Forget 50 Shades of Gray. (No, I haven’t read it.) If you want novel that is well written, meticulously plotted and epic in scope, that will also get your blood pumping, read Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. I don’t think it’s meant as erotica, and it’s certainly much more than that, but some choose to classify it that way. And that’s shame because they’re missing the bigger picture.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I read this book about six months ago, but it is amazing. I can’t begin to say how much I loved it. If you can get beyond the non-traditional sex scenes (you may not want to try these at home) in the early part of the book (they have mythological and plot purposes in the story, so they’re not gratuitous), you’re in for an amazing ride that will have you questioning who you should be rooting for until the very end.
Jacqueline Carey packs more intrigue and action into this book than most authors would have attempted in a series of three or four books. As such, keeping the players and the politics straight is difficult (people and places have foreign-sounding names that can be challenging to remember) but as long as you remember a few key characters, you’ll be fine. But the more you pick up, the richer the plot will be for you.
As an alternative history, it’s very interesting to see echoes of ancient Rome, the Picts, Irish, Anglo Saxons and others in the geography, history and characters. There are even a few who seemed to me to be veiled versions of mythological heroes such as King Arthur, Tristan and Fionn mac Cumhaill, to name a few. This is not to say Carey lacks in original characterization. On the contrary, she takes these archetypes and raises them to a whole new level, while making you truly care (and perhaps be smitten by) many of her original characters.
The writing and plotting of this book is superb. Everything happens for a specific reason (as it should in all books, but doesn’t always) and the connections between events is eventually made clear. Carey has a skill for descriptions and world building that makes you never want to leave. I could feel every movement of the journey and I’ll admit to spending a few hours reading when I would have been sleeping. As a writer, I appreciate the work it must have taken to create such an outstanding book. I feel like I will be a better writer in the future just for having read her writing.
If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that the ending left me wanting, which is natural for the first book in a series, but after all I went through with these characters I wanted more resolution. Carey was heading there, but then changed course and I can’t say I completely believed two of the character’s motivations in how the setup for the second book was accomplished. But, this book is so well-written that I may just have to sign up for the next installment.
Have you read Kushiel’s Dart? What did you think of it? Do you have any ideas for future “K” topics?