All is well in Terre d’Ange, with the country recovering from war and prospering under the rule of Ysandre de la Courcel. Phèdre has settled into life as the Comtesse de Montrève, enjoying some peace and quiet with her lover/partner/boyfriend (?) Joscelin Verreuil in her country estate. With the arrival from Serenissima of Phèdre’s blood red cloak at the end of Kushiel’s Dart, this brief respite comes to an end. Phèdre is thrown back into her old life as badass courtesan spy as she tries to figure out what Melisande’s next step is.
Carey expands Phèdre’s world, as her journey brings her to Serenissima (think Venice), Illyria (the Balkans), and Kriti (Crete). As always, she does a great job creating distinctive settings, cultures, and people. She rivals George R.R. Martin in her attention to details like food, so if that’s not your thing, be warned. Personally, I freaking love it those details.
I particularly enjoyed the ways in which she played with religion in this book. It didn’t hit me the first time around, but this is effectively a world where Christianity was adopted by the Yeshuites (think Jews) and no one else. That means we have medieval (I think – it’s hard to get a firm grasp on what year this would be) Venice worshiping a Roman god and Sumerian goddess and the Greek gods still very much alive and well in Krete. It was a delight seeing the ways Carey spins out the central conceit of a world where Christianity looks very, very, very different.
As for the story, it’s about what you’d expect after the first book. There’s a plot that threatens Terre d’Ange, and Phèdre is out to thwart it. There are lot of twists and turns (some of which were pretty delicious) as the plot churns along. I found the intrigue a bit less thrilling this time around, but that might be the effects of not being in the thralls of instant book love anymore.
There’s some interesting character work going on here as well. Phèdre’s very specific sexuality (as basically a super-duper submissive masochist) continues to be a strength for her when it comes to being a spy, but it complicates (to say the least) her relationship with Joscelin. Phèdre is pushed to the breaking point and forced to face herself, and it’s some harrowing (and, for reader’s who might find her a little annoying from time-to-time, satisfying) stuff.
Also, there’s some hot, kinky sex. If that’s your thing.
Recommended for anyone who read the first book and wanted more, but not essential for reader’s satisfied by their last trip to Terre d’Ange.