Thursday, August 10, 2006

Book Review: Swordspoint and Kushiel's Scion

Kushiel's Scion is Jacqueline Carey's fourth Terre d'Ange book. I enjoyed the first three, although the first is the best, and after her awful detour into epic fantasy I was glad to see Carey return to her smutty roots.

Unfortunately, the main character is no longer Phèdre, anguisette and international woman of mystery (who, to be honest, was becoming an Ayla-like figure). Instead, we follow Imriel, angsty teen and cause of international incidents. Imriel was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, which undermines the effect of the novel's salacious sequences, and he can be just as annoying as a real teenage boy, which is a shaky foundation for a several-thousand-page fantasy series. By the novel's end, he's matured a bit, but Carey sets up too many easy resolutions which we know (since there are to be two more giant tomes about Imriel) will fall apart. I give it a B.

Swordspoint is a swashbuckling fantasy novel set in a world where nobles' grievances, large and small, are solved via the hiring of swordsmen: duellists who fight either the challenged party, or, more likely, his representative, to first blood or even to the death. Richard St. Vier is the best swordsman of his generation, but after he becomes embroiled in the nobility's sexual and political disputes he cannot fight his way out. Everything ties up in too neat a bow at the end, but this is a confection, not something chewy and nutritious. Go in expecting to be entertained and it won't disappoint. A new book with the same setting has just been released. A-

(Two Swordspoint quibbles: the picture on the dust jacket is of someone wearing an explosion of ruffles. Surely this would hinder one in fighting. Second, the only heterosexual character turns out to be the bad guy. Is this a clever inversion of the gay villain cliche or just laziness?)
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