Ah-ha! That last bit there was a little “Kushiel’s Dart” pun. You see, in author Jacqueline Carey’s fantasy world, marques are that elaborate, large tattoos that concubines get on their backs to track their progress in the spiritual sex-trade. The story follows one such concubine, who has been blessed by her freaky-deaky deities to be the freaky-deakiest of S&M subs. Sounds like we’re headed for a sword-and-sorcery version of 50 Shades of Grey, right? ‘Christian gets even MORE Medieval.’ Well, for 200 pages you’d be kind of right.
Then the story swerves into court intrigues and international politics, and our horny heroine becomes more of a Renaissance-era CIA officer. She’s gathering intel, delivering messages, and forging alliances. There are still sex scenes, if you can call them that. Most of them briefly mentioned transactions, or they’re out-and-out rapes.
Hmm. How to describe this book. I guess I’d say it’s not for everyone. If you’re a fan of “Lord of the Rings” style treks and sieges, 600 pages of this book will disappoint you. If you’re hoping for an erotic thriller, a different 600 pages of the book will disappoint you. And yet, the book still held my interest. I kept reading through it, all 900 pages.
I guess I was intrigued by the role the heroine plays as the fantasy version of Mata Hari. She doesn’t carry a sword; she doesn’t know any magic spells. Just her wits and her feminine wiles. And I liked the religion that Carey creates, which is based on angels and disciples of a vaguely Christian faith. And I think of all the fantasy books I’ve read, this one probably comes closest to Game of Thrones, in that it weaves together a dozen intricate plots, and warring factions. Most of the characters are morally ambiguous characters. No one’s purely evil, and there’s only a handful of characters purely good. So that’s a great thing that the book has going for it. It looks like one of the ‘Kushiel’ sequels explores a Persian or Turkish setting, so I may check that out as well.