~by Jacqueline Carey
I have been a huge fan of Jacqueline Carey's ever since reading her debut novel Kushiel's Dart. Since then, I have been slowly making my way through the rest of the Kushiel's Legacy series and her other works such as Santa Olivia. Kushiel's Justice is the fifth book in the Kushiel sequence or the second book in the Imriel trilogy, depending on how you like to count things. The Kushiel books are fairly lengthy, but I definitely find them to be worth the time investment. While Kushiel's Dart will probably remain my favorite in the series for a variety of reasons, I was looking forward to reading Kushiel's Justice. As an added incentive, many of my friend have already finished the books and I needed to catch up. But, I really didn't find that to be too much of a burden.
Prince Imriel de la Courcel is the son of two of Terre d'Ange's most infamous and despised traitors. Despite also being adopted into the household of the realm's greatest heroes, he is still viewed with hatred and suspicion by many of the D'Angeline peerage. Understandably, problems are sure to develop when Imriel falls in love with his cousin Sidone, the Queen's oldest daughter and heir to the throne. They attempt to keep the affair secret, but this also presents difficulties. To make circumstances even more delicate, Imriel has agreed to a marriage to further the goodwill and relationship between Terre d'Ange and Alba. Affairs of love and state collide, complicating matters of both. And when the only precept is "Love as thou wilt," Imriel is also accountable to the gods. He does his best to make the right choices, but even good decisions can be the wrong ones.
Ever since his full introduction in Kushiel's Avatar, the last book in the first Kushiel's Legacy trilogy, I have always liked Imriel. But I get this odd feeling that Kushiel's Justice is about Imriel without actually being about Imriel; I was more interested in the secondary characters (I've developed a huge crush on his cousin Mavros) than I was in the prince himself. He often seemed to be in the background despite being the main protagonist, the narrator, and rather introverted. At least that was true for the first half or so of the book. Imriel did a lot of growing up in the previous volume, Kushiel's Scion, but he still had quite a bit more to do in Kushiel's Justice. He had already come to terms with many of the responsibilities that go along with being a prince of the blood, but he still remained self-absorbed and impetuous. His personality tends to be fairly passive, allowing many of the events and decisions that impact his life to simply happen. But when circumstances finally cause him to take control of his own destiny, he shows an impressive amount of determination. Once he has found the direction for his own life, his story has a much greater sense of purpose.
Kushiel's Justice is for the most part slow and quiet, but generally a very lovely book. I always enjoyed reading it but never really felt compelled or in a rush to continue the story. The first part of the book felt particularly unhurried until Imriel develops some clear ambitions. At that point, the story begins to move at a quicker pace. Granted, the plot develops over several years, so it makes sense that Carey would take her time. Religion, which has always been an important element in the Kushiel books, plays a significant role Kushiel's Justeice--something that I appreciate. There are deaths, and they are hard, but they are also very meaningful. Imriel certainly has gone through difficult times, but he has managed to grow into a fine young man and has done the best that he can to do right by those he holds dear. Kushiel's Justice doesn't stand on it's own quite as well as it could have, it is the middle book in a trilogy after all, but it is still coherent without having to completely reiterate the books that have come before. Kushiel's Justice probably isn't the strongest book in the series, but ultimately I still found it to be satisfying and I still love Carey's writing. I look forward to finishing out Imriel's trilogy with Kushiel's Mercy.