Kushiel’s Justice Review

Kushiel's JusticeKushiel’s Justice
By Jacqueline Carey, published by Warner Books.
Reviewed by C. Wright.

Kushiel’s Justice continues the story of Imriel de la Courcel, third in line for the throne of Terre d’Ange, and child of the nation’s most infamous and deadly traitor. Imriel, regarded with suspicion since his childhood, is determined to prove himself loyal to his country. Instead, against his will, he finds himself committing the one act guaranteed to condemn him for treason in the eyes of the nation if discovered—falling in love with its dauphine, Sidonie. Yet Imriel is already engaged to Dorelei mab Breidaia of Alba, and weds her to secure Terre d’Ange’s political influence in Alba’s succession. In doing so, he betrays his own heart and violates his god’s single imperative, to “love as thou wilt.”

In this sequel to Kushiel’s Scion, Jacqueline Carey turns the reader’s eyes to Alba, a barbarian tribal society steeped in druidic magic. Here a scattered tribe of bear-like mystics, desperate to protect Alba from the devastation foreseen in visions of Imriel’s future, use Imriel’s lingering passion for Sidonie to strike at the heart of his Alban family. The resulting tragedy spawns a quest for revenge that spans three nations.

Once again, Carey’s talent for creating rich and fully articulated characters shines through in this novel. As with its predecessor Kushiel’s Scion, Kushiel’s Justice focuses primarily on Imriel’s inner conflict and growth. Imriel’s struggle between love and duty, though a familiar trope, is handled with a refreshing maturity and complexity, putting Sidonie’s regal air and constrained passion in contrast to Dorelei’s charming naïveté without invalidating Dorelei as an intelligent and insightful woman in her own right. Alais, Sidonie’s sister, captivates with her blend of quiet wisdom and lingering insecurity, and a new cast of Alban characters beautifully fleshes out Imriel’s world. Imriel himself undergoes subtle but visible character growth over the course of the novel as he recognizes his own selfish tendencies, earnestly tries to make himself worthy of his wife’s affection, and begins to trust that he can be true to his nature and still be good.

Series fans may feel the absence of Phèdre and Joscelin, heroes of the first trilogy, who spend much of this book following their own pursuits and play only a tangential part in this chapter of Imriel’s story. Similarly, events in the Alban sections of the story seem greatly distanced from the familiar society and world of Terre d’Ange; this sense of encapsulation feels appropriate to Alba’s political standing in Carey’s world, but it may leave the reader longing for more of the signature flavor, intrigue and social politicking of the series. The slower pacing of events in Alba is occasionally frustrating, but it does give the reader time to revel in the sensuality of the books.

On the whole, Carey has done an excellent job of exploring Imriel and Sidonie’s forbidden passion, bringing Imriel through staggering character growth, and including hints of the plotlines from the prior novel and series by incorporating Imriel’s mother’s letters and the secrets of the Hidden Guild. She leaves the reader at a moment of high anticipation, with Imriel and Sidonie poised to return to Terre d’Ange and handle the tenuous political situation into which their romance has plunged the nation.

June 13, 2007 – C. Wright for Senses Five Press