Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review of Naamah's Curse

Naamah's Curse is the second book in Jacqueline Carey's latest trilogy following Naamah's Kiss. Although this new series is set in the same world as the earlier Kushiel's Legacy books, it takes place a few generations after the end of the second trilogy. The final book, Naamah's Blessing, does not yet have a publication date, but Jacqueline Carey did mention in her August update on the home page of her website that she has turned in the manuscript.

Note: As this is the second book in a series, there will be spoilers for the first book, Naamah's Kiss, contained in the plot description. Skip the plot description and read the part below the horizontal line if you do not want to have parts of the first book spoiled but want to read the review.

Moirin has left the emperor's daughter and the comfort of the palace at Ch'in to follow Bao, who died and was resurrected by transferring half of Moirin's diadh-anam to him. Once Bao discovered his new close connection to Moirin, he decided to leave to sort through his thoughts about it. He was not sure how to feel about sharing this bond with Moirin without her choosing it, even though she made it clear she wished for him to stay with her. Princess Snow Tiger reminded Moirin that she had the choice not to wait around for him to come back, so Moirin departed alone to try to catch up with him before winter.

Moirin spends some time traveling in Bao's footsteps, although she does end up having to wait through the winter before seeing him again. However, once Moirin finds Bao in Tatar, their joyous reunion does not last. Although Bao is happy to see her, he cannot leave without angering the Great Khan. The two devise a plan that would allow Bao to act freely, but they are betrayed and separated when Moirin is imprisoned by religious zealots eager to convert her to Yeshuite ways - and Moirin has completely lost track of Bao this time.

Naamah's Curse is a difficult book to review because it definitely had its flaws, but at the same time, I really enjoyed it and want to read the next book. (I also want to go back and read the five books in the original two trilogies I have yet to read, particularly since I thought Kushiel's Dart was a stronger novel than either book in this new trilogy.) Considering the length of Naamah's Curse, not a whole lot happened. It seems to be a case of middle book syndrome since it wandered off for a while and then eventually came back to setting up the final book toward the end. Also, so much of the first book was explained in detail that I kept feeling like I was reading the equivalent of a clip show a couple of times. Not only was a lot of it expounded on early in the book, but even more from the first book was described toward the middle when Moirin was thoroughly questioned about her past. Looking back on it with these issues, I can't help but feel that I shouldn't have found it nearly as compelling as I did. Yet I'd be lying through my teeth (er, keyboard?) if I said I didn't find it extremely readable in spite of these weaknesses - just like the first book, I found it went by much faster than I would have expected for such a long novel. It wasn't a book where I kept counting the number of pages left and wondering when it would end, but instead I devoured it since I could hardly put it down.

In some ways, Moirin does not seem particularly complex as a character. She's very kind to everyone and it seems as though the only people she encounters who do not love her are villains. Admittedly, with this great compassion, it makes perfect sense that she would be so well-loved, but at times it does seem a little overdone that just about anyone she encounters will go out of their way for her when they barely even know her. Every major action is dictated by Moirin's destiny as it is revealed to her through her diadh-anam, and the use of her fate to drive the plot does make some occurrences seem all too convenient. Yet in spite of feeling this way, I liked Moirin and her concise yet elegant narrative voice. The sadness resulting from her great destiny makes her easier to empathize with. For even though Moirin has been gifted with such a great capacity for love and compassion, she is constantly having her heart broken over and over again due to her role as a tool of the goddesses. She gets so attached to the people in her life, and then the will of the goddess keeps forcing her to leave them all behind.

In this novel, we get to see a lot of Asia with particular emphasis on Mongolian, Russian and Indian cultures with some Indian mythology integrated into the story. One of my favorite aspects of Naamah's Curse was visiting all the different places with Moirin and the way Carey handled all these diverse heritages. In the first book, Tatar (Mongolia) sounded like a fearsome country since Moirin spent some time in Ch'in, whose inhabitants did not get along very well with the neighboring nation. Once Moirin went to Tatar, though, she found the people to be like anyone else and Tatar was depicted as no worse than the previously visited Ch'in.

While weaker than the preceding volume in the series, Naamah's Curse was still very entertaining. It was too long, particularly since it recapped a lot of what already happened in the first book, and it did seem to meander away from the main plot at times. In spite of that, the blending of different cultures and mythologies, the writing, and the examination of the double-edged nature of Moirin's gift made it well worth reading.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a review copy sent by the publisher.

Reviews of other books in this series:
Other Reviews of Naamah's Curse:


orannia said...

Lovely review Kristen - thank you. I haven't read any books by Jacqueline Carey - yet! (I have Kushiel's Dart on my TBR list and hope to start reading it at the beginning of October [while I'm on holiday] :)

Kristen said...

Orannia - Thank you! I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of Kushiel's Dart. Saving it for when you're on holiday sounds like a good plan - that's probably what I'll do with The Curse of the Mistwraith. :)