~by Jacqueline Carey
2007 Gaylactic Spectrum Award Nominee
Ever since reading Jacqueline Carey's first published novel, Kushiel's Dart, I knew that I would be reading anything by her that I could get my hands on. While none of the other books have grabbed me in quite the same way so far, I've thoroughly enjoyed each and every one. Kushiel's Scion is the fourth book of her Kushiel's Legacy series and the first book of the second trilogy. Even though I loved the first three books, it took me a while to start Kushiel's Scion--the books are lengthy and require a significant amount of time devoted to reading them. But, for me anyway, it has been totally worth it, and Kushiel's Scion is no exception.
Imriel nó Montrève de la Courcel only wants to be good. He never wanted to be a prince of Terre d'Ange, third in line to the throne. In fact, he was quite content with his life as a goatherd, oblivious to his true identity. But that was before he was kidnapped as a child and sold into soul-shattering slavery. He was rescued and fostered by the heroes of the realm--the Comtesse de Montrève, Phèdre nó Delaunay, and her consort Joscelin Verreuil--but not before being physically and spiritually scarred. His mother, Melisande Shahrizai, is the land's greatest traitor, and there are many at court who would like to see Imriel disgraced or dead. Imriel struggles to accept his heritage and terrible past while trying to avoid the worst of the intrigue, speculations, and underhand dealings at court. Thrust into a life as a member of the royal family, and with all the responsibilities that accompany it, he seeks to leave, hoping to discover and accept himself, both the good and the bad.
Beyond the first trilogy of the Kushiel's Legacy series, I have yet to read any of Carey's other books (though I do plan to), so I wondered how well she would handle a different protagonist. The answer--quite well indeed; Imriel is definitely a different character than Phèdre. Carey's writing is still elegant (and I still love it), but Imriel's perspective is more straightforward and a little less flowery than his adoptive mother's. Carey also did an excellent job of introducing the back-story from the previous three books. Because the past events are seen through Imriel's eyes, it wasn't as repetitive as it could have been for those who read the first trilogy while still allowing newcomers to fully enjoy the story. It is not necessary to have read the previous books, though it adds quite a bit. Unlike most of the books that came before it, Kushiel's Scion isn't quite an epic save-the-kingdom tale but a slightly quieter coming of age story.
I rather liked Imriel as a protagonist, but, like most teenagers, I wanted to smack him upside the head more than once. His personality is much more passive than that of Phèdre's, especially towards the beginning of the book, but by the end he is more at home with himself as a person. The changes he goes through and the maturation of his character are handled very well--it is clear that he is different from when he began. Overall, Kushiel's Scion fits in very nicely with the previous books even if it is a different kind of story. The writing is still beautiful, there's still plenty of intrigue, and the plot and characters continue to be deep and complex (there's a reason that a detailed dramatis personae and map are included). I'm definitely looking forward to spending more time in Carey's world and watching Imriel continue to grow as a young man in Kushiel's Justice.