There’s no two ways around it—today’s selections from my reading list are two dark, sensuous fantasies written by women about women. Bring it on.
Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
The Dark Kingdom is preparing itself for the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy–the arrival of a new Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But this new ruler is young, and very susceptible to influence and corruption; whoever controls her controls the Darkness. And now, three sworn enemies begin a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, and the destiny of an entire world is at stake.
I have heard wonderful things about this series from a few girls in a writing group I started last semester. It’s dark fantasy with an emphasis on dark—it’s about a corrupt society and one of the major players is a gentleman named Saetan who rules over Hell. But when it popped up in the comments on a recent NPR poll about the best speculative fiction books ever written, I knew I had to check it out.
Nymeth at things mean a lot absolutely adored it, pointing out how Jaenelle’s perspective is never used in order to make her more mysterious (which I adored as a device in Wicked) and how gripping it is. Memory at Stella Matutina enjoyed it, especially the unique world, but found the worldbuilding a little shaky at times. I should also point out that this book contains sexual violence as a public service to everyone.
Daughter of the Blood was published on March 1, 1998.
Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good…and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.
Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission…and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.
Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.
Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel’s Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.
I want to read this because I adored The Sundering so much that I now want to read everything Carey has committed to paper. There’s really nothing else to it, although the same NPR poll that made me put Daughter of the Blood on the reading list reminded me to put Kushiel’s Dart on the reading list as well.
Kristen at Fantasy Cafe enjoyed it, although she didn’t find it perfect—she did, however, point out that the sex scenes aren’t tacked on for shock value, but, rather, are an important part of Phèdre’s life, seeing as she’s trained as a courtesan and all. She at A Book Blog. Period. also enjoyed it, although she pointed out that it can be convoluted at times.
Kushiel’s Dart was published on March 15, 2002.