Something more than a year went by after I read Kushiel’s Scion, mostly because I read it so close to publication and that’s the approximate schedule for these books, before I found Kushiel’s Justice in the used bookstore. It had no cover, which has been a constant source of annoyance since; and in fact, if I’d known I would wait this damn long to actually read it, I would have left that copy sitting on the shelf. In further fact, while reading this one I learned that a friend was slightly further into the third one than I was into the second. Which was a little bit embarrassing, but I at least avoided big-huge spoilers, so yay! Anyway, though, I actually did read it, so you may be expecting a review?
Now that he’s home from college, Imriel is forced to face the truth that sent him fleeing to alternate-Italy in the first place: he’s in love with the heir to Terre d’Ange’s throne. Which doesn’t sound so bad, as he’s a prince of the realm himself, and in any event the only law laid down by their god, Elua, is “Love as thou wilt.” Things are always a little more complicated than that for Carey’s characters, though: Imriel’s birth parents (one of whom yet lives in hidden exile) hatched a plot before he was born to steal the throne for him outright. So naturally, there are a number of people who would not look kindly on his winning it through marriage.
So he and Princess Sidonie keep their infatuation secret and do their best to quell it, now that Imriel has been promised in a political marriage to an Alban princess (alternate-England, that is). This seems like the right thing to do, except that in being sensible, are they violating that self-same lone law to which they should be bound? The rest of the book is an examination of the repercussions of love, future foreknowledge, and bloody revenge, with more focus on Alba than has been provided in previous books, as well as new travels across northern alternate-Europe. It runs slow at the beginning, but I devoured the second half of the book around work in two short days: the moment past which stopping is impossible came barely halfway in, which is a pretty neat trick.
One spoiler after the cut.
I was disappointed by Dorelei’s death. As the lone innocent in Imriel’s love triangle and its varied, far-reaching consequences, there’s a part of me that feels like her death was a self-serving move by the author to get Imri out of his marriage without leaving him the seeming bad guy to legions of readers who might not have accepted the premise of her world, that they had only been handfasted for a year and a day and that personal and political divorces were not so heavily frowned on as they might be here in the world. But it was more likely a bare stylistic choice, and for gut-wrenching horror, it was very successful.