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Kushiel's Avatar    by Jacqueline Carey order for
Kushiel's Avatar
by Jacqueline Carey
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kushiel's Avatar gives us more of the adventures of anguissette Phèdre nó Delaunay that began in Kushiel's Dart and continued in Kushiel's Chosen. As this episode opens, Phèdre and her 'Perfect Companion' Joscelin have enjoyed the ten years of peace promised to them after their early trials, but their time together has always been haunted by concern over the fate of Phèdre's childhood friend Hyacinthe, prince of the Tsingani. He sacrificed himself to apprenticeship with the Master of the Straits in Phèdre's place and she has searched steadily since then to find a way to win his release.

Now, both prophecy and a letter send Phèdre to meet her imprisoned nemesis Melisande Shahrizai, who tasks her adversary with finding her hidden, and now missing, son Imriel in exchange for information that might provide the key to Hyacinthe's release. Through contacts among the Tsingano, Phèdre discovers that the boy was abducted by Carthaginian slave-traders. This propels Phèdre and Joscelin on an epic journey, that takes them into a living hell and out again. Though Phèdre fears this dark path, she embarks on it for her friend's sake and discovers along the way a new kind of love, that for her enemy's child.

Carey has created a brilliant fantasy world, one in which her heroine is needed 'to balance the scales' and to endure grotesque suffering 'with infinite compassion' in order to counter the abomination of those who 'impart suffering without compassion'. Unfortunately the balance weighs heavily against Phèdre this time as she voluntarily put herself in the power of an utterly mad, psychopathically violent, ruler named Lord Death by his subjects. Controlled by Skotophagoti priests, Lord Death is preparing to export his three-fold path of 'Ill thoughts, ill words, ill deeds' to the rest of the world. Of course, Phèdre ultimately does prevail, though at high personal cost, and continues to seek the grail of the 'Name of God' through an alternate North Africa. To liberate her friend, she not only risks life and soul, but also betrays her beloved Queen Ysandre.

In Kushiel's Avatar, Jacqueline Carey gives us another account of the triumph of love and loyalty over almost insurmountable odds, and this time includes the redemption of an abused child, another strong character in a series whose banner is 'Love as thou wilt.'

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