Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey is the fifth book in the Kushiel Legacy series (second in the Imriel Trilogy). It has great character development in terms of the hero Imriel, the romance storyline is quite steamy and the adventures Imriel goes on will leave you wondering “what next?” Don’t expect much political intrigue or surprising plot twists, however.
The Characters: The character development in the second book of the Imriel Trilogy stays focused on Imriel de la Courcel, Prince of the Blood and son of the traitor Melisande Shahrizai. In Kushiel’s Scion, Imriel came of age and returned to Terra D’Ange to “do his duty”.
That duty means marrying Dorelei, Drustan’s niece in order to secure political advantage for his homeland in Alba. Much of Imriel’s development as a person is linked directly to the romance with Sidonie de la Courcel, his distant first cousin and the heir to the throne (discussed below).
Ultimately, Imriel comes to love Dorelei differently compared to Sidonie. Imriel however learns how not to be self-absorbed and to be more mature as a man. He almost learns what it’s like to be a father.
With Sidonie, he learns passionate love. I think Carey did a good job of comparing and contrasting these feelings of Imriel’s. You really see how obsessed he is with Sidonie yet still cares for Dorelei.
The minor characters feel a bit less memorable than in other books. Not really as entertaining… They do their job.
Maslin of Lombelon appears in the final quarter of the book and feels more like an afterthought.
Of the minor characters, the tragic “villain” of the story Berlik and Dorelei herself are the ones that stick out the most.
The Romance: Most of the romance is between Imriel and Sidonie in the first quarter or so of the book. It’s steamy and forbidden. Sidonie’s mother the Queen would never want her daughter to be with the son of a traitor.
Imriel and Sidonie don’t know if their feelings are genuine either. Is it a desire for the forbidden or is truly lasting love? Anyway the sex scenes between those two are well written — without being brutally over the top like Fifty Shades of Grey. No BDSM however…
You don’t get even a hint of that until Kushiel’s Mercy.
The romance then switches from Imriel and Sidonie to Imriel and Dorelei. Imriel does come to love Dorelei in a kind of solid, steady way. It’s only thanks to the magic curse that Imriel gets to explore that path.
The World: Much of the book’s middle zone involves Imriel being a Prince of Alba. Alba is Jacqueline’s version of Ireland or Scotland or both. The descriptions of the rituals, people and culture are detailed and of course based on the real world Ireland or European past.
Sure makes Carey’s job easier. She made it come alive for me and I appreciated that. The use of the Maghuin Dhonn reminded me of the Sidhe or “fey” creatures of Irish, Scottish lore. They might also have been her versions of druids.
After all they could shape change into bears.
Adventure: Imriel really gets to travel in this novel. Carey gets to showcase more of her version of Europe, the Netherlands and Russia. The hero travels all the way to Vralia where the Yeshuites are trying to establish their “Kingdom of God”.
Imriel hangs out with Eskimos, gets shipwrecked and all sorts of things happen. He slogs through the frozen wilderness in search of revenge. It’s all described in heart rending detail.
You really feel for poor Imriel who is pushed to his limits and beyond.
The Intrigue: If you were hoping for a lot of political wheeling and dealing, betrayals and backstabbing then you will be disappointed. There’s not much of it. Imriel himself states in the story that he prefers to get away from court politics and intrigue.
I think it’s a bit of a recurring theme for Imriel. This story is more about magic and adventure — something Phedre only touched on in Kushiel’s Avatar.
The Plot: It’s fairly straightforward and revolves around Imriel’s romance segments. He’s in Elua and he falls madly in love with Sidonie. They sleep with each other, etc.
Then Imriel must marry and go to Alba to do his duties for the Crown. He learns to be a lord and how to love Dorelei in her own way. He gets wrapped up in the Maghuin Dhonn’s magical sort of intrigue.
A tragedy hits.
Imriel must carry out Kushiel’s justice. He reunites with Sidonie. Things go to hell in a hand basket, which sets the stage for Kushiel’s Mercy.
I wasn’t surprised by the plot milestones to be honest. I didn’t think it was a serious issue however as the romance and the rest of the story was excellent.
There was one moment I thought especially contrived but it was near the end of the story. It was also necessary I suppose. Let’s just say it involves horse thieves.
Kushiel’s Justice is another page turner you won’t be able to put down. The romance (plus steamy sex scenes), Imriel and the adventures he goes on is a bombshell mix. If you looked for high espionage, intrigue and plot twists you might be slightly disappointed though the rest of the story is good enough as it stands.
This is another fiction romance you will definitely want to read.