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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love as thou wilt
A beautifully crafted piece of writing, containing some very clever ideas. The story is set in an alternate middle ages with a completely new religious mythology. Although it's tempting to gloss over the religion at first, (especially if you're a speed reader as I am)do try not to, as the religion is the basis of the story, the belief system motivating both main...
Published on 5 May 2004 by busylizzie

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't finish the book
I know people have rated this highly, so obviously it appeals to some very much. I'm afraid I'm not one of them.

The quality of the writing is fine -- idiosyncratic, but the idiosyncrasies are those of the character. The created world is drawn with much attention to detail.

However, I gave up reading half-way through (and wavered several times before...
Published on 14 Jan 2010 by D. I. Macdonald


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love as thou wilt, 5 May 2004
A beautifully crafted piece of writing, containing some very clever ideas. The story is set in an alternate middle ages with a completely new religious mythology. Although it's tempting to gloss over the religion at first, (especially if you're a speed reader as I am)do try not to, as the religion is the basis of the story, the belief system motivating both main characters. This is a tale of treachery, love and betrayal, but most particularly love in all it's forms. There's the love for one's friends and fellow man, love for one's country, love for one's Gods (even when they drive you hard)and erotic love. There is a lovely erotic undercurrent throughout the book as our heroine comes to terms with the fact that she feels pain as pleasure and what this means for her when she is enslaved.
There's plenty of political shenanigans, spying and battles. I couldn't resist looking at the maps every now and again and trying to work out where the characters were in modern terms.
And how many of us could resist the Cassiline? What a knight in shining armour! I love the way he starts out a pompous idiot and his character develops through adversity. The Perfect Companion indeed.
Not so much magical as mystical, I highly recommend Kushiel's Dart and the following two novels in the trilogy.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating and lush novel, 11 Nov 2002
This review is from: Kushiel's Dart (Paperback)
I was attracted to this novel by the heroine Phedre's physical marker - which I share and which sets her apart and determines the path of her life from infancy - a scarlet mote in her left eye.
The book may be daunting in size but it has an ambitious range and the author writes superbly and sensually. Here is finally a book which deals on a cerebral and physical level dealing often with the extremes of intimate relations (especially due to Phedre's unusual propensities as an anguissette derived from the spot in her eye, Kushiel's dart).
Without elaborating too much, the setting of Phedre's world appears to be a Europe after the Crucifixion which did not occur exactly as it does in the bible. Instead a new deity was born from the blood of Christ and the tears of Mary Magdalene leading to a number of other events which are detailed in the book. The upshot is that Phedre is born into a pleasure house (of which there are many) where everyone is extremely good-looking (a premise explained quite convincingly) consecrated to the worship of Naamah.
The most difficult part of the book is the political intrigues involving a cast of hundreds people which is not always easy to follow. However this aspect of the novel is balanced by the development of Phedre's character with very likeable central characters and a good pace. Buy this one and you won't be disappointed.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kushiel's Dart, 7 Oct 2005
By 
Clare "Bookaholic" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This is the story of Phedre No'Delauney, and starts when she is a very small child and her story as an anguisette, chosen to experience pain and pleasure as one.
This book can be quite erotic at times, but this book should not be dismissed as erotic fiction it is much more than that, an extremely well told book based in the middle ages in Europe, the use of the old country names such as Alba emphasises this.
Phedre bears the mark of Kushiel's Dart, a scarlet mote in her eye. The main part of this story revolves a\round Terre D'Ange (Land of Angels), the inhabitants of Terre D'Ange are descended from divine beings.
The story is based on politics, love & betrayal, aside from Phedre the cast of characters is impressive with extremely well-developed characters, and JC has detailed these very well within the story. The beginning of the story can get quite cumbersome and this is quite a long book but, it is well worth sticking to it after the first 150 pages or so the plot gets much more interesting. I did get the feeling that Phedre was narrating from sometime long ago in the past and seems as though she was looking back and re-living her experiences.
This is a fantastic novel, it has been criticised but, I personally feel this is a brilliant book and remains one of my all-time favourites, it is a very long book as indeed are the others in this trilogy, though this one is the longest but, it is never drawn out and is simply a stunning book to read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and exotic new fantasy, 8 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Kushiel's Dart (Hardcover)
I was sent proof copies of this book for a cover quote, and feel strongly enough about it to put a review here. There is a lot of derivative, run of the mill fantasy about, but this book is fresh, complex, somewhat daring, and very well written. Perhaps not for the totally faint-hearted, as its themes are often of an adult nature, but Carey has to be applauded for this addition to the genre. It won't be given the same massive push as one of the new block-busters of fantasy, so I'm here doing my bit as a fellow author. Support new talent. Buy this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex, glittering fantasy novel, 18 May 2004
By 
N. Clarke (Lancs, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
_Kushiel's Dart_ is a truly striking work of fantasy - and not just for its notorious central conceit, although in many ways that alone would have been enough.
Carey's heroine, Phedre no Delauney, is a courtesan whose god-touched destiny it is to derive her greatest pleasure from the sharpest pain. Her story plays out in a skewed, brilliantly-conceived version of Europe, where Germanic and Celtic peoples still organised as tribal societies border a sparkling post-Renaissance France-by-another-name. It is at the heart of the latter that Phedre lives, a star ascendant in a society where prostitution is a sacred act, and where politics always lurk beneath the surface. Entering the service of nobleman Delauney, she soon becomes entangled in conspiracies galore.
The world is one of the richest and most detailed fantasy creations I've encountered in some time, beautifully-drawn with an eye for sensual detail and believeably varied mindsets. The touchstones which make it different from our own - such as the god who emerged from Christ's blood and the Magdalene's tears - are elegantly drawn out as both theme and background. The story emerges naturally from the political and social dynamics of the world, and occasionally from its more overtly fantastical elements. While the politicking is occasionally a little unsophisticated, the story is sufficiently twisty to satisfy most.
Phedre herself is a stunning creation, a very human figure for all her extraordinary qualities. She makes an engaging and memorable point-of-view for the reader, and Carey makes a brave choice in presenting such a resourceful and intelligent heroine who constantly carries within her the seeds of her greatest weakness: the fact that she gets such gratification from being out of control. The powerful attraction/repulsion that Phedre feels for her nemesis is all the more compelling for this, even if the latter's character is at times sketchy.
This, indeed, is the drawback of the whole novel - Phedre is *such* a striking personality that she often overshadows the people and events around her. At times, _Kushiel's Dart, reads more like a character study than a novel, for all its action and scope. Nevertheless, it is a highly-recommended debut, and I can't wait to read the next!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing adventures and political intrigue in a superb mix, 16 Feb 2004
I just finished reading "Kushiel's Dart" by Jacqueline Carey and I have to recommend it.
Set in a Europe which is recognisably that of the middle ages but which is based on divergent history, religion and politics, the book mixes history and fantasy. It follows the intrigue and adventures surrounding Phedre, a girl "born" courtesan who becomes a pawn in a game of high stakes political intrigue.
Give the nature of the hero, there are quite explicit sexual encounters in the book. But they are not gratuitous or vulgar. They serve the plot. Phedre is not just a pretty face either. She could put many master spies to shame.
If I had to mention any bad things about the book, it is that the first 100 of about 1000 pages are a bit slow going. Also, you might feel you're getting confused by all the characters and places involved in the plot(s). But do not worry too much about that. By the end of the book, you will effortlessly know who is who and I believe you will have enjoyed the journey to get there.
Phedre truly is quite a memorable character. I usually enjoy books about political intrigue. So this was a great book for me.
I then discovered that 2 more books have been written about Phedre. But even though reports say that the other 2 are very good, the first book is a fully self contained story. No Otherland syndrom here. So you can read it and ejoy it thoroughly without having to worry about having to read the 2 sequels: Kushiel's Avatar and Kushiel's Chosen .
I know I'm off to order them though. :)
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, 12 Jan 2005
There are many ways to measure the success of a novel - plot, pace, characters etc etc. Speaking for myself the novels that get 5 stars from me are the ones that leave me near-grieving for the characters, and the world, when I finish. Ones that have me soaking in every word in the last chapter, aware that it's coming to an end.
This is such a book, as are the other two in the trilogy.
Generally, I don't hanker after dragons, quests and elves in my fantasy novels, although I do enjoy them from time to time, and these things certainly don't appear in the Kushiel trilogy. Rather I search for world-building; a superior writing ability; and characters so real I could almost be reading a biography.
Carey has achieved these three aspects so well it hurts. The world she has created is so real I almost forgot it's based on a mesh of historical cultures. Even the inclusion of a pharoah seemed somehow natural to her world, rather than a borrowing of our own. Elua, and particularly Terre D'ange, is a rich, lavish place and turns traditional moral notions completely on their head - definitely refreshing in a fantasy setting.
Carey writes with a fluid grace - no stumbling, awkward prose as occurs too often. Strong dialogue, strong description, a good balance of the two. Writing from first person isn't always easy, as you can't have back-up characters to rely on to provide fresh perspectives. Therefore, writing three books so well with the voice of a sole character is impressive.
I still miss Phedre, and Joscelin. Getting to know Phedre was not an easy task, at times it was downright uncomfortable. One can get lulled, within fantasy, into thinking the often-repeated rescue of female characters is a 'natural' literary device; an expected cliche of your standard fantasy. It was quite disconcerting to come across a heroine who actively seeks pain, and uses it as a means to attain her goals.
I shared Joscelin's frustration/revulsion as he stood by, knowing Phedre was being hurt. Initially, each time I realised that she didn't want his help, or even need it, it shocked for a moment. I felt I was sharing the journey with Joscelin as he slowly came to accept Phedre for who and what she is. Whether Carey intended the reader to walk this journey with him or not, it's very successful.
There is enough pace, and action, to keep the book going, athough they certainly aren't, in my opinion, what sustains the novel. I think Carey has handled the intriguing/politicking quite well, though these things are suppressed by Phedre's strong character presence - which, of course, is fine by me, but others might not agree.
This trilogy comes highly recommended and I can't wait to see what else Carey has to offer.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex, compelling...... brilliant!, 10 Nov 2003
A compelling read you won't be able to put down! Jacqueline Carey has created a historical fantasy that is more than anyone could dream. The charaters have be created with vivid detail. You can't help to relate at times and understand the stuggles they endure.
The vast levels this book reachs is mindblowing. The basics behind the story will keep you reading on and the ending will not be enough to keep you waiting for the next installment.
The lead charater Phedre no Delaunay is a young girl entering a new world, she has no idea just how deadly knowledge can be. The development of charater is second to none. The entire world has been masterminded and beautifully expressed in word to take your mind and thought into the lives of the people within it.
This book is worth more than just a quick glance, its packed full with everything you could want and more. Its no small read being 701pages but once you get the feel of the book it will fly by and there will be times your emotions get the better of you. The epic struggle will make you laugh, cry and relate.
Be brave enter the world and see for yourself, its worth it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love as thou wilt, 6 Jan 2005
After reading the summary at the back cover, I decided to buy it. From the first page I was hooked. Not a boring moment despite the political intrigues and the building up of the alternate world, Terre D'Ange (situated about France nowadays). The culture society is described well, given little by little along the way, not in a full history lesson, except for explaining the religion foundation of The Blessed Elua and His Companions. The story about who was Elua itself is a new thing for me and close related with crucifixion tale.
Against the strong religion and political background, Phaedré, a whore's unwanted get, adopted by Anafiel Delaunay and raised as the rarest scion of Kushiel, in other word, an anguisette, the right hand of the Punisher Angel and also as a spy. In the end of her lessons, she found herself in the mist of political turmoil, with the Princes of Blood trying to take the throne from a very old King and his young granddaughter by way of marriage or force.
Who was Anafiel? Why was he so interested in political game and using Phaedre and Alcuin, his other student, both as pawn and spy? Befriended from childhood by Hyacinthe, a Tsingano boy who could see the future, Phaedre tried to find out the truth which only made her rue the day she found it out.
Spiced with 'chaste' romantic relationship between Phaedre and a Cassiline brother (though I'm sure will develop in the next book), this dark romance novel is a hard-put to be put down. A sensually engrossing story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult beginning but stick with it., 14 May 2007
Phedre no Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond purchased by Anafiel Delauney (aka The Whoremaster of Spies), who recognises that the spot of blood in her eye marks her as one who is pricked by Kushiel's Dart (she experiences pain and pleasure as one - a masochist). She's trained as a courtesan, but is also taught how to observe and analyse what she sees - the tools of a spy. As Phedre's homeland of Terre d'Ange is drawn ever closer to conflict through treachery and betrayal, it will be up to Phedre to use all of the talents at her disposal to save what she holds dear.

For me this book has one of the worst beginnings I have ever read. The first time I read it I think it took me over thirty starts before I managed to get past the first page. If you can bear with it this is a story that is well worth reading. I have pin-pointed the spot where I was drawn into the story - page 11 where Phedre finally stops talking about herself. And by page 343 I am totally absorbed in the cruelty and beauty of Terre d'Ange, just in time for Jacqueline Carey to rip my heart out via my throat - metaphorically speaking.

I guess my main problem with the book is that I don't particularly like Phedre as a character. She has a severe case of Buffyitis only instead of 'I'm the slayer', it's 'I'm the anguisette'. Get over yourself already!

If you haven't read the book you may want to know that most of the love scenes are of a sado-masochistic nature, so if that's not your sort of thing perhaps you should give this one a miss. Though in my opinion these scenes are beautifully written and necessary to the plot.

This book has taught me that you don't need to love the protagonist in order to fall in love with the world she inhabits and the story she tells. Jacqueline Carey's worldbuilding is immaculate. Not only does she bring the myths, culture and beauty of Terre d'Ange to life. She takes us to the wild northern lands of Skaldia with a struggle for survival, and over the sea to the barbarian land of Alba and the battle for a stolen throne. This is an epic tale.

More than anything it is the characters surrounding Phedre who fascinate me - Alcuin, Delaunay, Joscelin, Melisande and Hyacinthe - and the history of the land that she is witness to and part of. Jacqueline Carey draws us into this world and makes it real, her storytelling has a depth and lushness that pulls you in (if you can just get past those first few pages).

Also available Kushiel's Chosen (book 2) and Kushiel's Avatar (book 3)
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Kushiel's Dart
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey (Paperback - 20 Sep 2002)
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