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Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Naamah's Blessing" by Jacqueline Carey (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Jacqueline Carey Website
Order "Naamah's Blessing" HERE
Read FBC Review of "Naamah's Kiss"
Read FBC Review of "Naamah's Curse"
Read FBC Review of "Kushiel's Justice"
Read FBC Review of "Kushiel's Mercy"

INTRODUCTION: The universe of Elua's Companions created by Jacqueline Carey is the most fascinating fantasy world for me as of today. This universe is an alt-Earth with some major changes and subtle magic and the setting of the superb Kushiel's Legacy six volume cycle - which is my number one finished fantasy series as of today.

Two years ago the author started another cycle set about a hundred years later which makes it a 16th century analog and featuring fourth generation descendants of the Kushiel's Legacy characters, this time dedicated to Naamah another of Elua's Companions. While Kushiel represents the darker side with pain and suffering as essential attributes and the original novels strongly reflect that, Naamah represents pure desire and physical love and appropriately Naamah's Kiss was an exuberant novel with an unforgettable heroine and was an A++ and a top novel of mine for 2009

The second trilogy book, Naamah's Curse became a Top 10 expected novel of 2010 and while having a bit the weakness of a transitional middle novel that moves the heroes a lot around without settling too much, it still was a pretty good novel that I could not put down once started since the voice of Moirin has remained extremely compelling. The ending of Naamah's Curse and the revelations there clearly indicated the general direction of Naamah's Blessing and in particular another major expansion of the series universe, so the book was another highly awaited one.

"Returning to Terre d'Ange, Moirin finds the royal family broken. Wracked by unrelenting grief at the loss of his wife, Queen Jehanne, King Daniel is unable to rule. Prince Thierry, leading an expedition to explore the deadly jungles of Terra Nova, is halfway across the world. And three year old Desirée is a vision of her mother: tempestuous, intelligent, and fiery, but desperately lonely, and a vulnerable pawn in a game of shifting political allegiances.

As tensions mount, King Daniel asks that Moirin become Desirée's oath-sworn protector. Navigating the intricate political landscape of the Court proves a difficult challenge, and when dire news arrives from overseas, the spirit of Queen Jehanne visits Moirin in a dream and bids her undertake an impossible quest.

Another specter from the past also haunts Moirin. Travelling with Thierry in the New World is Raphael de Mereliot, her manipulative former lover. Years ago, Raphael forced her to help him summon fallen angels in the hopes of acquiring mystical gifts and knowledge. It was a disastrous effort that nearly killed them, and Moirin must finally bear the costs of those bitter mistakes."

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Naamah's Blessing ends the Moirin saga and possibly the Angeline/Kushiel nine book series in great style - though the author left open the possibilities of more and I think there is great potential in a story set in another hundred years or two and dealing with technological expansion rather than the huge geographical expansion here.

The book returns to the exuberance of the first volume - though there are quite a few dark moments since no series installment is complete without them - and it was all that I expected and more; especially in retrospect, the second volume had two characteristics that made it a little less favorite than the first - it was darker and gloomier and Moirin just does not do dark the way Phedre or to a lesser extent Imriel did, while Bao's character did not tune with Moirin's narrative and the lack of chemistry between the main two leads will always drag a book down.

Happily in Naamah's Blessing none of these happens - the book is quite lush and exuberant and both the Angeline setting and the New World with the vistas of Mexico and the jungles of Central and South America are much more suited than the barren steppe or the cold of the Himalayas - while Bao has a much improved chemistry with Moirin; it helps that he is only one of the several main characters besides Morin.

As the role of Lo Feng's pupil suited him well, so does the role of Moirin' supportive husband is perfect for him letting her and the more flamboyant of the rest of the cast shine - and what a cast is, among the best from the whole series, both in Terre d'Ange with the willful 3 year old Desiree, the bereaved king, the scheming nobles as well in Terra Nova with the D'Angeline adventurers, the Mexica - Nahuatl - warriors, guides and even emperor, to the jungles and peaks of the Incas - Quechas - and the memorable people there

A lot of surprises and gasp moments, tragedy but joy, successes and exuberance too and a superb ending to a trilogy that only adds to the impressive achievement that is the whole Kushiel saga.

Overall, Naamah's Blessing (A++) is the perfect example of how to end a series - bring new elements but at the finish wrap up pretty much all the loose ends, keep the style that made the series a hit, while add enough new twists and turns to avoid predictability. If you want a lush fantasy that will entertain, move and ultimately cheer you up, try Moirin's saga starting with the memorable Naamah's Kiss and ending so well here!



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