vanity.  Lord Byron has invited them to visit him in Venice, and they’re looking forward to the opportunity to work with the famed glassmakers of Murano to develop their method of storing glamour inside glass. However, things go horribly wrong as they’re attacked by Barbary pirates on the way and lose all their possessions.

This series keeps getting better! The blurb for this book advertises a heist, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler, even though it happened later in the book than I thought it would. I was somewhat skeptical about the circumstances that would lead to the Vincents needing to perform a heist, but Kowal makes it pretty believable that they have no other choice (especially given Vincent’s well-established stubborn streak). I’m a sucker for heists, though, so I probably didn’t need that much convincing.

I’m not really in a paragraph mood today, so I’m going to finish off this review with bullet points.

  • The heist itself was very well executed (Kowal thanks Scott Lynch in the credits, and he’s basically the fantasy heist god, so there’s that). The hidden plan-within-a-plan was pulled off very smoothly, especially given that we see the whole thing from Jane’s point of view and know that there’s a hidden plan.
  • I’ve always loved Venice as a setting – I loved it when I visited, and watching my husband play through the Assassin’s Creed games also makes me feel like have a certain familiarity with it. Murano isn’t Venice, but it’s close, and Kowal captures the feel of it really well, even though we see it at a low point in its history.
  • I loved the supporting characters! The nuns, Signor Zancani, and especially Lord Byron! It’s so cool that Lord Byron is a character, and he’s every bit as rascally as I would expect, but also every bit as brilliant. And it makes so much sense that he would be friends with the Vincents.
  • I learn so much about history from these books. I didn’t know anything about the kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, and the troubles faced by the glassmakers of Murano.
  • Jane and Vincent go through some pretty hard times in this book. While I don’t exactly enjoy it when they go through yet another harrowing experience, they grow a lot from it. In Glamour in Glass, Jane was shocked by French sensibilities, in Without A Summer, she recognized her own prejudice about Catholics. In this book, she learns what it’s like to be poor, and to fall from nobility – there’s a particularly poignant moment where she makes a single impulse purchase.

The next book, Of Noble Family is going to be the last Glamourist Histories book, and it comes out in April. I have an ARC, though, so expect a review soon. I’m sure it will be just as good as the rest!

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal (Glamourist Histories, #4)
Tor Books, 2014 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

“The Forever Knight” by John Marco

The Forever KnightI approached The Forever Knight with some trepidation because it was the fourth book in a series that I hadn’t read (The Bronze Knight), and I haven’t read a series out-of-order in more than ten years.  However, it turned out to be pretty good and stands very well on its own.

Lukien is the Bronze Knight, a hero in his world. However, he’s old and barely keeping himself together – he has lost the love of his life and watched his best friend go insane. It’s pretty much the worst time for him to become near immortal, but so life goes. An Akari magician’s spirit named Malator lives within his sword, keeping him alive despite Lukien’s best efforts and insisting that Lukien still has a destiny to fulfill. So he sets out as knight-errant to Akyre, in the ever-warring Bitter Kingdoms, to help his friend Cricket regain her lost memories.

The story is told from the first person perspective, which is very hard to get right, but Lukien has a very believable voice. He’s clearly been through a lot, and his struggle to find purpose in his new life is compelling. It’s interesting to see his thoughts and insecurities from an inside perspective – to everyone else, he is a living legend, but to the reader, he’s just a person who is as capable of making bad decisions as anyone else (and he makes some pretty bad ones in the book, although he can’t really be blamed for them because he didn’t have enough information to make better ones).

The other characters are also quite likeable, especially Cricket – her obvious hero-worship of Lukien mixed with her carefully cultivated shell of quirkiness was pretty poignant. The interactions between characters was sometimes a little too abrupt (both trust and distrust seemed to be acquired relatively easily), but I’m not complaining – it just took a bit of time to get used to, and it did help advance the plot quickly.

The plot itself seemed like a setup for future books; even though it’s the fourth book, Lukien’s life has changed completely, so it reads like the first book of a new series. He’s lost everything that defined him, so he’s discovering himself again, his powers, his boundaries and his purpose. In the beginning, he’s an aimless adventurer, and through his adventures, he makes some questionable decisions and ends up wiser and more focused.

I’m intrigued by Lukien’s world – Malator and the Akari in particular are very mysterious. I really enjoyed Malator’s character, but I’m somewhat suspicious of his motives. I’m not sure if there’s more about the Akari in the previous books of the series, so I might be way off base, but I’m very curious to find out what exactly he wants from Lukien, and why the Akari do what they do (it’s explained that they get to live with the help of humans, but it doesn’t seem like that much of a life).

Overall, a pretty good book, and a great introduction to Marco’s work. I’m looking forward to reading more about Lukien’s past in the first three books (starting with The Eyes of God) as well as seeing where his story goes in future installments.

Note: I received a review copy of The Forever Knight from the author via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion. See more details and a full schedule of the book tour here.

tlc tour host

You may also be interested in my interview with John Marco, the author of The Forever Knight.

The Forever Knight by John Marco (Books of the Bronze Knight, #4)
DAW Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

Wheel of Time Reread #4: The Shadow Rising

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

200px-WoT04_TheShadowRisingThese books just keep on getting better!

Finally, everyone isn’t just trying to make their way to the same place so that Rand can battle Ishmael (and think he’s killed the Dark One himself) – each character gets to have an adventure of their own! Except for Mat, anyway, who spends the majority of the book trying to get away and go where he wants to.

There’s a pretty extended setup in Tear, where each character’s story arc gets set up. Egwene, Mat and Rand are headed to Rhuidean, but for very different reasons – Egwene to learn Dreaming from the Aiel, Rand to proclaim himself He Who Comes With The Dawn, and Mat because the Eelfinn told him to. Perrin and Faile head to the Two Rivers to protect it from Whitecloaks, accompanied by Loial and some Aiel. Nynaeve and Elayne head to Tanchico to continue on their Black Ajah hunt, accompanied by a bullied Thom. Meanwhile, Min reaches the White Tower and accidentally precipitates a split.

This is kind of the Trolloc attack book – both Rand and Perrin’s parties get attacked by Shadowspawn at least four separate times. It got a tiny bit repetitive, but Perrin’s Two Rivers heroics were some of the best parts of the book.

More romances get set up – Rand/Elayne (with some nifty handling by Egwene), and Rand/Aviendha (along with Rand realising that he likes Min “as much as he likes Elayne”). I’m not sure if it was clear to me at this point during my initial read that Rand ends up with all three, or if I thought it was just annoying “who do I pick” angst. It’s certainly not clear to Rand. The Moiraine/Thom romance also gets set up – I’ve always wondered what brought those two together, but now I understand. Moiraine is Cairhienin and Thom is really skilled at daes dae’mar, so she’s super impressed with his manipulative abilities. I only dimly remembered Thom’s manipulations, but it’s definitely good to see someone that’s not Aes Sedai pulling strings. And Nynaeve and Lan finally make out!

Perrin and Faile’s relationship continued to be annoying in the beginning, but Faile mellows out over the course of the book and by the end, they’re married and feel like they really belong together. The whole Berelain thing was also annoying… I don’t remember how Berelain ends up traveling with Perrin and Faile, but I don’t think it would’ve been as much of a problem if Faile hadn’t overreacted and tried to knife her…

Also – Birgitte! Asmodean! Moghedien! Yay! And Sevanna and Luc/Isam – ugh! And more plot thread foreshadowing – Galad drinking with Whitecloaks, Rand “remembering” that Lanfear loved power, Rand trying to revive someone from the dead after using Callandor, Alanna eyeing Perrin after losing a Warder, the Black Ajah being after the male a’dam

Nynaeve and Elayne being separated from Egwene was a good thing – the viewpoint usually defaulted to Egwene when they were all together, so we got to know them better. I loved that Nynaeve got her own climactic battle with a Forsaken, especially when she realises that she is at least as strong as Moghedien in the midst of it. Finally, she understands her potential. Elayne is still a bit bland, but Jordan does a great job of differentiating how her upbringing and background shaped her – she’s definitely spoiled/naive, but has her heart in the right place and is never obnoxious. I was glad that Egeanin showed up too, I love Egeanin and she does a great job of humanising the Seanchan.

Speaking of Forsaken, I didn’t realise how much of a obsessed stalker creep Lanfear was – when I read the books the first time, she seemed magnificently evil… now she just seems pathetic. I totally didn’t pick up on the peddlers being Lanfear and Asmodean either, or Asmodean’s intent to go to Rhuidean. I also didn’t pick up from my first reading that Rand cuts Asmodean off from the True Power – now I understand why Asmodean helps Rand. I liked that the theme of “someone needs to teach Rand!” was carried all the way from Tear, where Egwene and Elayne try to help to Rand finally finding a “trustworthy” teacher in Asmodean.

The Aes Sedai are further revealed to be less and less powerful – Moiraine is increasingly stressed by her inability to influence Rand (but is naturally secretive and mysterious, so Rand doesn’t even trust her when she’s right), Siuan is still so obsessed with trying to make plans for Rand that she doesn’t see dissension in her own ranks. Even Elayne notices this when she realises that both Aiel Wise Ones and Sea Folk Windfinders can channel and hold honoured places in their society, but Aes Sedai swear unbreakable oaths but are still mistrusted everywhere.

I didn’t realise that Gawyn ends up being such a jerk – rallying the trainee Warders to go kill real Warders in support of Elaida? Wow. Especially when he spends the first half of the book teasing Min. I can’t believe he ends up Egwene’s Warder. (Also, Egwene is still pretty annoying in this book. I know she gets awesome eventually, but in this book she’s just Hermione – eager to learn, but with no graces).

Other things that were awesome – the two chapters where Rand goes through the columns at Rhuidean and learns about Aiel history and the fall of the Age of Legends (and we learn that the previous age had airplanes and cars) and the origins of Tinkers, Maidens, a lot of Aiel customs. Loial is also awesome – I am not sure how he manages to be so adorable without bursting.

There’s still a bunch of stuff that probably could make it into this post, but I’ll stop. One last thought – if the Ogier and the original Aiel (that turned into Tinkers) sang the same songs to make things grow and Loial is a treesinger – why haven’t the Tinkers found the song from the Ogier?

The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #4)
Tor Books, 1992 | Buy the book

“Ship of Magic” by Robin Hobb

Ship of Magic coverThis is a catch up review for Ship of Magic, the first book in the Liveship Traders trilogy. This trilogy stands by itself, but it is set in the same world as the Farseer trilogy, although the setting and characters are almost completely different.

This is also the series that made me a huge fan of Robin Hobb. Although I liked the Farseer trilogy (see my reviews of book 1, book 2 and book 3), the ending left me a bit confused and I really wanted to see the world sketched out a bit more. Hobb certainly does that and a lot more.

The story begins in the port city of Bingtown, a heavily taxed but otherwise neglected exclave of the nation of Jamallia. Bingtown Trader families are famous for their liveships – vessels carved from a special type of wood that ripens into sentience after three people in the family die aboard. Althea Vestrit has been waiting all her life for their ship Vivacia to quicken – even with the sadness of her father’s death accompanying it. She has grown up on board the ship and fully expects to inherit it, but when it actually happens, she’s in for a nasty shock – the ship instead goes to her greedy brother-in-law Kyle. Althea’s gentle cousin Wintrow is training to be a priest and greatly enjoying it, but his father Kyle is determined to make a sailor out of him – by force if necessary. The newly awakened and confused Vivacia needs someone with Vestrit blood aboard her, but all she has is Wintrow, imprisoned upon her against his will. And there’s Kennit who is not satisfied with being the most successful pirate of his time, and his plans will lead him directly into Vivacia’s path.

Hobb is never unduly kind to her characters – she makes them work really hard and go through a lot (it’s almost physically painful to read about sometimes, but at least it pays off in the end, unlike some authors I could name.) They are not Chosen Ones – they are just fairly ordinary people that only become heroes because they care about something very much, and will cross any obstacles for it. Althea is no exception – she’s stubborn, spirited and impertinent. I found myself alternating between cheering for her and being exasperated at her obstinate sense of entitlement. She loves Vivacia and after a few days of utter despair, makes up her mind that she will do anything to get her back – including proving her seamanship by enlisting on a dangerous whaling ship. Wintrow is also very well written, especially his relationship to Vivacia. He resents her because her need for Vestrit blood has chained him to her, but he also recognises that she’s sad and confused and needs his help.

Another thing I love about Hobb’s fantasy is that there are no straight up villains. Everyone is complex and changeable, and Kennit is no exception. He’s got some backstory behind his desire to capture a liveship, and he prides himself on being just and practical, and he’s even kind most of the time. He also manipulates people for his own ends, but Hobb never portrays it as evil – he’s just the product of his circumstances. The supporting cast is also really well envisioned – especially other Vestrit women (Ronica, Keffria and Malta.)

The plot is really just a function of the characters’ natural actions – although there is the lingering issue of the sea serpents. Hobb’s descriptive writing and the complex history of Bingtown and the Rain Wilds really brings the setting to life.

Highly recommended, even if you’ve never read anything else by Hobb.

Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb (Liveship Traders, #1)
Bantam Spectra, 1998 | Buy the book

“Kushiel’s Scion”, “Kushiel’s Justice” and “Kushiel’s Mercy” by Jacqueline Carey

I am once again behind on my reviews, so I’ll be reviewing the second Kushiel’s Legacy trilogy (Kushiel’s Scion, Kushiel’s Justice, and Kushiel’s Mercy) in this post. WARNING: Contains spoilers for the first (Phèdre) trilogy – Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, and Kushiel’s Avatar.

Kushiel’s Scion

Our protagonist is now Imriel de la Courcel, the son of the infamous Melisande Shahrizai, Terre D’Ange’s greatest traitor, and the foster son of our beloved Phèdre and Joscelin. The story begins with a fourteen year old Imriel, who is being raised by Phèdre and Joscelin, much to Queen Ysandre’s chagrin.

I’m a sucker for good coming of age stories, and this is definitely one of them. Imriel is a complex and sympathetic character, and his character arc is thoroughly satisfying. He starts out as a confused young man, unsure of how to deal with his parentage and the mistrust that that generates, despairing of ever living up to his foster parents – heroes of the realm, sickened by his desires (being Kushiel’s scion and having lived through the zenana of Darsanga do not mix well.) He finds friendship and attraction, maybe even love, and escapes Terre D’Ange, before realising that he can’t run away from who he is. And of course, he ends up saving a few people along the way.

As with all of Carey’s stories, the plot just flows and is beautifully written. It’s fascinating to see Phèdre viewed through third party eyes, as well as others, like Nicola L’Envers y Aragon and Queen Ysandre, who Imriel does not like, and the Shahrizais, who Phèdre has always mistrusted (but Imriel gets along with.) Phèdre and Joscelin make great parents, and it’s a joy to see them in this role.

I also enjoyed the quintessential coming-of-age experience – university. Traveling to yet another part of Carey’s Earth was terrific – especially a city as iconic as Rome. Imriel’s relationships, both friendships and romances were also very believable. And of course, there’s the Unseen Guild, which I couldn’t wait to learn more about.

The climax in Lucca – both the problem and  the resolution were not what I expected, although they were foreshadowed heavily. Carey seems to be using more and more magic as the series progresses, but that’s not a bad thing.

Overall – great characters, great world, great writing, great story. The end is especially touching.

Kushiel’s Justice

After the events of Kushiel’s Scion, Imriel nó Montrève de la Courcel has realised that he must accept who he is and his position in life. In light of this, he agrees to Ysandre and Drustan’s proposal that he wed Dorelei, an Alban princess, so that his children can inherit the Alban throne and Terre D’Ange’s ties with Alba are solidified. However, he doesn’t account for his crush on Sidonie – his cousin and heir to the throne of Terre D’Ange – developing into a torrid (mutual) love which must be kept secret.

This book is a further coming of age for Imriel – he’s accepted his parentage and his personal desires, but he does not yet understand what it means to be D’Angeline, especially of Elua and Kushiel’s lines. He weds Dorelei in the name of duty, but this violates Elua’s one precept, “Love as thou wilt“. Alba’s great magicians, the Maghuin Dhonn (people of the brown bear), oppose Imriel and Dorelei’s union, and bind him magically with his desire for Sidonie. Things go downhill from there.

In the end, at great personal cost, Imriel learns that he should not defy the will of the gods (especially when it is also his own will) for the sake of duty, and also truly accepts Kushiel’s gift of merciful justice. This book is tremendously sad, but a good read – Carey is truly a skilled writer. All my compliments for Kushiel’s Scion apply here as well.

Kushiel’s Mercy

Imriel has survived the events of Kushiel’s Justice and is finally fully at peace with himself. His relationship with Sidonie has been publicly revealed, and Queen Ysandre is beside herself with anger. She cannot openly forbid their love – that would be against Elua’s precept, but she has threatened to disinherit Sidonie if she marries Imriel – unless he can track down Melisande Shahrizai and bring her to Terre D’Ange to be executed.

Imriel has no great love for his mother, but he doesn’t really want to see her executed. However, he loves Sidonie, so he resolves to fulfill Ysandre’s condition anyway. Before he can begin, however, Terre D’Ange faces a greater threat – one which could drive it to destruction.

This is probably my least favourite of the Imriel books (it’s still very very good) – I would’ve loved the straight up story of Imriel having to find his mother. I loved that portion of the story – Melisande meeting Imriel, and her redemption, and the full circle that the characters came to.

However, a large portion of the book is dedicated to magic, memory loss and effects of arcane arts, which wasn’t nearly as interesting. The thing about Carey’s magic is that it doesn’t have any rules – magic can do anything, and there’s no described system. It can be a deus ex machina or a huge obstacle.I think her strongest writing is to do with characters and their motivations and their actions – that seems to follow a logical pattern, at least. The magic does afford Imriel the chance to save Terre D’Ange and be reckoned a hero, though – the populace finally loves him.

It was heartbreaking to see Phèdre and Joscelin be deluded by magic – that’s just not done. However, deluded-Imriel and deluded-Sidonie falling in love again made for a more compelling romance than their actual romance.

A fairly good end to the trilogy.

Kushiel’s Scion by Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Legacy, #4)
Tor Books, 2006 | Buy the book

Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Legacy, #5)
Tor Books, 2007 | Buy the book

Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Legacy, #6)
Tor Books, 2008 | Buy the book