Friday, 23 July 2010

59: "Naamah's Curse" by Jacqueline Carey

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Page count: 576 pages
Date begun: June 12th, 2010
Date finished: June 13th, 2010

WARNING! CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR NAAMAH'S KISS!

For those who may not have heard of her, Jacqueline Carey is the author of two completed fantasy trilogies, and currently working on a third, set in a world which bears similarities to our own. Looking at the map in the front of her books, the geography bears striking similarity to that of our world, but the countries bear different names.

The main characters from her first two trilogies were from Terre D'Ange, the land of the Angels, loosely based on Renaissance France. To quote from her books: "Elua was born when the blood of Yeshua ben Yosef, the son of the one God, mingled with the tears of the Magdelene and was carried in the womb of Mother Earth. With Elua's peaceful wanderings and the one God's rejection of him, seven angels then rejected God to become Elua's companions on Earth. These angels and Elua himself then founded a nation (Terre D'Ange) and comingled with humans before leaving. D'Angelines are the people from their descent. The D'Angelines live after one precept: "Love as thou wilt". They are all strikingly beautiful in different ways, and really open about sex.

As Carey kept writing, she showed her readers more of her fantasy world. The heroine of her third trilogy, Moirin mac Fainche, is the daughter of a D'Angeline diplomat and an Alban priestess. Alba is a mix of Pictish Britain and Celtic Ireland, pretty much. Moirin's people worship the great bear spirit, but as she is half D'Angeline, she is called on adventures, and to find out what that side of her heritage means. Moirin's travels take her across the sea to Terre D'Ange, and much further again, to the great Chi'in Empire (China), where she has to help the Emperor save his daughter, who is possessed by a dragon. It may sound lame, but it's really not! She falls in love with a half-Tartar (Mongolian) peasant boy, the assistant to the scholar she is traveling with, but he is accidentally killed while they are saving the princess. The old wise man she is with, uses Moirin's limited healing powers and his own, to sacrifice his own spirit, and Bao is brought back, at the cost of his Master's life. After his resurrection, Bao and Moirin are also forever connected, as half of Moirin's soul, always connected to the great bear spirit, seems to be lodged in Bao.

Unable to deal with this, and the death of his beloved Master, Bao leaves Moirin, to find out about his own heritage, in the Tartar lands. At the start of Naamah's Curse, Moirin is sick of sitting around waiting for him, so she goes in search of him. This means we get to see Carey's version of historical Mongolia, a real treat for me as I visited the country last year. Moirin does find Bao, and their reunion is glorious, but the book wouldn't be very long if Moirin got her happy ending a quarter of the way in. Moirin is abducted by Vralian priests and taken far away from Bao. Vralia is pretty much Russia, and the priests there worship in a variation of the Greek Orthodox Church. The priests have heard of the shocking customs of the D'Angelines, and this bishop believes if he can "cure" Moirin of her sinful, and lustful ways, and make her a convert, his religion will spread far and wide - to become the only true religion.

By the time Moirin escapes, she realizes that Bao is no longer in the Tartar lands, and as Moirin has been kept in warded chains that drown out their connection, he has traveled in the opposite direction from where she is, and has become captive of the legendary and deadly Spider-Queen of Kurugiri (located approximately where Tajikistan is today). So Moirin obviously has to set off to rescue him, impossible a task as that may seem at first.

Jacqueline Carey's books are always a treat, and Naamah's Curse was no exception. Her language is rich and descriptive, and very evocative. Some readers may be a bit put off by the graphic descriptions of sex in her earlier trilogies, but Moirin, not being a courtesan, as her first protagonist, or a young, beautiful man, as her second protagonist, does not have nearly as much sex and the books are amazing fantasy adventures that I would recommend to anyone. If you've never tried Carey's books, and are curious, I would recommend either starting at the beginning of this trilogy - with Naamah's Kiss, or going back to the very beginning and reading Kushiel's Dart (probably still her best book).

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