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Kushiel's Dart is an historical fantasy novel by Jacqueline Carey first published in June 2001. The novel is set in the equivalent of medieval europe and is essentially a story of palace/political intrigue with some adventure, a few military battles, woven together with a good-sized dollop of sex -- mainly S&M.

The main character is Phèdre nó Delaunay. She was indentured at age four into the care of an expensive brothel, and at age ten to the home of Anafiel Delaunay - he a disinherited peer of the realm, notable poet, and political spymaster. In Anafiel's home she is raised to be a high-paid courtesan/spy.

The story concerns the lands of and around Terre D'Ange - land of angels. It is located in what we would call France. The name derives from the pseudo-Christian-Judaic religion the author creates. The god Elua is created from the tears of Mary Magdalene and the blood of Jesus. He walks the earth with a baccanalian sensibility following one basic motto: Love as thou wilt. Eventually Elua and some angels that choose to follow him settle and that land becomes known as Terre D'Ange.

Phèdre bears a red mote in one eye, known by legend as Kushiel's dart - Kushiel being one of the angels that followed Elua. This mark signifies Phèdre as one who takes sexual pleasure from her own pain and humiliation. She becomes much in demand from the whips and chains crowd. She uses these sexual liasons with influential D'Angelines to gather political information. With these skills she becomes a whore/ambassador and on her sexual proclivities rest the fate of a nation.

The author writes this as a first person narrative, Phèdre's account of all that happens. This is Carey's first novel and it is a long read - 704 pages. The writing is fairly straight forward, the story moves along nicely, and only near the very end when the sequel was being set up did lumps of material appear with an obvious haste behind them.

Despite the patina of religion, this book raises few large questions. To one unfamiliar with S&M this might be considered an exotic novel, but that aside the storyline and set of characters are really fairly stock. This is an enjoyable adventure tale and Jacqueline Carey tells it well enough that I'll consider reading the sequel when it comes out.

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