Having learned a lesson about thwarting the will of the gods, Imriel and Sidonie publicly confess their affair, only to see the country boil over in turmoil. Younger generations, infatuated by their heart-twisting, star-cross romance, defend the couple. Many others cannot forget the betrayals of Imriel’s mother, Melisande, who plunged their country into a bloody war that cost the lives of their fathers, brothers, and sons.
To quell the unrest, Ysandre, the queen, sets her decree. She will not divide the lovers, yet neither will she acknowledge them. If they marry, Sidonie will be disinherited, losing her claim on the throne.
There’s only one way they can truly be together. Imriel must perform an act of faith: search the world for his infamous mother and bring her back to Terre d’Ange to be executed for treason.
Facing a terrible choice, Imriel and Sidonie prepare ruefully for another long separation. But when a dark foreign force casts a shadow over Terre d’Ange and all the surrounding countries, their world is turned upside down, alliances of the unlikeliest kind are made, and Imriel and Sidonie learn that the god Elua always puts hearts together a purpose.
I can’t say I saw myself DNFing this book. While I have recommended the first two of Imriel’s trilogy, it’s always been with the bit of a caveat that I didn’t think it as good as Phedre’s trilogy. Part of it was Imriel himself – he hasn’t been the most likable person for much of the series – but more to point, it’s been the use of magic in his series that has served as a turn off.
Magic has always been part and parcel of Carey’s world. In the first three books, the magic seen was generally Divine in nature. More importantly, magic may have had an influence on the story but it never drove nor dominated the series. Even the ending of Kushiel’s Avatar – in which there is a ridiculously huge bit of magic – the journey leading up to that magic was the focus, not the magic itself.
The exact opposite has been true of Imriel’s story. While Kushiel’s Scion is arguably half Phedre’s book and half his, by the time it shifts to him magic starts coming to the fore. It drove the conflict in the second half of that book. It drove all the conflict in Kushiel’s Justice as it does here in Kushiel’s Mercy. And while I love magic, the magic has to be done right and by and large it hasn’t been. It felt out of place in Kushiel’s Scion – we spent well over 400 pages (if not even more) magic free then BOOM out of no where it drives the whole plot. Albeit still ill defined, it was done better in Kushiel’s Justice as it hung over proceedings and drove some action, because that book was really about Imriel’s growth here.
This book, however, is where we lost the plot entirely. The major push behind the plot is as follows:
Wanting to ally itself with Terre d’Ange, an enemy comes to court and casts a spell during an eclipse that makes everyone lose their damn minds, causing the court to become instant besties with said enemy and to forget pretty much everything else convenient to the story to happened before it. The only ones not impacted by the spell are Imriel himself – who thanks to his mom, gets jabbed with a needle that somehow results in him become completely bonkers for thirty days before returning to instant lucidity – and Imriel’s major political enemy because hey, someone has to help Imriel get the eff out of Dodge so he can try and find a way to save the day.
I am not kidding.
And of course, everyone in court thinks that Imriel is the crazy one and no one behaves like themselves and whatever. I just can’t. It’s such a mind boggling stupid concept that it threw me out of the story entirely. The whole thing is just so convenient and so out of no where that it broke my immersion 100% and it just kinda sapped my desire to finish reading. I did skim to the end and can say that there is a HEA (of course) and the question of secession in Alba is so easily resolved that it makes you wonder why it was even presented as an ordeal.
All told, I still recommend Phedre’s trilogy, but Imriel’s trilogy is very much your mileage may vary. I’d been debating as to whether I wanted to give Moirin’s trilogy a go, but as of this moment I think I’m going to pass. If I do, I think it won’ be til 2016 at earliest – I think I need to put some distance between this books and those if I’m going to have any chance of giving them a fair shake.