Kushiel's Dart

Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel's Dart Cover

Kushiel's Dart


In an epic fantasy, it is often the case that the protagonist is in some way unique. A chosen one. Marked for greatness. Perhaps they are to become the most powerful magician the world has ever seen. Perhaps they will be its greatest swordsman, or sneakiest thief. Quite often it will be more than one of the above.

Phèdre's gift, in Kushiel's Dart, is a love of pain.

She is a high-class prostitute, whose desire for pain is an actual divine gift - Kushiel's dart, of the title - not seen for generations.

Now, that's quite an offbeat thing to build an epic fantasy on, and it could so easily have slipped into bad porn, but in fact it is much better than that. I really liked this book, and will definitely be seeking out the follow-ups.

There is quite a lot of - fairly explicit and quite dark - sexual content, particularly in the first half, which is doubtless going to put some people off, but what we actually have here is an epic tale of genuine heroism with a very unusual angle. Our heroine is repeatedly willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good. Maybe a little too willing, sometimes.

The world is rich and interesting, being a skewed version of Europe at some confusing time which doesn't quite seem to make sense historically (it feels like it's fairly soon after the fall of the "Roman" empire, but the technology seems too advanced for that), and the fantastical elements seem well thought through.

It's a 900-page book, and I have flown through it in just 11 days. I think that's pretty much all that needs to be said, really.