I finished Kushiel’s Chosen quite a while ago but, as usually happens when I love a book too much, I procrastinated on the review because I don’t know what to say or where to begin. So, as is also usual, I’ve decided to just start typing and hope it all makes sense by the end. 🙃
Kushiel’s Chosen is the second novel in a trilogy that I was introduced to by the Wyrd & Wonder crew, who have hosted readalongs for the first book and this one. It’s a high fantasy story set in a world that is heavily influenced by European culture, history, and mythologies. The story is mostly set in Terre D’Ange, a country peopled by descendants of angels, and focuses on a young woman named Phèdre, who spent most of her childhood growing up in the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers, a.k.a. the Night Court, which is dedicated to the service of the angel Naamah. Members of the Night Court are molded into courtesans. They see copulation in service to Naamah as sacred, which Phèdre wholeheartedly believes.
The angels are, of course, regarded as gods. Because Phèdre has a red mote in her eye, she is considered marked by Kushiel, who is considered the punisher among the angels, and god-touched. Kushiel’s chosens are called anguissettes and, due to being chosen by such a god, tend to derive pleasure from pain. Thus, as a servant of Naamah and marked by Kushiel, the services Phèdre partake in are often masochistic.
In addition to all that, Phèdre was also trained as a spy and is often wrapped up in whatever major political machination is in play or is trying to find out about it. So, much of the plot’s drive comes from political intrigue. It all makes for a very compelling read!
Phèdre’s Trilogy, book 2
Quick summary (possible spoilers here and below for the first book)
The first book, Kushiel’s Dart, ended with Melisande escaping justice and Phèdre deciding to retire to the country (Siovale) with her companion, Josceline, and her dedicated chevaliers (a.k.a. Phèdre’s Boys) Remy, Ti-Philippe, and Fortun. However, Phèdre’s stay in the country is not for long (as we all knew would happen) because Meli sends there Phèdre’s sangoire cloak to tempt her back into the game. Phèdre takes the bait (really, she couldn’t help it) and returns to the city to sniff out clues to Meli’s whereabout.
While in the city, Phèdre catches the attention of Barquiel L’Envers, who also wants to know how Meli managed to escape justice. Realizing that she must track down the missing guards from Troyes-le-Mont so that she can question them, Phèdre heads out there but is directed to La Serenissima, which she visits and learns that another god requests her service before she’s thrown in a dolorous dungeon. The plot stalls here until rescue attempts are made, which all result in Phèdre washed out to sea, picked up by a pirate, and becoming even more entwined with supernatural intrigues (which REALLY fascinated this reader). Then… a bunch of other exciting stuff happens that made this book one of my favorites, but I won’t mention them all because I think I’ve spoiled enough. (Goodreads)
Kushiel’s Chosen was just as good a read as Kushiel’s Dart, but the reason why I like this one more and consider it a favorite is because the influence of the gods is more apparent in this book, which is what I was hoping for. Every scene where it’s obvious that the gods are working through Phèdre was a favorite for me, but possibly the one I love the most was when Kushiel worked through her to stop the Yeshuites and the Unforgiven from coming to blows.
I also like that we visit several other countries in this book as Phèdre chases Meli and again seems to be thrown off path by her. I appreciated seeing how each country’s culture makes them unique, which enriches this world, I think, even though I know it’s all heavily influenced by European cultures. I still appreciate it all and like how it’s written.
Some of the new characters were entertaining as well. We spend more time with Phèdre’s Boys, who were all fun and I love how dedicated they are to her. I also enjoyed meeting the seamstress, Favrielle nó Eglantine, and the Doge, the ruler of La Serenissima. I especially liked Kazan Atrabiades, whose entanglement with the kríavbhog and how all that was resolved was fascinating.
However, some of the old characters annoyed me a bit, namely Josceline. Actually, both Josc and Phèdre were annoying where their romantic relationship is concerned because instead of talking to each other about it, they instead continue to just frustrate each other. Thankfully, the story didn’t focus on the romance. However, I often wished we could have gotten a chapter or two from Josc’s perspective to really understand how he feels and know what he thinks about what’s going on and Phèdre’s actions. For the majority of the book (because he avoids talking to Phèdre about how he feels), we only get what Phèdre thinks Josc feels about things.
(Spoiler for this book in next paragraph)
I really liked and enjoyed reading this one. The structure of the story closely resembles the first book, Kushiel’s Dart. It’s basically the same thing: Meli sets a trail for Phèdre to follow, Phèdre does so to chase after her, Meli does something to throw Phèdre off and possibly place Phèdre’s life in peril, Phèdre wins over her “captors” and finds her way back, Phèdre corners Meli yet manages to lose her again. I didn’t mind this much as I read, but I do hope the structure of the third book is not so similar. I’ll be really annoyed if Meli manages to slip through Phèdre and Ysandre’s clutches again.
A very compelling, entertaining, fascinating read that I’m already looking forward to rereading (lol), but I’ll complete the trilogy before doing so.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
It’s such a good story to get into. I highly recommend it!
Quotes from the book
“The fruit of the future is rooted in the soil of history.”
“Mortals conquer and slay; gods rise and fall. The games we play out on the board of earth echo across the vault of heaven.”
“I knew true terror then, open eyes bleeding salt tears into an ocean of grief.”
“Grief heals, they say in Eisande; unshed tears fester like a canker in the soul.”