I think two strong supporting points for Carey in the Kushiel books are her extensive prior angelic research and that they take place in a blatantly detailed alternative Europe (and not the sort of vaguely medieval Europe that several fantasy novels fall prey to). Her Sundered duology had promise but was unfortunately too muddled. This may be important: if you don't know, the Kushiel books so far consist of a trilogy focusing around a character called Phedre, and this is the beginning of a new trilogy focusing around her foster son Imriel.
Discussed this wildly with 8ofswords after finally getting my hands on the replacement copy that wasn't missing 100 or so critical pages. Hard to say what observations I'll be able to pull out of my ass after so much verbal swooning.
(Come to think of it, JC also cracked me up by clarifying this edict of Elua's in conversation within this tome -- i.e., by joking about it and then specifying more seriously that no, this does not mean that even goats are fair game.)
Kushiel's Scion. I swear at times I feel the Kushiel books need an operatic soundtrack such as "O Fortuna". I know, we all avoid melodrama because normally it sucks. Carey, however, can pull it off, and tends to transport me into delirious delight all drooling fangirl style but yet so much deeper.
Firstly, I immediately understood how Carey could not leave this series alone, given the particular main character she chose in this instance. How not, within context?? Secondly, I feel that not only did she shore up the strengths and weaknesses of the first-person voice, but that it seemed to me that she had looked, very appropriately, into Shadow Lords. Again, how not, particularly with her specific revelation that a particular noble family have what seems to me to be the equivalent of the Fatal Flaw skill? Okay, perhaps this is a wild yet logical coincidence, but I must say as a geeky Werewolf player who has seen the skill used as described within this book, I certainly found it to be so. Have I mentioned how very appropriate and non-intrusive this is? Thirdly, I'd like to mention how happy I was to see more insight into the character of Joscelin in particular.
From the jacket:
"It is whispered that Kushiel's lineage carries the ability to perceive the flaws in mortal souls, to minister an untender mercy. I sense its presence like a shadow on my soul... the memories of blood and branding and horror, and the legacy of cruelty that runs in my veins, shaping my own secret vow and wielding it like a brand against the darkness, whsipering it to myself, over and over.
There is only so much I can say without spoilage for those who have or have not read the original trilogy. As follows:
Honestly, I have never seen anyone -- yes, anyone -- write so absorbingly of battle. My eyes don't inadvertently leap to skim, I am hooked. Images are branded into my cortex for all time, and this from a non-visual medium.
Carey deliberately pulled back from making Imriel's adventures and experiences quite so over the top as Phedre's, at least to start. In my opinion, this is partially because she worked hard at a way to have a book be first-person and dramatic yet not crack under the pressure of only knowing and experiencing what said first person does.
I am mesmerized by the contrast between Phedre being a sort of sacred masochist, yet also full of innocence and joy -- while Imriel has sadism coded into his very marrow and is filled with pain and angst.
LOVED there being in-character exploration of philosophy. LOVED the new characters. Several explorations that I also, in caps, LOVED. The only flaw I can note is that the pacing for the rest of the book felt a little wonky to me after a certain point; not as tightly woven as she tends to lean towards in these books. The ending felt a bit neat and drawn out to me as well. Overall, however, I seriously can't say enough of the legal drug that is Carey.
Find myself agreeing with 8ofswords's assesments on What's Next, including one that honestly hadn't occurred to me. With pleasure, I will note that I think that this didn't occur to me -- and that none of these possibilities are set in stone -- is due to a particularly deft and subtle touch. Ahhhh, love for these words.
I realize it's all once again a matter of taste, but I must say these books are a taste I didn't even know I had 'til 8 with no pressure got me to sample the first one.
I am so delighted that you also find these books delightful. I wonder how many more people I can get hooked on the Kushiel line. So far there's you, Anne and through Anne, our friend Chandra. Though encouraging people to read this series can be dangerous. As Anne said, "If anyone but you had suggested I read these books, I would have been concerned." Due to all the masochism and free lovin', of course.
I agree with so many of your points here, as you know in our discussion. Particularly that Imriel's experiences are not as over the top as Phedre's, but that is a double bit of clever writing on Carey's part, I think. Imriel as a character sells himself short, I find. And so he also downplays his own experiences in that self-effacing first person narrative he has. Phedre, as a person is a bit over the top and thus doesn't downplay her experiences.
By selling himself short, what I mean is - Imriel is obviouly also a character as touched by the Gods as Phedre or Jocelin. I mean, it's not every schmoe who has an encounter with a God when they sleep in his temple. But he's filled with self doubt and loathing, and is essentially a *good* person despite his struggles, so he views these encounters humbly.