I sometimes stop by the blogs of authors whose books I like and/or think look interesting. Sarah Rees Brennan has started a new promotion, where she offers a new bit of fiction every Friday and a contest entry to anyone who spreads the link. Today's offering is the first half of a non-spoilery story set in the same world as her debut novel THE DEMON'S LEXICON.
By Jacqueline Carey
In my review of SANTA OLIVIA, I mentioned Carey's ability to change voice and style. After the self-contained SANTA OLIVIA, I had forgotten how globe-trotting the Kushiel books are. They're doorstops for a reason: the protagonist does quite a bit, cycling through several plots. Moirin's time in each of the three countries NAAMAH'S KISS takes place in could all form their own story. While Carey maintains the lush, slightly purple style that marks the other Kushiel books, she once more creates an original voice for the protagonist so you never feel you're reading Phedre or Imriel redux. (Phedre and Imriel being the universe's previous point of view characters. And as a bonus for those who don't like angst, Moirin is much less moody than Imriel.)
Moirin is more naive. She gives herself freely and doesn't know when to put her foot down so that people don't get hurt. This is partially because she was raised in almost isolation with her mother. Her culture is that of the Maghuin Dhonn, the bear witches, who previously played a part in KUSHIEL'S MERCY. (Between the different culture and several generations later aspect, those who haven't read the previous two trilogies can easily start with Moirin's story.) A boy, Cillian, is the first other person she spends any significant time with. She gradually becomes interested in book learning through their relationship, which partially affects her decision to leave Alba. Moirin is very aware that she's only Maghuin Dhonn through her mother, and she wonders about her place in the world.
I must admit, my favorite part is when Morin travels to Ch'in. (All the places and cultures in the Kushiel books are analogues of the real world. The dividing point is in the fictional world Jesus had a son who remained on Earth along with some angels who thought he had the right idea.) Along with her mentor and his other apprentice, Moirin comes to the aid of a princess in trouble. Anyone who's slightly familiar with Chinese folktales will recognize the story Moirin steps into. I enjoyed Carey's twist on it.
I suppose I should warn about the strong sexual component. Moirin is half d'Angelline, a culture that's very free about sex. That means there are heterosexual and homosexual scenes, many of which occur outside of marriage. If that's not your thing, this isn't the fantasy series for you. If you don't mind, I do recommend reading Carey.
I admit that when I picked up NAAMAH'S KISS I was already a Carey fangirl. But there's a reason I love her. Her writing has flow and wit, and her plots are clever. She tells exciting, epic stories while maintaining a tight focus on character. Then there's her focus on worldbuilding. The various cultures and how they interact is well-defined. Carey did her research in order to make a fantasy world with realistic politics and sociology. The only fantasy writer I trust more than Carey is Robin Hobb.