Tag: Jacqueline Carey

Review – Kushiel’s Dart

Posted October 17, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyKushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey

This was a reread, and not the first, largely prompted by the readalong. It’s weird, though; I reread it relatively recently, and yet there were so many details that I didn’t remember ahead of time, and I forgot bits about how it all comes together.

In any case, Kushiel’s Dart follows the adventures of a courtesan, Phèdre nó Delaunay, from unwanted child to plaything of the powerful to spy in enemy territory to ambassador for the Queen. She has been marked out as belonging to the angel Kushiel, making her an anguisette — or a masochist, in plain terms — and this makes her courted and desired… and very useful to Delaunay, a disgraced nobleman committed to protecting the heir to the throne.

This book goes so many places, it’s hard to review it coherently. We follow Phèdre’s childhood, her training both as a courtesan and as a spy, her assignations, her exile, her return… and all sorts in between. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of characters to love, though I’ll confess that I had less patience for Delaunay on this readthrough than I ever had before. He all but buys Phèdre when she’s a child and wields that over her to control her (even if that’s also to protect her), while giving her a home and almost everything else she asks for. He keeps her in the dark, so she couldn’t possibly consent freely, and endangers her with his schemes. I have sympathy for him, but more condemnation than I ever remember feeling, as well. He takes advantage of her and her foster-brother Alcuin, and I couldn’t get past that this time.

I continue to love it, as a whole, despite the ridiculously over-ornate language at times (which more or less works for me after a chapter or so, despite how purple it feels — it’s like you have to acclimatise). It’s still one hell of an epic, and it’s just the first book. I think part of why I love it is that you can get so deep into analysing the motives of a character who dies less than halfway through the book; the characters all feel like people, with their own stories, and their own histories.

If you’re worried about the sex scenes, the sadomasochistic aspects are usually somewhat glossed over, and almost every sex scene I can think of does have a key part to play in either the plot, the character-development, or both. I’m a poor judge of whether something succeeds as a sex scene in terms of “sexiness”, but that doesn’t feel like the aim. Sensualness, yeah, but not crude titillation. Phèdre is a courtesan, but she has her pride and sees what she does as an art (which it is, in the culture of Terre D’Ange).

I’ve really got to start on the next book this time, and actually finish rereading the whole trilogy!

Rating: 5/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 30, 2020 by Nicky in General / 8 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of X+Y by Eugenia ChengWhat are you currently reading?

Non-fiction: X+Y, by Eugenia Cheng, which is — well, the subtitle is “A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender”, which is a pretty good summary. Cheng works with a field of mathematics called “category theory”, and is applying that technique to unpick a lot of gender inequality and offer solutions. My thoughts are so far are mostly that I’d love to see if she could teach me maths, based on her discussions of how she tries to apply her understanding when it comes to teaching! Seems like an environment that might suit me better.

Fiction: I’m struggling through Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird, and I couldn’t honestly put my finger on why. I’ve enjoyed her other books and on the surface, I can’t see why this one isn’t working for me. I guess I’m just not connecting so well with the characters?

I’m also reading Kushiel’s Dart, still, and it’s coming up to time for another big heartbreak. Gah!

Cover of The Story of Wales by Jon GowerWhat have you recently finished reading?

I think the last thing I finished must’ve been Jon Gower’s The Story of Wales. I was surprised by how much I knew already, through having studied Welsh fiction (in English) and cultivated an interest since. I still had some serious gaps and surprises, though. Overall, it made me really annoyed with how little I was taught about that part of British history, attending a school in England. You’d think they could at least mentioned that David Lloyd George was Welsh, for instance, while teaching me about the part he played in WWI.

Cover of Cemetery Boys by Aiden ThomasWhat will you be reading next?

As ever, I don’t really know. I’d like to pick up Aiden Thomas’ Cemetery Boys, and I’m still working my way through the Shelf of Abandoned Books. Then there’s a bunch of other new books I got recently…

I have found that I have a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” problem with books sometimes. I want them and want them and want them and then when they get here and I shelve them, I forget to go grab them off the shelves! So I’m keeping my options open to wander along my shelves and choose at random, as ever.

How about you folks?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 16, 2020 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Digging Up Armageddon by Eric H. ClineFiction: I’m neck-deep in Kushiel’s Dart, and just finally getting to the bits which I always struggle to read because aaaaaahhhh nooooo. I forget how long it takes Joscelin to really start being amazing! I haven’t really been taking part in the readalong discussions, because my brain is just tired and I’m probably reading too much at once.

Speaking of which, I’m also reading The Fifth Season, and working on my shelf of abandoned books. I’m closing on finished with my reread of Nine Coaches Waiting, which is still fun but… I don’t know, the melodrama of this one doesn’t work for me as well as (say) Madam, Will You Talk? Perhaps it’s also because it’s longer.

Non-fiction: I’m finally back to reading Eric H. Cline’s Digging Up Armageddon, which I stalled on because I wasn’t in the right mood before. I’m enjoying the details of the digs and the team a bit more this time, and closing on the end… despite feeling that the team had so many questions left to answer. Gah.

What have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Beneath the World, A Sea, by Chris Beckett. It was… okay. I actually originally said it’d be something my wife was likely to love, but I think it floundered around a bit and then petered out, despite the original promise. It lacks any kind of resolution — I didn’t necessarily need an explanation, but something better than the sense the characters are running away.

Cover of The Lost Plot by Genevieve CogmanWhat will you be reading next?

I’m planning to work more on the shelf of abandoned books, but there’s still quite a bit of scope there. I could get back to my reread of The Lost Plot, by Genevieve Cogman, or of Feed by Mira Grant. Or I could finish a book that’s new to me, like Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird.

Probably I’ll pick two and chip away at them by setting myself a goal of reading a minimum of five pages a day. It seems to be the key to unlocking a book I’m struggling with — with all of them I’ve suddenly had a moment of getting back into it and finishing it all in one go.

So what’re you reading? 

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WWW Wednesday

Posted September 9, 2020 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve started rereading Kushiel’s Dart, to join in with the Wyrd & Wonder readalong. I’ve just realised my careful planning out actually has me a week behind, so I need to rejig that. Argh. Anyway, I’m enjoying revisiting this world — the writing always takes me just a little bit to sink back into, given how flowery it is… but it always sucks me in eventually. Damn, Phèdre is a brat at first.

Other than that, I’m reading The Fifth Season (finally), also as a readalong with one of my fellow Beeminder workerbees. I’m ahead on this one, though. From everything I’ve heard about it, I wonder if I’m putting two and two together correctly… but I hate being wrong, so I’m not going to admit to what I guess!

Cover of The Grace of Kings by Ken LiuWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished reading Marie Brennan’s Driftwood last night, and still need to ponder how to review it. It’s still settling in my brain at the moment.

I also finally finished Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, and I’m just done settling my thoughts about that down. I don’t think I’m going to read the next book… unless it weighs on my mind, which it might. I just didn’t care enough, despite finding it compelling enough in and of itself.

What will you be reading next?

Probably I’ll return to Beneath the World, A Sea, by Chris Beckett, and try to finish it; I only got about 60 pages in, if I recall correctly, and I’m doing my best to go back to my half-read books and dig in.

I’m also curious about Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Brenman, and In Black and White, by Alexandra Wilson. So I’m not sure what will be next… and besides, I’m spending half my time beating my head against the basics of statistics and probability, because I let myself get complacent and I’ve forgotten half of what I ever drummed into my brain (with great difficulty). If anyone has good suggestions for books on the basics of biostatistics, let me know…

Anyway, being busy with that makes me inclined to read some fluffy fiction instead, but what I don’t know.

What’re you folks reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Read The Most Books By

Posted July 7, 2020 by Nicky in General / 11 Comments

It’s Tuesday again already? Gah. So this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By”. This one’s always tricky because sometimes you can read just one series by an author and it swamps the handful of one-shots by authors you like more. What’s more, I think my stats might be messed up by all the rereads. So I’m going to ignore the actual statistics here and go with the authors I think I’ve read the most of.

Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles Vess Cover of The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles Cover of Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates by Kerry Greenwood Cover Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn Cover of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

  1. Ursula Le Guin. She was pretty prolific! She’s got to feature on the list somewhere. I read Earthsea as a teenager and gradually moved through most of her science fiction and then her non-fiction essays… and no matter what she writes, it’s all so good. There are more memorable and less memorable forays (a lot of people discount or didn’t like Lavinia or the Gifts trilogy) but… in general, I’ve found something to enjoy in everything she wrote.
  2. K.J. Charles. Charles takes up a pretty good chunk of my shelf, and of course I don’t have all of them in paperback. I’m going to be willing to try just about anything she writes, and I’m a little sad I only have a handful to go. (Being Proper English, Rag and Bone, Slippery Creatures… and maybe some shorter stories? The Price of Meat and A Queer Trade, at least, and of course the crossover with Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin.)
  3. Kerry Greenwood. On the strength of the Phryne Fisher series alone, she’s probably pretty high on my list.
  4. Carola Dunn. Same, only with the Daisy Dalrymple books — plus one of her romance trilogies. She’s hugely prolific and I really need to decide on a few more of her romances to read, because I really liked Miss Jacobson’s Journey et al.
  5. Dorothy L. Sayers. She’s got to be up there in the list, given I’ve read all the Peter Wimsey books, the short stories, and The Documents in the Case…
  6. Marie Brennan. I actually haven’t read all her books yet, but I’ve read one or two of the Onyx Court books, and all the Isabella Trent books, a couple of novellas and at least two short story collections. I’m willing to try just about anything with her name on it.
  7. Guy Gavriel Kay. He’s got a fair few books out and I’ve even read all but two of them, so I think he must be a contender here! I actually got hooked on his oldest books (The Fionavar Tapestry), but he’s got a beautiful way with words. Just… don’t put him in charge of who pairs up with who.
  8. N.K. Jemisin. I might not actually have read more of her works than some other authors, but she deserves a place on this list for intentions. I’m behind, but I will read everything she’s written and everything she’s going to write, most likely.
  9. Mary Robinette Kowal. At this point I’m just eyeing up my shelves and going “oh, that’s a sizeable chunk of books and I’ve read most of them”… But after not entirely loving Shades of Milk and Honey, I was entirely converted, loved that whole series, loved The Calculating Stars, greatly enjoyed a short story collection… Pretty solid pick here, I think.
  10. Jacqueline Carey. From my first introduction to Kushiel’s Dart, I’ve loved Carey’s work, and I’ve eaten up all her Kushiel universe books… plus most of her others as well. I’m a little behind, as always, but always gonna love her lush prose.

Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan Cover of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay Cover of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

I’ve no idea how that actually matches up to the numbers on Goodreads, but I haven’t been great about tracking that lately anyway! I think this is a pretty representative idea, anyway.

Who do you read most of? Do your shelves get dominated by never-ending detective series, or do you spread out your reading?

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Blog Tour: Jacqueline Carey’s Starless

Posted June 13, 2018 by Nicky in Giveaways / 16 Comments

Cover of Starless by Jacqueline CareyYES! Jacqueline Carey has a new book out, and you and I can get our hands on it right now. But before you rush off to the bookstore, I do have some chances here for you to win a copy of the book and, if you’re in the US or Canada, a bag full of extras! And that’s not all: below is an excerpt exclusive to this blog tour, just to whet your appetite…

Excerpt

A hundred yards from us, Pahrkun the Scouring Wind loomed out of the desert. For the space of a few heartbeats, my wits ceased to function altogether. Cloaked in swirling sand, Pahrkun stood mountain-tall. High in the sky, his great black head, long and inhuman, turned this way and that, glowing green eyes set in deep hollows surveying the landscape. I dropped the reins in my hand and fell to one knee, genuflecting without thinking. Beside me, Brother Merik did the same.

I forced myself to my feet, only to fall and genuflect again as Pahrkun moved with slow, graceful strides to reveal a vast tower of flame behind him: Anamuht the Purging Fire. One skeletal bone-white arm emerged from the flames to lift high, lightning crackling in her fist.

Brother Merik was shouting in my ear and pointing.

Anamuht flung her arm forward and a bolt of blue-white lightning struck the barren earth between us. In its sudden glare, the small figure of a man struggling to keep his seat in the saddle of a terrified horse was illuminated.

Brother Yarit.

“. . . with the horses!” Brother Merik shouted. “I’ll get him!” Dumbstruck and nigh frozen, I did as he said, gathering up the fallen reins. The horses tossed their heads in protest, fretful and fearful. Brother Merik ran unerringly toward the Shahalim, unwinding his head-scarf as he ran. He wrapped it around Brother Yarit’s mount’s eyes and began leading them back.

The wind howled.

“Let’s go!” Brother Merik cried. “Go, go, ride!”

I tossed his reins to him. Carrion beetles crunched underfoot as I hopped about in an effort to mount my horse. A strong hand grabbed the back of my tunic and hauled me belly-down across my saddle. From this undignified perch, I managed to scramble upright, my feet fishing for the stirrups.

“Watery hell!” Brother Yarit wheezed. His face was coated with a rime of dried sweat and sand, his eyes bleary and bloodshot. “All right, kid. I guess we’re stuck with each other.”

We rode, the wind dying in our wake.

I glanced over my shoulder once as we fled. The Sacred Twins had vanished into the desert.

You can read more of the excerpt by downloading this Word file!

US/Canada giveaway

Thanks to Tor Books, for folks in the US or Canada I have a hardback of Starless to give away, with a bag of swag featuring a Starless quote postcard, hawk feather, #FearlessWomen sticker, #FearlessWomen pen, and star confetti. Enter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

International giveaway (not US/Canada)

For those outside the US and Canada, I’m providing a prize of my own — the lucky winner will receive a hardback copy of Starless sent to them via Book Depository. Please do not enter this one if you’re from the US or Canada, because you have a chance at the prize above!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on this blog tour:

Monday, June 11              Fantasy Cafe
Tuesday, June 12              Utopia State of Mind
Tuesday, June 12              If the book will be too difficult
Wednesday, June 13        Bibliophibian
Thursday, June 14             Between Dreams and Reality
Friday, June 15                  Her Graces Library

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Review – Kushiel’s Dart

Posted March 11, 2018 by Nicky in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyKushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey

I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to get through my reread of this book, because I still find it incredibly rich and rewarding. It’s true that it can be problematic in some ways — it exoticises various cultures pretty much as a part of the plot, and it’s practically text that white French people are the best in the world (the most beautiful, the most talented, the most educated) because they’re descended from the equivalent of Jesus. And if you’re not into sex, well, there’s several extensive scenes that include plot-necessary information, and even if you don’t mind the occasional sex scene, S&M might be rather less your thing.

Nonetheless, there’s a deep feeling in the novel and it packs in a lot of action. Sometimes reading it I feel like it could be a trilogy all on its own in the hands of another writer. There’s so much going on with the politics and relationships between people, and the sense of history between nations as well. It’s not just about the kinky sex: there’s a whole complex plot here revealed partly through those scenes.

I still love it, though maybe I’m side-eyeing the exotic Celt and Roma analogues rather more this time.

Rating: 5/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
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Review – Miranda and Caliban

Posted February 17, 2017 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline CareyMiranda and Caliban, Jacqueline Carey

Received to review via Netgalley; release date 14th February 2017

I’ll probably give anything by Jacqueline Carey a chance. I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan, and I wasn’t really sure if I’d like something retelling The Tempest. But it’s Jacqueline Carey’s work, so I requested it anyway. And… I loved it quite a bit. I wasn’t sure about the narration: honestly, Miranda sounded rather like Phèdre in many ways, and far too mature considering the narration is present tense, even when she’s a small child. I wasn’t sure about Caliban’s narration either, because I’m not a fan of broken English portrayed in fiction — it quite often comes out sounding like mockery.

But all the same, the writing has grace to it, and it’s certainly easy to read and absorb, despite the tendency to thee and thou. (I wish Ariel didn’t say “Oh, la!” like he was from Pride and Prejudice or something, though. It always sounds far too comical for me.)

The relationship between Miranda and Caliban, their tenderness for each other as each helps the other, is well done. The portrayal of Prospero as a somewhat abusive father who sometimes nonetheless shows tenderness for his daughter makes perfect sense, and so does the way his behaviour pushes the two together. Ariel’s capriciousness and ambivalence works, too.

The only problem, really, is that you know how it’s going to end. I found myself hoping all the same that it would end differently — it’s a retelling, after all. But at the same time, there’s always that sense of inevitability: you know what’s going to happen. I don’t think there’s anything revolutionary about this telling, but it humanises Caliban and makes of him much less of a monster, and more of a lover. The ending gave me a lump in my throat: his hope, despite Ariel’s warnings, despite Miranda’s doubts. It’s so tender and naive.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Saints Astray

Posted July 25, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Saints Astray by Jacqueline CareySaints Astray, Jacqueline Carey

Saints Astray is a fun follow-up to Santa Olivia, following Pilar and Loup as they find a way for themselves in the wider world outside their cordoned off district. Refreshingly, after the ups and downs of their relationship in Santa Olivia, the two are devoted to each other and while they do experience moments of doubt, these are quickly put to rest. Maybe the one thing that did bother me was how many people around Loup turned out to be ‘one in a hundred’s — people attracted to her despite the results of her genetic manipulation, which make her feel unattractive or strange to people. All of a sudden, in this book they’re coming out the woodwork!

Still, for the most part it’s just really fun: Loup and Pilar learn to be bodyguards, and Pilar shows that she’s far from just a pretty face — proving herself well worthy of Loup, if her love and loyalty hadn’t already proven that. They make friends and gain supporters in the outside world… and never forget their friends, whether that be Miguel (who has also escaped) or the kids from the orphanage who grew up alongside them.

The least fun part of this book is Loup’s incarceration, but at least this time she’s treated fairly, and her case triumphs in court, winning new freedoms for her and people like her, and shining a light on what was going on in her border town home. There was hope in Santa Olivia, but Saints Astray is more hopeful yet, full of a kind of optimism that love can win. Not a bad read for the present climate, I think.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Santa Olivia

Posted January 25, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Santa Olivia by Jacqueline CareySanta Olivia, Jacqueline Carey

Santa Olivia was a reread, but it’s been a while — six (what?!) years, apparently. I never read the sequel, Saints Astray, so between getting that and having bought my sister the books for Christmas, it seemed high time to reread this and get stuck into Saints Astray. It was even more readable than I remembered — I’d have read it in a day if pesky life didn’t keep getting in the way. It takes a whole bunch of ideas — a faintly post-apocalyptic No-Man’s-Land in the Outpost, genetically modified soldiers, werewolves (sort of), boxing, coming of age, vigilantism, vengeance… — and makes a fresh, fun pageturner out of it.

And in case, like my sister, this is a draw for you, the central relationship is between two girls, and they eventually have a shot at a happy ever after.

The background is fairly nondescript, because the action is all confined to the Outpost and the inhabitants know little of what happens beyond the barricades. The important aspect is the characters and the interplay between them: the “orphans”, growing up together and trying out their strength, keeping each other’s secrets and having each others’ backs, and at the same time growing apart because they’re all so different. There’s people being good and people being assholes and people being caught somewhere in between and learning, a little, slowly, how to be better. There’s people being brave and people with no fear at all, and interesting discussions of how that affects each of them. All kinds of human emotions and motivations and tangles: that’s the draw of this story, even if the boxing and vengeance leaves you cold.

My one criticism is that it takes a surprisingly long time for Loup to really become the hero of the story, and she does so for entirely predictable reasons. You can feel those beats in the story coming way in advance. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m growing to wish it wasn’t always tragedy that motivates heroes.

Rating: 4/5

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