Hello, hello! Welcome to August. Where has the year gone? Recently, I’ve been trying to read Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, which was on my short summer reading list. While it’s a relatively long book (900ish pages), the fact that I’m still stuck around page 100 doesn’t bode well for me finishing it. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be reading the rest of it. I feel bad, because a good friend recommended the book, but I just can’t get into it. So, I thought I would give my thoughts on it thus far before I stash it away, deep in my bookcase, and grab something else to read.
First, I want to say that I had high hopes for this novel. The plot sounds really interesting and the way the main character, Phedre, was described to me made her sound amazing. I’m sure when she grows up (she’s currently 16 where I stopped), she’ll be a badass. But there’re a lot of things that I just can’t get past about this world.
For starters, the Court of Night Blooming Flowers. It’s basically a bunch of high-end brothels, which I am totally fine with and was intrigued by. At least until it started getting into the details where the children that the houses take in, either because the parents can’t care for them or they’re born into the house, are coerced (they make it sound like it’s a choice, but the kids are groomed for it from day one) into learning the “ways of Naamah” (sex) when they hit the age of 14 in order to pay back the debt they incurred by being raised in the specific houses. Granted, Phedre escapes this by being purchased by someone who puts off her actual training until she’s older (she’s 16 and still a virgin when I stopped reading). If it were a normal bodily exploration thing, I wouldn’t think twice about it, but these are kids being used to make money. I can’t get over the icky feeling I get from it, even though I understand that this is the norm in that world.
There’s also the background story about how an angel, Elua, decided to go on a walkabout to find people who would accept him and was followed around by some companions because even other angels worshipped him. While on this walkabout, Naamah prostitutes herself to get the stuff Elua needs (from his freedom when he’s imprisoned to his food). Because that’s what women do, apparently: they sell themselves to take care of a perfectly able man. Thus, prostitution became a holy act and that’s why the Night Court exists. Which is actually a pretty cool story (except the whole doing it for a guy part). And no one is supposed to be forced into prostitution lest it sully the act. But, like I said, when a kid is groomed for it their entire life, it certainly feels like coercion to me.
Despite all of that, I would probably keep reading for the main storyline, but the writing style is what’s really stopping me. There’s a lot of flowery, purple prose. It seems like every sentence contains at least one adverb. Most of the time, I feel like the author is just trying to show off how big her vocabulary is. And that’s a huge turn off for me.
I apologize to my friend and anyone else who loves this book, but it’s not for me. Maybe it gets better. Perhaps in a few years, I’ll be mature enough to appreciate it for the “sophisticated fantasy” it’s claimed to be. But for now, I’m putting it away and turning my attention elsewhere.