Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Kushiel’s Dart

This is a new segment (but really, it’s still just me reviewing a book) where I review books that were published long enough ago that I consider them a throwback. Today’s book was first published in 2001, so I’d say that reasonably constitutes a throwback, wouldn’t you?

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
My Edition: Paperback – 901 pages – 2020 – Tor – ISBN: 9781250759511

Thank you to Tor for sending me this book for free in exchange for my honest, review.

From the back of the book: A young woman with a unique gift – pricked by Kushiel’s Dar, she is bound to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, she is able to observe, remember, and analyze her clients and learn their darkest secrets through her scarlet wave of passion. One of those secrets reveals a plot that threatens the very foundation of Terre d’Ange. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond.

I decided to use the book blurb rather than write my own because if I try to describe this book it’d be like, “Ok, so, this is like alternate history where all of Europe is very sexy and there’s like 13 different houses dedicated to the arts of sex, because one of AlternateJesus’s son’s followers had to like, have sex to help save the group. So sex is pretty important and sex work is totally normal and respected. And like, this girl, she’s like the ultimate sub, so she’s doing all sorts of intrigue stuff while having sex with powerful/influential people, because there’s a big game being played here by those in power. And, so, there’s a lot of history and world-building and political intrigue. Oh, and a decent amount of BDSM. And I guess there’s magic too?!”

The short version is, if you think you’ll enjoy sexy alternate historical fantasy, then I think you should check this out.

Mass market reprints of the trilogy were reissued this year and I was happy when Tor offered to send me Kushiel’s Dart because I’ve seen the series in the stores many times, but really never stopped to check it out. I’m not sure why. I guess, maybe the last time I noticed it I was a bit younger and maybe not interested in the sexy covers. But you can count me in now!

Phèdre is certainly an interesting character. I can’t recall having read a sex-heavy fantasy before and I know I’ve never read one where the main character is basically born to be the ultimate submissive. Carey did a great job of expressing Phèdre’s feelings during her encounters; the passion, the pain, the shame, the pleasure she takes in all of it – certainly a unique viewpoint to me! While I enjoyed Phèdre, I think Jocelin might actually be my favorite character. He’s basically a celibate warrior monk turned bodyguard and, boy, talk about character growth!

There is a dreaded cast of characters list in the beginning that’s about 4 pages long. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a bit intimated by them (if they’re included, I would prefer them in the back so as not to scare me before I start reading), but I decided I just wouldn’t reference it. At first, I was a little confused when it comes to the royal family connections, but I do tend to have a pretty good capacity for remembering characters (I’ll give some credit to starting Gurm’s Song of Ice and Fire series when I was like 15.) Once I was immersed in the world, the characters were familiar enough and I only referenced the cast pages a couple times.

If you like historical fantasy, political/court intrigue, sexy times, a hint of magic, and a female lead, then I definitely recommend this book. I will need to read the rest of the trilogy!

Edit: After some discussions on Instagram, I realized I forgot to comment on the amount of BDSM/sexiness in this book. For me, it wasn’t overwhelming and I wouldn’t class the book as erotica. There are definitely some explicitly sexual and BDSM scenes, but not every sex scene goes into great detail and these scenes are by no means the majority of the book. They’re a part of who Phèdre is and what she does, but the real story is about the battle for power in Terre d’Ange. It’s an AltHistory fantasy with some added spiciness. If you don’t mind some sex in your fantasy, don’t let this aspect scare you away from reading the book!

Jacqueline Carey: WebsiteTwitterInstagram
Tor: WebsiteTwitterInstagram

15 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Kushiel’s Dart”

  1. The cover of this book always intrigued me literally EVERY time I see it. Then I pick it up to read the synopsis and remember that is it BDSM erotica plus fantasy. I am not sure if that would bother me or not depending on how it was used in the political maneuvering. This plot kinda reminds me of the book Richard Adams wrote about a concubine. Aye, the man who wrote the best rabbit story ever (tied with the Velveteen Rabbit). It’s called Maia and I read it a long while back. Looking it up just now, I did not know it was a book two. Funny. I digress. Enjoyed this review.
    x The Captain

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I think this book definitely isn’t for everyone. But there are some sexy scenes that aren’t as descriptive as others, and I wouldn’t say the ones that are blatantly BDSM content are graphic. It’s not trying to be 50 Shades. I think the BDSM added some spice to the fantasy realm and a unique perspective for the heroine of a fantasy novel. Maybe I’ll look into that Adams series…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So the Adams series is really two books set in the same world but don’t go together. The first book didn’t sound good to me so I am not going to read it. I did just reread the goblin emperor. The 12 pages of people and place names at the end made me think of this post. I counted the pages just for yer information.
        x The Captain

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d been seeing reviews of this EVERYTWHERE all of a sudden, and I was like, why is everyone reading this book that’s 20 years old right now? So thank you for including the explanation!

    I read the first one years ago, but the library didn’t have the sequel so I moved on to other things. Maybe I’ll pick it back up. Sometime. In the future.

    Also: I love cast lists in the front of the book. I don’t know why.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I’m glad I could clear that up! Yeah cast lists just make me go “oh shit” so I have to ignore them at first. Cuz my initial urge is to read them and try to like memorize who everyone is and that doesn’t work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read them at first and try to memorize everyone but somehow that doesn’t bother me and then I go back and refer to the list every time a new character shows up. Or an old character who I forgot.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. 🤣🤣 I like your recap better than the back-of-the-book blurb.
    I’m now at the part where Joscelin enters the story, so I was surprised there that you like him because so far he’s very stuck up, although I understand why he is. I suspect he’ll become very interesting though and I think Phédre is attracted to him too.
    That long-ass character list intimidated me too. So far, I’m barely keeping them all together in my head lol.


    1. Lol I’m glad you like my recap 🤣 you’ll have to update me on what you think of Jocelin by the end! I find that if I rely on the chara lists, I’m less inclined to remember who people are and then I have to keep stopping to look back. I also think there are people on there who were mentioned once, if at all. I’d actually prefer a family tree. But if I just ignore the list I’ll learn who the charas are.


  4. I was surprised to see a post on Kushiel, which was one of my quick reads from many yesteryears ago; it was a bit like taking a trip in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine (I’m really dating myself here, I’m afraid). I must admit, I mostly skimmed Kushiel for the sexy parts, but as you pointed out, there’s more to the book than that. I enjoyed the review and I think your new feature is great — I wish I had thought of it myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I have a lot of old books on my shelves that I still need to read and I know a lot of the blogs I follow focus on newer releases. Even myself, this year I’ve read a lot of more current works than I usually do. So I wanted to highlight the older books and hopefully show that there’s plenty out there still worth reading!

      Haha and skimming is ok, I liked the sexy parts a great deal 🤣. Lol and I used to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle as a kid.

      Liked by 1 person

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