These books could really each be a trilogy on their own, in someone else’s hands. Book one would be up to Phèdre in La Dolorosa, book two would be… maybe up to her time in Kriti, and then book three would be the return to Terre D’Ange. There are so many cinematic glorious moments, though Ysandre’s stunt near the end is the most glorious of the lot.
Kushiel’s Chosen follows Phèdre as she strikes out on her own, playing the game against Melisande in much the same way that her mentor Delaunay (unknowingly) did in the first book. She is, of course, rather too perfect in herself (apart from her drama with Joscelin, which sometimes gets frustrating) — too capable of carrying the day, through sex or divine mandate, but I always just settle down to enjoy it: the purple-tinged prose, the dramatic narration, the exoticisation of literally everything. It’s like a really, really rich banquet, and when I view it like that then I quickly sink into the story and characters.
What I can’t believe, really, is how quickly I used to read these books. I’ve slowed down in my old age. But there was also much enjoyment in spinning this out, episode by episode of Phèdre’s adventure, and building up slowly to the crescendo. I think this series has lasted well, for me.