This month Book Review Club moves to my new Reading Room blog. This will be the last book club until September.
by Jacqueline Carey
Hachette Book Group, 2009
I loved Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series, so bought Naamah’s Kiss in hardback when it came out in 2009. Then it sat on my bookshelf until this year. On a very hot lazy Sunday, I took the book off the shelf and started reading, figuring it would take several weeks to read since it’s about 600 pages long. But then the cable TV & Internet went out for two days, and before I knew, I’d read the book in about five days.
This trilogy is set about 100 years after the events in the Kushiel’s Legacy series, and if you haven’t read those six books and think you might, I recommend tackling them first as many of the stories are briefly retold, so there’s no way to hide any spoilers. Though Naamah’s Kiss works as a standalone book, I felt that having read the previous books gave me an advantage in terms of understanding the world Carey has created.
The main character is Moirin mac Fainche of the Maghuinn Dhon, the folk of the Brown Bear, an ancient clan in Alba (Carey’s version of England). The Maghuinn Dhon are solitary woodland dwellers who worship a bear-goddess. Moirin’s mother is descended from royalty, being a descendant of Alais the Wise, who was the daughter of the queen of Terre D’Ange and the Cruarch of Alba. Moirin learns that her father is a priest of Naamah whom her mother met once at a celebration. Moirin is a true daughter of Naamah, the goddess of love, and falls into a relationship with a young man who is tragically killed. After his death, she goes through a ritual where the bear-goddess shows Moirin that her destiny lies over the seas. She sets sail for Terre D’Ange and travels to the City of Elua in search of her father where she becomes involved in court intrigue. She soon finds herself a pawn caught between the young Queen Jehanne and her lover/courtier Raphael de Mereliot, who has no qualms about using Moirin for his own purposes. She also meets Master Lo Feng, a scholar and healer from the distant land of Ch’in, and his surly assistant Bao. When Master Lo is called back to Ch’in, Moirin knows she must accompany him to meet her destiny.
Moirin has a number of magical gifts from the Maghuinn Dhon, including the ability to “summon the twilight” which means she steps between the worlds of spirit and flesh and becomes essentially invisible to anyone who wasn’t already looking at her. She also has a deep affinity for plants and understands their need. In Terre D’Ange, she learns she has healing abilities that help humans, though using them is draining to her.
And as a child of Naamah, she has a natural sensuality.
Moirin’s adventures in Terre D’Ange center around the plots of Raphael de Mereliot, a courtier and physician with occult interests, and the intrigues of the idle aristocracy. Meeting Master Lo Feng helps to keep her focused as he teaches her The Way. But it’s in Ch’in that the story becomes really exciting as Moirin, Bao and Master Lo must free a dragon and save the Emperor’s throne.
I’m always amazed by the intricacies of Carey’s world building, and at times I found myself picking up the earlier books to refresh my memory about what happened back in the distant past of Terre D’Ange and Alba. I enjoy Carey’s brand of epic fantasy with a hearty dose of sensuality. While I loved the Kushiel series, I wasn’t crazy about some of the bondage and discipline scenes. Fortunately, there is none of that in this book. While it was fun to revisit Terre D’Ange, I most enjoyed the section of the book set in Ch’in. Recommended for adult fantasy readers. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Naamah’s Curse.
Read the first chapter here: http://www.jacquelinecarey.com/kiss.htm
My thanks to http://www.terredange.net/ for providing character name lists. This site looks like a great resource for fans of the series.
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