Whew. There’s definitely some steamy goodness in this book. I’ve seen some people on the internet getting all huffy about it—she’s so young! She’s a sex worker! It’s BDSM!
And sure, if there’s just no pleasure sensor in your body that lights up with a little bit of consensual violence, maybe you’ll find parts of the story too distasteful for you to enjoy the rest.
As for me, I very much enjoyed reading about Phedre no Delaunay. Sold to one of the Houses of the Night-Blooming Court at a young age, Phedre’s marque is bought at ten by Anafiel Delaunay. He trains her in the arts of subtly and spying, and at sixteen Phedre uses her courtesan skills to uncover many secrets for the good of the realm.
When I first started reading, for maybe the first page, I was put off by the narrative voice. I could tell I was in for denser reading than most other Young Adult, and I could tell that the author was our very own main character, older and wiser and telling us her story. That sometimes puts me off, knowing that we might have certain things spoiled for us, the delightful suspense taken away because our narrator already knows how the story ends.
The writing is careful, though, and clever. And rather than detract, the narrative style actually adds to the story, building up more suspense as Phedre marvels at her ignorance at times, and drops sly hints to say that things were different, back then.
The narrative voice reminded me partly of Wraeththu, by Storm Constantine, and partly of The Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe. It wasn’t an unpleasant reminder—I greatly enjoyed those books, and reading Kushiel’s Dart brought me back to being a teenager, reading books off my high school sweetheart’s bookshelf.
The amount of political intrigue in this book might be off-putting to some, and to be quite honest, I expected to get bored of it myself. I’m not really one for those types of stories, with all their twists and turns and subtle implications. I think there is probably quite a bit that went over my head, actually, though I don’t feel like I’m missing any essential piece of the story. However, the pacing of this story was extraordinary. I always wanted to know more. Secrets were unveiled at just the right time, or another delicious sexual encounter would occur, or a romance would take wing just when I might otherwise be finding my attention straying. I haven’t been glued to a book like that in quite some time, actually, and it was satisfying and wonderful.
I’m currently reading the second book in the series, and loving it as well. Major props to my Mama Bear from my graduate program, for putting me on to this series (her favorite). I’m glad to finally be reading them, and happy to find that they are so damn enjoyable.