Note: While this is Book 4 in Kushiel’s Legacy (also referred to as the Terre D’Ange Cycle) it is Book 1 in the second trilogy and focuses on Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in Book 3, Kushiel’s Avatar. Kushiel’s Scion can be read on it’s own.
Set in an alternate history mixed with a bit of fantasy, Imriel de la Courcel, who we met in the first trilogy, is growing up and he’s muddling his way through it. Certain things that come easy to his friends (like flirting) are difficult for him. It’s a long road full of blunders, missteps, and embarrassing moments. But there are also these gems of self-realization, beauty, and love. His teen years are full of various experiments, like him working alongside the Montreve folks to clear a new paddock, his early friendship with Eamonn mac Grainne, and his first visit to the Court of Night Blooming Flowers. This book is really the story of how Imriel becomes a man.
Eamonn goes off to Tiberium in Caerdicca Unitas to learn at the great universities and Imri follows soon enough. Both Phedre (Imri’s adopted mother) and Imri are curious if Phedre’s mentor Anafiel Delaunay learned the arts of covertcy in Tiberium when he was a young man. Imri makes it one of his goals to find out. He finds so much more than he expected, including himself. Living through Master Piero’s lessons, a riot, a siege, a wedding, the loss of a friend, Imri comes out of it wiser and more patient with himself and those around him.
Each of the first three books had distinct plots that arose early in the story. The second trilogy is a bit slower paced and I think of it as a plot that extends over all three books, taking longer to show itself. So, what was the main thread for this book? It was Imri learning how to be a man, but also what kind of man he wants to be. He spends much of his inner monologue worried over 1) whether he can be a good man and 2) whether he will choose to do so. He has this darker side, one that is prone to moodiness, anti-social behavior, brooding, and darker desires in the bedroom. Whereas the first trilogy has a distinct goal and hence plot for each book, this story is more subtle and takes more patience to pick out the main threads. Certain parts of the tale do tend to linger a bit overmuch (such as the teen angst that Imri goes through).
Then we all the good stuff. Melisande, Imri’s biological mother and a traitor to the kingdom of Terre D’Ange, still has a pinky in the mix. Imri becomes entangled in a torrid affair that brings him closer to the answer of who taught Anafiel such interesting skills. So much subtle intrigue! The siege is also interesting because it involves the ghosts of the city as well as the living. I won’t spoil this, but I found this to be the most interesting part of the book. Imri learns so much about love and friendship in it’s many shades in this tale.
As with the first trilogy, this book does have detailed sex scenes. They are hot and steamy, the author not flinching away from including both emotion and action in her descriptions. She’s a master at keeping them in context and using such scenes to either move the plot along or show you depths in her characters. Some of the scenes are a bit more robust than others, but most of them are sweet in nature.
I think I will always enjoy the first trilogy the most because it introduced me to this wonderful world. However, it was great to revisit Imriel’s tale once again, this time as part of a on-line group read. Nuances that I had missed reading on my own were brought up in the numerous discussions. This book definitely has stood up to scrutiny.
The Narration: Simon Vance gives a great performance as the voice of Imriel. He has that smooth cadence that is perfect for Imriel’s brooding thoughts or his well chosen words. I loved his accent for Eamonn and his Italian accents for the people of Caerdicca Unitas. All his characters were distinct and he had more than one female voice. He sounded very comfortable with the sex scenes.