Kushiel’s Avatar is the third and final book of the Phedre Trilogy in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. Carey’s characters entertain, the world is vivid and alive and the romance story between Phedre and Joscelin reaches its conclusion. At its heart it feels more like your usual adventure quest as it has a straightforward plot and less intrigue from the earlier novels.
The Characters: Phedre and Joscelin continue to shine in the final book of the Phedre Series. Carey really goes the extra mile to explore the darker side of Phedre’s soul when Melisande Shahrizai asks her to find her missing son, Imriel de la Courcel. It’s a journey that takes Phedre across two or three different lands to Carey’s version of Egypt by the end of the book.
Phedre travels all the way to Daršanga as a tool of Elua and her gods. Without spoiling what happens, she is subjected to such extreme pain and suffering that it changes her. It puts a strain on Joscelin and their relationship. As Joscelin puts it, “It was like hell.”
In terms of the minor characters, Carey does a great job portraying a wide number of them. There are notable ones like Kaneka (a survivor of Daršanga), the Pharaoh, Nut and several others. You may not remember all of them by the end but they will still make an impression.
They are certainly lively and entertaining. That’s what I felt anyway.
Imriel, the son of Melisande is a minor character that becomes an important one in the last half to quarter of the book. You learn that he’s been scarred by his experiences in Daršanga and you watch him recover from those scars. Likewise, that recovery also mirrors the repaired relationship between Phedre and Joscelin.
I like the fact that Carey sets up Imriel to be the major character of her next trilogy in the series.
The World: The detail Carey puts into the world and its people is quite impressive. You really do feel like you’re in all of the places she mentions — from the chill and deathly Daršanga, to the torrential rains and muddy paths of Jebe-Barkal to the deserts that lie between those lands. She describes the villages, the weather, the culture and the food.
She certainly knows her geography.
The Romance: The romance remains firmly rooted between Phedre and Joscelin. They’ve reached the mountain top of their journey. It really can’t go any further.
The sex scenes are few but they are integral to the plot (i.e. the healing of Joscelin and Phedre’s relationship after Daršanga; the abuse at the hands of The Mahrkagir).
The “bad” points weren’t really that bad but are worth mentioning in passing.
The Intrigue: If you were expecting a lot of intrigue, you won’t get it. Any intrigue there was involved people trying to kill Imriel de la Courcel because he was the son of Melisande.
The subtle intrigue of the book is the fact that Elua and his Companions use Phedre as a kind of weapon to defeat the major evil in Daršanga. It brings back Hyacinthe’s prophecy in an earlier book: That which yields is not weak.
That which yields can also be used as an assassin’s knife.
The Plot: It’s a fairly straightforward plot compared to the earlier books. It focused more on the adventure/defeat the great evil/save the friend aspects more than the romance or political intrigue. For a finale to Phedre’s story I still felt it was fitting.
I didn’t feel there were any super-surprising twists to be honest though.
At least Phedre finished what she set out to do: free Hyacinthe from his eternal imprisonment.
Kushiel’s Avatar is a fine finish to the Phedre Trilogy portion of the Kushiel Legacy series. It ends on a happier, lighter note and the characters, world descriptions and romance — all the things Carey does well — are there. The plot is straightforward and you won’t get as much political intrigue in this book compared to the first two.
Is it still worth reading? Absolutely!