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Kushiel's Mercy    by Jacqueline Carey order for
Kushiel's Mercy
by Jacqueline Carey
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kushiel's Mercy is the sixth - following Kushiel's Justice in Jacqueline Carey's excellent series, which blends historical intrigue and erotic fantasy. While the first trilogy focused on Phèdre nó Delaunay, Comtesse de Montrève, this second has followed the adventures of her adopted son, Imriel de la Courcel, born to traitress Melisande Shahrizai. Imriel is a Prince of Terre d'Ange, whose inhabitants follow the precept, 'Love as thou wilt.'

In the previous episodes, Imriel denied his forbidden love for Sidonie, heir to Terre d'Ange to do his perceived duty of marrying the Cruarch of Alba's niece, Dorelei. This led to a tragedy (orchestrated by Alban shapeshifters and magicians) that sent Imriel north to snowbound Vralia on a quest for vengeance. By the end of Kushiel's Justice, Imriel and Sidonie have given in to 'that maddening passion that expands the heart and exalts the soul, that shakes the heavens and roils the depths of hell.' Unfortunately, many D'Angelines, families of Melisande's victims, are strongly opposed to a marriage between Melisande's son and their Dauphine - as is Queen Ysandre herself.

Eventually the Queen rules that if Sidonie weds Imriel she will be disinherited unless Imriel brings his own mother to justice. He works to locate her using contacts in the mysterious Unseen Guild. Then General Astegal of Carthage (which is expected to make war with Terre d'Ange's ally Aragonia) arrives with tribute, and the offer to show 'a great marvel' at the time of a lunar eclipse. Unfortunately, and unknown to his hosts, a sorceror has woven a great magic into the event, one that affects all present, essentially wiping out previous memories and making them compliant with the General's wishes. Imriel is unaffected, having been injected (on his mother's orders) with a potion causing a month long madness.

Imriel regains his senses to find his world turned upside down. Sidonie, their love wiped from her mind, has agreed to marry Astegal and has sailed off with him, while Terre d'Ange has betrayed its alliance with Aragonia to side with Carthage. Though it's only those in the surroundings of the enchantment who are affected, they unfortunately include the Queen, her consort Drustan of Alba, and Imriel's beloved Phèdre and Joscelin. Soon the rest of the country and the Queen's younger daughter Alais, are questioning her sanity, leading to conflict and the possibility of civil war in both Terre d'Ange and Alba. And everyone close to Imriel believes that he's mad.

Of course, Imriel sets out to rescue his beloved, seeking help along the way from the only source available to him, his mother Melisande Shahrizai. It's a perilous quest, in which Imriel regularly braves both palace intrigue and war, and risks losing himself for good. But as he comments to a dying opponent, 'It is not wise to meddle with D'Angelines in matters of love.' Kushiel's Mercy is one of the best episodes in a consistently top quality fantasy series - don't miss it!

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