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Phèdre nó Delaunay is from the land of Terre d’Ange which is described as a place of great beauty. Discovered by angels and the resulting race of people descended from them. Their god gave them one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. What that means is the people worship by having sex. Courtesans like Phèdre are honored and given extensive training. However the emphasis on appearance means any flaw makes one damaged and undesirable. Phèdre is born with a scarlet mote in one eye and thus considered undesirable, until Anafiel Delaunay who recognizes that the mote means she is pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen by the gods so to speak. She experiences pain and pleasure as one.
The training Phèdre receives from Anafiel Delaunay is more than the courtly arts, he trains her to be a spy. To observe, remember and analyze. Because of this Phèdre discovers a plot against the ruling party. This is when the excitement begins.
Before I read this book I started to read Kushiel’s Scion (Imriel’s Trilogy #1) not realizing is not the first book, but the first book of the second part. After reading partway and realizing I was starting in the middle I put that book down and picked up this one. The book moves rather slowly setting the stage, learning about Phèdre’s childhood, how she came to be a courtesan and the reasons Delaunay wants her to spy. The plot line was rather complicated, it involved political manipulations, and people not being what they appeared, since I had read part of the fourth book I know what was coming, that is probably why I am still reading. It was not too hard to follow the plot line, once you understand who the main players are and what their eventual goals are.
What annoyed me about these books is how often Phèdre repeats herself, we are constantly reminded that D’Angeleans value appearance and beauty and that she is beautiful, that their god Elua told them to ‘love as thou wilt’, that she was a skilled courtesan and spy, that she is aroused by pain and when aroused can’t resist the one administering the pain all because she has been pricked by Kushiel’s Dart. It’s like Ms. Carey was afraid we would forget things from one chapter to the next. Also Phèdre is an anguisette, and much is made of the fact that one has been born in many years, yet they have a temple to the god Kushiel and in this temple are adepts who practice what would be considered sado-masochism, this makes me wonder how is she the only one when obviously there are others who derive pleasure from pain? This is something that doesn’t make sense, if she was the first one born in 50 years, wouldn’t they have to dust off the temple for her?
These are just the thoughts and questions that occurred to me while reading the book, there are others but telling them would reveal too many things that happen in the book. I did like this book, but if these problems hadn’t existed I would have enjoyed it more.