My blood beat hard in my veins and hammered in my ears, like the sound of bronze wings clashing. And I understand for the first time what it meant that Kushiel, the One God’s punisher, had loved his charges too well…
Imriel de la Courcel’s blood parents are history’s most reviled traitors, while his adoptive parents, Phèdre and Joscelin, are Terre d’Ange’s greatest champions. Stolen, tortured, and enslaved as a young boy, Imriel is now a Prince of the Blood, third in line for the throne in a land that revels in beauty, art, and desire.
After a year abroad to study at university, Imriel returns from his adventures a little older and somewhat wiser. But perhaps not wise enough. What was once a mere spark of interest between himself and his cousin Sidonie now ignites into a white-hot blaze. But from commoner to peer, the whole realm would recoil from any alliance between Sidonie, heir to the throne, and Imriel, who bears the stigma of his mother’s of his mother’s misdeeds and betrayals. Praying that their passion will peak and fade, Imriel and Sidonie embark on an intense, secret affair.
Blessed Elua founded Terre d’Ange and bestowed one simple precept to guide his people: Love as thou wilt. When duty calls, Imriel honors his role as a member of the royal family by leaving to marry a lovely, if merely sweet, Alban princess. By choosing duty over love, Imriel and Sidonie may have unwittingly trespassed against Elua’s law. But when dark powers in Alba, who fear an invasion by Terre d’Ange, seek to use the lovers’ passion to bind Imriel, the gods themselves take notice.
Before the end, Kushiel’s justice will be felt in heaven and on earth.
When I reviewed Kushiel’s Scion, it was a slightly mixed bag. To say it was a weaker than Phedre’s triology is to do the book disservice: Carey is a strong enough author that even a “weaker” book is still above what most titles could hope to reach. If anything, my biggest problem with that first book was an over-reliance of magic to drive the plot (yes, I’m aware that this will again become an issue in the next book, but I’ll deal with it when I actually sit down to read it) as the magic in these series has always been relatively subdue. It’s influence unquestionably felt, but never at the fore. With Kushiel’s Justice she brings things back into balance. As before, magic does drive the plot, but again it is more subtle as it is what man chose to do with the knowledge that magic brought that truly drove the piece.
Like the best of Carey’s work, at its core, this is a character piece. We truly see Imriel grow up in this story: he goes from insufferable teenager to man. And make no mistake: Imriel is very insufferable at times. As noted above, he loves another when he embarks to be wed, and man getting through the parts where he’s all but constantly moping about can be difficult. So much so, that his wife eventually makes the following remark:
You may be insufferably self-absorbed, but you do have a good heart, Imriel – Dorelei mab Breidaia
Quite honestly, it’s that good heart that makes you want to keep reading. To be fair to Imriel he’s trying. He knows that Dorelei deserves better than him, deserves someone who truly loves him, but he does find his own way to fall in love with her and he gets to a point of at least contentment, and when something happens to her, Imriel gives over everything that he is to bring justice to her in a way that he probably wouldn’t have at the start of the story. I will allow that it’s a bit of stretch to think he was able to make the journey – Alban tradition or not, he’s still third in line to the throne of Terre d’Ange but like the best of stories, it’s well written enough that you’re willing to forgive that (admitted large-ish) problem with the plot.
I have seen some complain of just how much religion plays a part in this book, notably with Imriel’s development, but it honestly didn’t bother me. Generally speaking, fantasy is a genre that rarely touches on religion. Characters are either atheistic or the characters may be religious, but the gods are so interfering that (or perhaps their human ambassadors) are villain characters. Outside the excellent Son of the Morning (which appears will be getting a US release in 2016!) I can’t recall too many titles off the top of my head where the characters are religious and do have faith and it’s an aspect that I really enjoy in these books. Furthermore, faith has always had a large role within these books: Kushiel’s Avatar was largely driven by Phedre fighting her desire to stay out of a situation she knew would be awful, and forsaking the blessing she’s received from Elua’s and Kushiel’s after all. I think the issue probably stems from the fact that Imriel doesn’t seem as religious as Phedre does in the first book as he does here. But as I said, he grows up and his circumstances change. It works.
What also works is the focus on Imriel’s relationships with other people. The last book got bogged down with the magic and with the siege, the plot here allows more room for the characters to breath and ultimately make them more relate able and give you more reason to care for them. It’s a testament to Carey that even the smaller players feel developed when they can often get lost in the fold. All told, I think this will make or break you on whether or not you want to continue with his trilogy. I say this because the torch has finally been well and truly passed: though both books are from his point of view, his foster parents played a large enough role in the first half of the last book, that the book still felt that large portions of the book were here story. Here, their role is appropriately diminished and Imriel has stepped out from the shadows of his heroic parents. As much as I adore Phedre and Jocelin, it is a welcome change and this book is the stronger for it.
Finally, those of you concerned about such things: the sex contained within is all consensual and by this series’ standards, vanilla. There is a visit to Valerian house, but the focus of that scene is less the action than Imriel’s state of mind.
I’m glad that I decided to give this a chance, as I think overall it’s one of the strongest books in the series and it makes me excited to read the final book of this sequence. Combine that with the excellent character growth and the always fantastic setting and I’m a very happy reader: you simply can’t ask for anything more from a book.
Verdict: Buy Now