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Monday, June 9, 2008

"Kushiel's Mercy" by Jacqueline Carey w/Bonus Q&A

Official Jacqueline Carey Website
Order “Kushiel’s MercyHERE
Read Excerpts HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “Kushiel’s Justice
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s INTERVIEW with Jacqueline Carey

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jacqueline Carey is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically-acclaimed Kushiel's Legacy series, The Sundering epic fantasy duology, and her current Imriel Trilogy. Previous publications include various short stories, essays and the nonfiction book “Angels: Celestial Spirits in Legend and Art”. In 2009, Jacqueline’s departure novel, “Santa Olivia”, will be published under the pseudonym Madalon Easton.

PLOT SUMMARY: Having paid dearly for ignoring Elua's edict to love as thou wilt, Imriel and Sidonie have finally come forward to publicly confess their love for each other, only to see their nation boil over in turmoil. Younger generations, infatuated by a heart-twisting, star-crossed romance, defend the couple. But those who are old enough cannot forget the misdeeds of Imriel's mother, Melisande Shahrizai, who plunged their country into a bloody war that cost the lives of many.

To quell the unrest, Queen Ysandre hands down a decree—she will not divide the lovers, but neither will she acknowledge them. If they decide to marry, Sidonie will be disinherited, losing her claim on the D'Angeline throne. Unless Imriel can find his mother and bring her back to Terre D'Ange to be executed for treason.

Faced with this terrible choice, Imriel and Sidonie prepare for another long separation. But when a dark foreign force casts a shadow over Terre D’Ange and all the surrounding lands, their world is turned upside down, unlikely alliances are made, and the strength of their love is tested to its greatest limits…

CLASSIFICATION: Like the other Kushiel novels, Jacqueline’s latest is a delectable blend of alternate history, epic fantasy, court intrigue and steamy romance driven by intoxicating prose, intimate characterization, and meticulous world-building. Highly recommended for Jacqueline Carey fans and anyone who likes their fantasy heroic, grounded in reality, and passionate…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 672 pages divided over eighty-nine chapters. Also comes with a map of Terre D’Ange and the surrounding lands, and a Dramatis Personae of the many different characters in the book. Narration is once again in the first-person via the protagonist, Imriel de la Courcel, the foster-son of Phèdre nó Delaunay and Joscelin Verreuil. “Kushiel’s Mercy” is the concluding volume in the Imriel Trilogy—after Kushiel’s Scion (Vol I) & Kushiel’s Justice (Vol II)—which in turn is a direct follow-up to the Kushiel’s Legacy series that was narrated from the point of view of Phèdre. It’s not necessary to have read Kushiel’s Legacy before starting the Imriel Trilogy, but it is recommended :)

June 12, 2008 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “Kushiel’s Mercy” via
Hachette Book Group USA. The breathtaking cover art—my favorite of the trilogy—is provided by Cheryl Griesbach and Stanley Martucci.

ANALYSIS: I’m always a little nervous when reaching the end of a series, especially one written by an author that I admire as much as I do Jacqueline Carey. There’s just that foreboding sense of being disappointed, of the book not living up to the standards of the previous volumes. And in the case of Jacqueline’s Kushiel novels, the standards are set pretty high. Fortunately, as the first two books hinted at, and as I had hoped, “Kushiel’s Mercy” turned out to be the best one in the trilogy, and it all starts with Imriel

One thing you can always expect from a Jacqueline Carey novel is well-rounded characters. Full-bodied, emotionally complex, and vividly rendered, Jacqueline’s characters are the heart of her books and Imriel is no exception. Over the course of this trilogy, we’ve seen Imriel evolve from an unsure fourteen-year-old still haunted by his enslavement in Drujan, into a self-assured young man who knows exactly what he wants—to spend the rest of his life with the woman he loves, free of his mother’s taint, free of Melisande Shahrizai’s shadow. And you know what, that’s exactly what readers will want for Imriel as well—to be with Sidonie, happily ever after.

This is where Jacqueline’s brilliance comes into play. Because she makes you care about her characters so much, reading one of her books is a stirring experience and in “Kushiel’s Mercy”, Jacqueline has really outdone herself. You think you’ve seen Imriel suffer? Just wait until you read “Kushiel’s Mercy”. For the first time in his life, Imriel is truly happy, and it’s because of the profound love that he shares with Sidonie, a love that has survived time, distance, magic and grief. And in “Kushiel’s Mercy”, Jacqueline ruthlessly takes that all away, leaving Imriel desperately seeking what he lost, against such impossible odds that readers will wonder if Imriel and Sidonie will ever be together again…

Speaking of Sidonie, the Dauphine of Terre D'Ange really comes into her own in “Kushiel’s Mercy”. Granted, Queen Ysandre’s oldest daughter has always been one of the strongest supporting characters in the trilogy and has transformed over time almost as much as Imriel, but in this book Sidonie emerges onto the same level as Imriel, and in some instances, even outshines our protagonist :) Personally, I thought this was a really smart move. As great a character as Phèdre nó Delaunay was in the Kushiel Legacy series, it was her supporting characters like Joscelin, Melisande, Hyacinthe and so on that made the novels special. In the Imriel Trilogy, I’ve felt that the supporting cast has been a little lacking, so to see Sidonie step up in the manner that she does was immensely satisfying. Plus, it really emphasized the powerful connection between Imriel and Sidonie. As far as the rest of the cast in “Kushiel’s Mercy”, there’s the usual mix of old and new faces including a couple of nasty villains, but for the most part, everyone is relegated to the background in favor of Imriel and Sidonie, which is how it should be. After all, this is their story.

Story-wise, “Kushiel’s Mercy” follows a similar pattern to the other Kushiel novels, first starting out in Terre D'Ange and playing around with some intrigue, both politically and of the Night Court, before the bulk of the plot shifts to other countries, and then finally coming back to D'Angeline soil. But Jacqueline introduces a few surprising elements in this book including a first-person perspective of a new character in Leander Maignard, some powerful sorcery that is straight out of a Disney fairy tale—though with a much darker bent—and various other little twists that keeps the reader second-guessing. There’s also a nation determined on forging a new empire by any means possible, another nation seeking sovereignty, civil war in Terre D’Ange, the Unseen Guild, covertcy, sieges, desperate escapes, bloody battles, steamy sex and much more that makes “Kushiel’s Mercy” just a riveting read. I admit I had a few gripes with the story like how Phèdre & Joscelin’s mysterious errand, Hyacinthe’s successor and Vralia were never addressed, while the lines of succession in Alba and Melisande were resolved so easily, but as a whole I liked “Kushiel’s Mercy” the most because it manages to be both a sweeping adventure of epic proportions and a tale of personal intimacy…

Of the writing, Jacqueline Carey remains on top of her game led by prose that just slides off the tongue, the wonderful aforementioned characterization, and world-building that effortlessly transports the reader to Terre D'Ange. In fact, every time I read a Kushiel novel, it feels like I’m coming home :) At the same time, Jacqueline does challenge herself, pulling off a difficult plot that could have been campy in a less skilled author’s hands, while the narrative of Leander Maignard was a stroke of genius. It was especially refreshing to have such a different voice tell the story and to see Imriel, Sidonie, Melisande, etc., from a different perspective.

CONCLUSION:Kushiel’s Mercy” is the novel that Jacqueline Carey fans have been waiting for: The final fate of Melisande Shahrizai. A heart-wrenching love story that conquers all including continents, years, wars, and gods. A plethora of adventure, magic, and intrigue. Mouth-watering hints of the next Kushiel series. A triumphant and joyful conclusion to the Imriel Trilogy. All this and much more can be found in “Kushiel’s Mercy”, by far the best novel in the Imriel Trilogy, and one of the best books in the entire Kushiel saga…

BONUS FEATURE: Jacqueline Carey Author Q&A (NOTE: The interview was conducted before Jacqueline left on her trip to China):

Q: With “Kushiel's Mercy”—published June 12, 2008—you wrap up Imriel's trilogy which began in “Kushiel's Scion” and “Kushiel's Justice”. How do you feel about the way you concluded the series, and how does Imriel's trilogy compare to the original Kushiel series, not just in terms of the writing and the different viewpoints (Phèdre vs. Imriel), but also thematically?

Jacqueline: In many ways, Imriel’s journey has been a more personal one, a search for identity and acceptance. Unlike Phèdre, he’s not the constant lynch-pin at the center of a crisis, called upon to save the world in unexpected ways. The first volume was a coming-of-age story. In the second volume, epic events serve as a backdrop for his personal quest for justice. But in this last volume, “Kushiel’s Mercy,” he does find himself at the center of a crisis, and the only person capable of saving his world. In terms of the plot, while it takes a number of (hopefully) unpredictable turns, I think it’s also an inverse mirror of the last volume of the original trilogy, bringing everything around full circle.

Q: Back in November 2007 you announced that you were starting on the first book in a new D'Angeline trilogy which would take place a few generations after “Kushiel's Mercy” and feature a whole new cast of characters including a new female protagonist. How far along are you with the book, is there anything you can tell us about it and considering that this will be your third D'Angeline trilogy, are you at all worried about possibly recycling the same storylines, characters and themes from the other series? In other words, how will you make this new trilogy a fresh experience for both you as a writer and for fans of the series?

Jacqueline: The working title is “Naamah’s Blessing,” and I’m over halfway done with it. I’ll be taking a break for a trip to China to do research for the last third of the first book, as well as a portion of the second volume. It takes place several generations after the end of “Kushiel’s Mercy,” so there won’t be any returning characters, only their descendants.

Keeping things fresh in a familiar milieu is always a challenge. While my heroine, Moirin, is half D’Angeline, she’s born to the folk of the Maghuin Dhonn in Alba; the infamous bear-witches of “Kushiel’s Justice.” She’s raised in isolation in the Alban wilderness, so when we eventually see Terre d’Ange through her eyes as a young woman, it’s all fresh and new. And Moirin possesses a small, innate gift for magic, which is something I’ve never done in the series. All these things, combined with exploring new geographic and cultural territory, as well as new themes and storylines, make it different and exciting for me, and I hope for the reader, too.

Q: When I interviewed you last year, you mentioned a departure novel called “Santa Olivia” that was described as “a post-punk desert bordertown fable with boxing and cute girls in love”. I believe you've finished editing the book and that it will be published under a pseudonym. Is there any idea when readers might see the book, can you tell us what your pseudonym will be, and the status on a possible sequel to “Santa Olivia”? For that matter, are you involved in any other non- D'Angeline related projects that you could talk about?

Jacqueline: While I don’t have an exact date, “Santa Olivia” is scheduled for publication in Spring/Summer 2009, under the pseudonym Madalon Easton. For trivia buffs, this is a combination of my paternal grandmother’s first name and my maternal grandmother’s last name. Status of a sequel is yet to be determined, although the concept is fully fledged! We’ll see how the first book fares. For now, I’m fully re-immersed in the D’Angeline milieu; but it was enormously refreshing to take a break from it, and I hope that “Santa Olivia” finds its own niche. It’s a fun, fun book.

Q: Recently in fantasy fiction, there seems to be more authors who are trying to write grittier and darker books or are blatantly attempting to defy traditional fantasy tropes like Steven Erikson's Malazan tales, Joe Abercrombie's The First Law, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn novels, Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet, etc., and in many ways your D'Angeline novels do the same thing. What are your thoughts on this movement, the audience's response to such books, and fantasy tropes in general?

Jacqueline: For my part, I grew up reading fantasy and loving the sheer escapism and the sense of wonder it evoked; and yet, as I grew older, I found myself craving fantasy that was a little more grounded in plausible reality, a little more visceral, possessed of a bit more intellectual substance and an adult emotional sensibility. I wanted work that made me think and feel in addition to entertaining me. I suspect that’s true of others, too. Like many writers, I write the books I want to read. Thankfully, it seems there’s a large audience that feels the same way that we do. I’m delighted that there are so many readers eager to be provoked and challenged, and not just taken for a fun ride... though I do always try to ensure the ride is worthwhile on its own merits!

Q: With entertainment becoming more technology-based, which in turn is becoming more and more advanced, is the print format in danger of becoming extinct, and what can publishers & authors do to adjust to the changing times? Additionally, what are your thoughts on ePublishing?

Jacqueline: Based on my own experience, I don’t think the print format’s in any immediate danger of extinction. Sales of my titles available as eBooks are a miniscule percentage of the whole. The industry hasn’t yet developed a reader that sufficiently combines usability with cost-effectiveness to challenge traditional print media. I’m sure it will come in time – Amazon’s new Kindle format seems to be getting some traction – but we’re not there yet. And no doubt when it does happen, it will bring a whole host of challenges for the publishing and bookselling industry, but as an author, I’m focused on the creative end of the business for now.

Q: Last year was tough for writers of speculative fiction. Several authors passed away including Robert Jordan, Madeline L'Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Leigh Eddings, Fred Saberhagen, Jack Williamson, Alice Borchardt, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. while Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Did any of this affect you and is there anything you would like to say?

Jacqueline: Yes, we lost a lot of titans in the genre last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing any of them in person, but there are certainly debts owed. Robert Jordan was more than gracious in providing blurbs for my first two novels, which helped launch my career. As a young reader, I was influenced by Madeline L’Engle and Lloyd Alexander. “A Wrinkle in Time” doubtless had a lot to do with my exploring the redemptive nature of love in my work. And I’ll never forget the revelation of reading “Taran Wanderer,” in which the young hero succeeds at every trade he puts his hand to...except the one trade that’s his heart’s desire. It taught me a very adult lesson (and gave me a life-long respect for potters). It also taught me that fantasy fiction could deal with important ideas, and address human nature in a meaningful manner.

Q: To close, what genre books have impressed you lately or you are looking forward to reading in 2008?

Jacqueline: Honestly, I’ve been so deep in research mode for the past year, I’m out of touch. I’m not able to keep up with reading in the genre when I’m in the midst of a major project. One fantasy debut I did read and enjoy was Alan Campbell’sScar Night”, and I look forward to the sequel, “Iron Angel.”


Harry Markov said...

This isa very profound, long and very well written review! I think I am hooked. Now all I need are the lovely books that I can read. Hey Robert, do you happen to know where I can find a interdimensional portal that will land me at the nearest Barns and Noble.

Robert said...

Thanks Harry! I wish I knew of such a portal :) Perhaps I should do a giveaway for the original trilogy ;)

Harry Markov said...

Oh, so sad! Oh, I would really like to win one of your giveaways, but there are probably billions of people entering, so the odds are like playing the lottery.


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