I was reluctant to start the new series taking place in Terre d'Ange (and other countries) a few generations after the awesomeness of the Kushiel series (previous book here). I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back without Phedre, Imriel, etc. And on some level, I first found returning there four generations later or so to be strange. Plus I kept thinking, geez, why does everyone always rehash the old stories like 100 years later? Okay, so the stories are cool...
Our new heroine, Moirin mac Fainche, is:
- The great-great granddaughter of Alais (and Amarante).
- Born into the Maghuin Dhonn/Brown Bear clan, infamously featured in Kushiel's Justice.
- Half D'Angeline, the product of a goddess-approved liason between her mother and a priest of Naamah (the goddess of desire).
The Maghuin Dhonn expected something big from Moirin given her heritage, but she starts out slow (as does the book a bit). After her first relationship ends, she undergoes a ritual to see if the Brown Bear goddess accepts her as one of her own, but Moirin has a destiny that involves her going across the sea. Not knowing what else to do, Moirin goes to Terre d'Ange in search of her dad (who is sweet and adorable, but doesn't know either!). She meets her royal relatives (and boinks most of them!), and gets involved in a love quadrangle between the King, Queen Jehanne, and the Queen's courtier/boyfriend, a physician named Raphael. Moirin shacks up with Raphael and also gets it on with Jehanne, which is interesting given that they are an off-again-on-again spatting couple. (King Daniel is a very tolerant guy.) I have to say that Jehanne does have the worst "love as thou wilt" dilemma to come up since Imriel and Sidonie, though of a less bad and different nature.
Moirin feels drawn to Raphael via her diadh-anam (divine spirit of the bear inside her) and becomes his partner in curing people with what life magics she has at her command--though at great cost to herself. She also figures out how to use her abilities to journey halfway into the spirit wold to talk with spirits... which teaches her a lot, but also leads to tragedy.
However, what she learns in Terre d'Ange pays off when she's called to Ch'in to help a royal princess who's been possessed...and Moirin needs all of her new skills to save a worthy future ruler and her country.
This story is very powerful. It became gripping to me in Terre d'Ange and downright fascinating in Ch'in. I loved (most of) Moirin's various people that she fell in love with, particularly the royal ladies. Jehanne starts out looking like a troublesome brat, but reveals her kind center within. Snow Tiger is a noble, brave chick who bears up and does what she has to. Bao is a very spunky, snarky, entertaining fellow. And Moirin...well, she's different (and yet somewhat similar) to Phedre, but works in her own way to save people. And it's awesome.