Author: Jacqueline Carey
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 2010
Hardcover: 576 Pages
Far from the land of her birth, Moirin sets out across Tatar territory to find Bao, the proud and virile Ch’in fighter who holds the missing half of her diadh-anam, the divine soul-spark of her mother’s people. After a long ordeal, she not only succeeds, but surrenders to a passion the likes of which she’s never known. But the lovers’ happiness is short lived, for Bao is entangled in a complication that soon leads to their betrayal.
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Naamah Trilogy, following Naamah’s Kiss
How did I get this book: ARC from the publisher
Why did I read this book: Jacqueline Carey is one of my favorite authors of all time. Her Kushiel’s Legacy books rank among my favorite books of all time. And, considering how much I loved Naamah’s Kiss, of COURSE I was salivating at the chance to read and review Naamah’s Curse. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
WARNING: This review contains necessary spoilers for book 1 in the Naamah trilogy, Naamah’s Kiss. If you have not read Naamah’s Kiss and do not wish to be spoiled, LOOK AWAY. (Giveaway details are at the end of the post)
Beginning a few short months after the events of Naamah’s Kiss, Naamah’s Curse opens on a determined Moirin mac Fainche. To bring the fallen warrior-magpie back from the dead, using Moirin’s healing gift as a child of the Maghuin Donn, Master Lo Feng gave up his life in exchange for Bao’s. And now Bao carries half of Moirin’s diadh-anam, the divine spark of her soul that every Maghuin Donn holds within, Bao’s fate inextricably tied to Moirin’s forever more. Confused and conflicted, Bao fights his his soul’s connection to Moirin’s – not because he does not love Moirin, but because he was deprived of the choice to live or die, and he needs to know that the connection that both he and Moirin feel for each other is more than just the burning of the diadh-anam they share. Understanding Bao’s need for space and time, Moirin let her stubborn peasant warrior leave her behind…but after months and the increasingly insistent call of her diadh-anam, she decides that she’s done waiting around and sets out to find her other half, whether he’s ready for her or not. Moirin’s journey takes her across Ch’in and beyond its great wall, to the Tatar tribes and even further, always using her diadh-anam to guide her. After a long, cold winter, Moirin finally finds Bao, and their reunion is sweet, if ever so brief. In his search for his place in the Tatar world, Bao has found himself under the wing of the Great Khan – married off to the Khan’s youngest daughter. And the Great Khan will not give up his only son without a fight.
Through treachery and magic, the Great Khan secretly has Moirin taken away by Vralians – puritan-esque followers of Yeshua Ben Yosef, the One True God, and she is imprisoned in shackles that cut her off from her ability to use her Maghuin Donn magic, and from sensing Bao’s soul-spark – and vice versa. Separated once again, Moirin goes through the most painful, trying ordeal she has ever faced in her young life. From the drab gray of the Vralian cities to the mountains of Bhaktipur and Bhodistan, Moirin s placed on the path of her destiny, as a child of the Maghuin Donn and Naamah’s chosen.
As with all of Jacqueline Carey’s work, Naamah’s Curse is exquisite. Beautifully written and with plotting and worldbuilding on an epic scale, Naamah’s Curse is another winning addition to Carey’s prestigious body of fantasy work. In this second novel, Moirin’s travels take her beyond Alba and Terre D’Ange, beyond the realms of this alternate western Europe to the North East, with Vralia (the equivalent of Russia) and into Asia Major – Ch’in, the Tatar Territories, and the southern region of Bhaktipur & Bhodistan (modeled after China, Mongolia and India, respectively). Anyone that has read one of the prior books in either the Naamah or Kushiel series is familiar with Ms. Carey’s fantasy worldbuilding – taking our own very familiar world and history, but retelling and reinventing these locales with different gods, religions, politics, and societies. In this newest book, the already familiar story of Elua and his companions and Yeshua Ben Yusef are examined from a different perspective (that of the stringent Vralians – very different from the more libertine D’Angelines). In addition, new gods and pantheons are examined with the inclusion of the Tatars and Bhaktipur people (on a side note, I found it very interesting that while Ms. Carey changes the names for her D’Angeline/Judeo-hristian gods and faiths, she keeps the same names for the Bhodistan – that is Hindu – gods,i.e. Kali, Ganesha, Hanuman, etc). And, as expected, these new territories and cultures of people are varied and enthralling. One of the things I love the most about these books is the sweeping epic quality of them – I love how Moirin – like Phedre and Imriel before her – has a destiny that takes her far beyond her wildest imaginings…and even more impressive than that, I love that Moirin fears, resists, and is uncertain about her fate. As the saying goes, the gods use their chosen hard, and such is the case with Moirin here in Naamah’s Curse.
This second novel gives a more detailed look at Moirin and Bao as they grow as characters. Neither are what you’d call flawless – Bao certainly complicates matters with his hubris, and Moirin is all too aware of her own self-important destiny. And yet…both are characters that grow through their own subtle vanity, and have their hearts in the right place. Bao realizes and pays the consequences of his marriage (on that note, I loved that his poor, slighted wife is humanized and given a part in the story beyond the jealous lover role), while Moirin begins to see that her embrace of Naamah’s arts are not so freely embraced elsewhere. I also liked that though Moirin follows her grand destiny, she feels the strain of expectations and fears failure (read: Mary Sue, she ain’t). Although there is a sense of safety and predictability in that Moirin will always find a way out of whatever tough situation in which she is ensnared, there are high stakes and consequences for everything – and I like seeing that, especially in a middle book in a series. There are resolutions to plot threads, but other tantalizing bits left for the next book – Rafael de Mereliot, for example, comes to mind.
On a thematic level, all throughout Naamah’s Curse, there is this intriguing examination of what it means to be “god chosen” – being one of Naamah’s own, blessed with the gift of desire can also seem like a (titled) curse, and Moirin’s faith is tested harshly. And these are just the broad strokes of themes in the book – there’s also a question of caste systems, of warring faiths, of fanaticism, of coexisting gods and beliefs. Suffice to say, Naamah’s Curse is more than just a book filled with adventures, quests, and magic – it is also a thought-provoking look at the way worlds and cultures intersect.
As a fan of Jacqueline Carey’s, I found myself immersed in this beauitufl, intelligent novel. As a fan of fantasy literature, I devoured this marvel of world building and epic adventure. As a fan of literature and great stories in their entirety, I was swept away once again to a world that not only enchants, but confronts readers to think and comprehend. I loved Naamah’s Curse from beginning to end, and I cannot wait for the final installment to this winsome trilogy.
Notable Quotes/Parts: Head on over to Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist for the exclusive excerpt from Naamah’s Curse.
Verdict: Another stunning addition to the works of Jacqueline Carey, I loved Naamah’s Curse. Absolutely recommended, and as of right now, one of my favorite reads of 2010.
Rating: 8 – Excellent, again, leaning towards a 9
Reading Next: The Line by Teri Hall
We are giving away THREE copies of Naamah’s Curse! The contest is open to addresses in the US and Canada only, and will run until Saturday, June 19 at 11:59 PM (PST). To enter, simply leave a comment here, letting us know which Jacqueline Carey book is your favorite (and if you haven’t read Jacqueline Carey yet, let us know which of her books you’d most like to start with!). Good luck!