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Book Review (& Giveaway): Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey

Title: Naamah’s Blessing

Author: Jacqueline Carey

Genre: Fantasy, Alternate History

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 2011
Hardcover: 624 Pages

Returning to Terre d’Ange, Moirin finds the royal family broken. Wracked by unrelenting grief at the loss of his wife, Queen Jehanne, King Daniel is unable to rule. Prince Thierry, leading an expedition to explore the deadly jungles of Terra Nova, is halfway across the world. And three year old Desirée is a vision of her mother: tempestuous, intelligent, and fiery, but desperately lonely, and a vulnerable pawn in a game of shifting political allegiances.

As tensions mount, King Daniel asks that Moirin become Desirée’s oath-sworn protector. Navigating the intricate political landscape of the Court proves a difficult challenge, and when dire news arrives from overseas, the spirit of Queen Jehanne visits Moirin in a dream and bids her undertake an impossible quest.

Another specter from the past also haunts Moirin. Travelling with Thierry in the New World is Raphael de Mereliot, her manipulative former lover. Years ago, Raphael forced her to help him summon fallen angels in the hopes of acquiring mystical gifts and knowledge. It was a disastrous effort that nearly killed them, and Moirin must finally bear the costs of those bitter mistakes.

Stand alone or series: The third and final book in the Naamah Trilogy, set in the same universe as the Kushiel legacy (comprising Phedre’s trilogy and Imriel’s trilogy)

How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher

Why did I read this book: It’s hard to express how much I love Jacqueline Carey. One of my favorite authors of all time, Ms. Carey writes some of the most gorgeous, imaginative fantasy I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. And while Moirin might not be my favorite in the three main story arcs that cover Elua and his companions, she’s a wonderful heroine in her own right. I loved the first two books in this series (Naamah’s Kiss and Naamah’s Curse), making Naamah’s Blessing one of my most highly anticipated titles of 2011.

Review:

From the woods and caves of Alba, Moirin mac Fainche has traveled long and far – to the decadent splendor of Terre d’Ange, the snow-capped mountains of distant Ch’in, the desert plains of the Tartars, the unyielding landscape of the Vralia, and the southern reaches of Bhaktipur & Bhodistan. After defeating the spider queen and her twisted court, Moirin and her husband Bao are reuinted at last, but their peace is shortlived; the couple must return to Terre d’Ange when they learn that Moirin’s friend, companion, and beloved Queen Jehane has died in childbirth. They return to a royal court torn by King Daniel’s grief – devastated over the death of his second wife, the King has given up acting as the head of state. In the absence of his son, the crown prince Thierry on a voyage to the far off land of Terra Nova across the sea, Daniel has appointed his cousin, Rogier Courcel, the Duc de Barthelme, as regent to handle daily affairs and rule in his name. Even worse, King Daniel cannot bear the sight or presence of his three year-old daughter, Desirée, for her uncanny resemblance to his lost wife. Through his mourning, however, the King welcomes Moirin and her new husband Bao back to court warmly, and because of her love for the late Jehanne, he appoints Moirin as his daughter’s oath-sworn protector. Together, Moirin and Bao strive to make young Desirée feel loved and valued despite her lost mother and absent father and brother, and Moirin vows to keep her young charge safe.

But while there is no one better suited for the job, Moirin’s new position causes a shockwave in court politics – as popular opinion decries that a half-breed D’Angeline who worships a Bear Goddess (and has a Ch’in husband, no less) should not bear so high a rank – and it becomes clear that regent Duc Rogier’s ambitions cannot be contained to ruling behind the figurehead of King Daniel for long. When Prince Thierry’s ship returns from its long voyage, it comes bearing ill-tidings. The Dauphin has been lost in the foreign jungles and is presumed dead – and the news is the killing blow to King Daniel’s beleaguered spirits. Suddenly, Desirée is the sole heir to the throne and Moirin’s path has never been more difficult. The newly crowned interim king begin his machinations to seize power from the young Dauphine, and Moirin is helpless to stop him. Her only hope – prompted by the steady glow of her diadh-anam and a vision from the late Queen Jehanne – is to attempt the impossible. Together, she and Bao will leave Terre d’Ange and journey across leagues to the wilds of Terra Nova in a desperate gambit to find Prince Thierry and bring him home. But things in the new world are more dangerous than Moirin could have ever dreamed – for another face from her past waits for her. Raphael de Mereliot’s madness and ambition not been slaked, and Moirin must atone for her past folly, and finally complete her gods-given destiny.

The final book in Moirin’s adventures, Naamah’s Blessing is a near pitch-perfect finale to a rare, truly fantastic series. In the words of Ms. Carey, the gods use their chosen hard, and truer words cannot apply to Moirin and Bao. Encompassing courtly politics and intrigue in Terre D’Ange and a harrowing trek through the uncharted wilds of the new world, Naamah’s Blessing is yet another stunning saga. Please excuse me while I fangirl out about worldbuilding for a second (I promise, I will get down to the other facets of this novel). Jacqueline Carey is known for her ability to re-envision history with a fantastical spin, which she has covered beautifully in prior books set in this same universe. Before Moirin’s story arc, however, this interpretation has been largely rooted in Terre d’Ange (France) and other familiar western European locales, traditions, and religions. In this trilogy, however, Carey explores the much broader range of human history and geography, from China, Mongolia and India, to finally breaking ground in the New World in this last book. This is one of the things I adore about this series, and particularly this story arc, as we are introduced to pantheons beyond the standard white European fare. In Naamah’s Blessing, the indigenous people of the Americas are the focal point of the book, with Mayan, Aztec, even Incan overtones. These characters and people aren’t just treated as “savages” nor are they discredited as mere window dressing for the story – as with all of Ms. Carey’s books, the setting, the mores and the belief systems of these cultures play a pivotal, central role in the novel. Instead of painting the Nahuatl, Quechua, and other tribes as bloodthirsty pagans, lesser than the D’Angelines, they are shown as equals, their beliefs, though frightening to Moirin, explained in depth and treated with respect. Similarly, there is a running theme of race, ethnicity, and heritage that is addressed in this book, through the treatment not only of Moirin (scorned as a mixed-breed, though fully Caucasian), her Ch’in husband Bao (frequently called a “boy” and consistently referred to as “strange” by D’Angeline characters throughout), but also in the blatant racism of the Aragonian traders that have established themselves in Terra Nova regarding the indigenous population. I loved that Ms. Carey explores these different reactions and directly addresses these topics in Naamah’s Blessing.

But enough of worldbuilding! What of the story itself, or the characters, or the conclusion to Moirin’s turbulent, continents-spanning saga, you ask? Rest assured, fellow Naamah fans, the conclusion to Moirin’s story is handled with the deftness, emotional poignancy and depth that is Jacqueline Carey’s trademark. Moirin has grown up so much over these three novels, staying true to herself as she struggles to fulfill the destiny laid before her. Though Phedre will always be my favorite, Moirin’s quiet strength of character and her faith in her beliefs sets her apart as a truly admirable heroine. I love the relationship between Moirin and Bao, finally at peace after incredible strain, and though the two are from different worlds, the peace they find together is the stuff of great romance. There are numerous other characters, both familiar and new, each with their own motivations and layers, from the stone-willed warrior Temilotzin to the mad Raphael.

From a storytelling and continuity aspect, one thing I adore about this series in particular is the level of follow-through and accountability. Despite the fact that Moirin (and Phedre and Imriel before her) had a tendency to foreshadow in ominous tones, these premonitions are always carried through to their completion. In Moirin’s case, her role in the Circle of Solomon back when she was a younger, innocent girl enamored with Raphael de Mariliot comes around full circle in this last novel. For every action, a reaction; for every mistake, a consequence. Moirin’s path in Naamah’s Blessing is fraught with hardship, but she finally confronts her past and must set things right in this ultimate adventure.

And what an adventure it is. There are kings, and emperors, and sailors, giant snakes, storms, and a river of black ants to contend with in Naamah’s Blessing. Though the book is not without its faults – the early chapters in Terre d’Ange are a little slow and feel very quaint (there’s talk of wardrobe and parties, and that sort of court banality) and there is some degree of repetition with regards to certain phrases (always a pet peeve) – Naamah’s Blessing is a beautiful, fitting conclusion to another winning series from Jacqueline Carey. With Moirin’s adventures concluded, I can only hope that there is more in this universe coming, and soon.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:

Unable to sleep, I stood in the stern of the ship, watching the past fall further behind me. The moon was bright and full, turning the ship’s wake into a wide, silvery path on the dark water behind us. A handful of seagulls winged across the night sky, following us, their presence lending credence to the captain’s claim that we would make port in Marsilikos on the morrow.

A thousand thoughts and memories crowded my mind. I tried to still them as Master Lo Feng had taught me, breathing the Five Cycles and emptying my mind. Tonight, it didn’t work.

Four years. By my best guess, that was how long it had been since I stepped onto a Ch’in greatship in the harbor of Marsilikos, and sailed off in pursuit of my everlasting destiny.

Now that same destiny was leading me back to Terre d’Ange, land of my father’s birth, where my patron-goddess Naamah held sway, worshipped as one of Blessed Elua’s Companions.

Naamah, goddess of desire; the bright lady. And Anael the Good Steward, the man with the seedling cupped in his hand, who had given me a gift for coaxing plants to grow.

The thought prompted a memory of marigolds exploding from the earth in a field in Bhaktipur, a riot of orange, saffron, and yellow, blooming in glorious profusion, all out of season. That, and the look of wonder on the Rani Amrita’s lovely face.

It made me smile wistfully. Bhaktipur was far, far behind me, now. So was Amrita and her clever son Ravindra, and the tulku Laysa, one of the reborn Enlightened Ones, who had told me I had oceans yet to cross.

So much lay behind me.

Villains and heroes, the kindness of ordinary folk; aye, and the pettiness and cruelty, too. Battles and intrigue, long, grueling journeys. Epic tales come to life, dire futures glimpsed and averted.

I leaned on the railing, remembering.

You can read the full excerpt online HERE.

Rating: 9 – Damn Awesome, and easily one of my favorite reads of 2011.

Reading Next: Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

We have ONE copy of Naamah’s Blessing up for grabs for a lucky winner. The contest is open to residents of the US only, and will run until July 2, 11:59pm PST. In order to enter, leave a comment here telling us which of Jacqueline Carey’s characters is YOUR favorite. Good luck!

 

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK & nook

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35 Comments

  • Marg
    June 28, 2011 at 12:42 am

    I have been told so many times that I should read this series. One day I will start it!

    (Not entering the giveaway due to ineligibility – just commenting!)

  • Sabrina
    June 28, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Joscelin and Phedre of course 🙂 I will never forget the cave scene from the first book hehe. My heart still pitter-patters over those two.

  • Nancy (temporaryworlds)
    June 28, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Phedre will always be my favorite. Such a unique and engaging narrator.

  • rissatoo
    June 28, 2011 at 6:40 am

    I can hardly wait to read this book! Since the first, I’ve been hooked on Phedre.
    Love as thou will… wonderful.

  • Lexi
    June 28, 2011 at 7:20 am

    There apparently is a consensus here so far, Phedre as well.

  • Thea
    June 28, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Phedre’s the clear favorite, eh? Well I just HAVE to put in a vote for Melisande Shahrizai. Such a wonderfully complex villain/tragic character. AND in this book, Balthesar Shahrizai is also fantastic. 😈

  • ThisViewOfMine
    June 28, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Well I’ve not read anything by Jacqueline Carey before but this book sounds SO good.
    I’d love for a chance to win please and thanks!

  • MarieC
    June 28, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I couldn’t love Phedre without Joscelin. They kind of go hand in hand.

  • Paige Morgan
    June 28, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Well, who couldn’t love Phedre? But I will always wish that Anafiel Delaunay had had a more substantial role in the series.

  • Alexandra
    June 28, 2011 at 8:24 am

    I actually almost disliked Phedre. I find she comes off as being too good at anything (the same goes for anyone from Terre d’Ange really…).
    I liked the secondary characters though. I really like Joscelin. He’s lots of fun. Melisande is pretty awesome too.

  • Leah
    June 28, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Phedre is my favorite heroine and Melisande is my favorite villain. Both characters are so unique and interesting. I think Carey did a fantastic job with those two.

  • Tipsy Reader
    June 28, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Wuh-hoh. After that review and a 9 I clearly need to read the book. The fact I loved the excerpt doesn’t hurt either.

    (not an entry)

  • Michelle O
    June 28, 2011 at 11:11 am

    My favorite character of hers is Joscelin, especially since without him, I really don’t think I would have liked Phedre as much as I did. Thanks for the chance to win. I just finally got to read Naamah’s Curse last month, and I cannot wait to find out how this series ends!

  • erin
    June 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I agree w/ everyone else… Phedre and Joscelin were an epic pair 🙂 Haven’t read this latest trilogy so gotta catch up!

  • Chelsea B.
    June 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I have never read a book by this author, but I’m going to have to after this review!

  • Alpa
    June 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I have an ARC.Yippee 😉

  • Julie Witt
    June 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I haven’t read any of these yet, because I didn’t know about them, but now that I do, I am definitely going to add them to the top of my TBR list! You have made a believer out of me! Thanks for the great giveaway 😆

  • Liz
    June 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    OMG JOSCELIN!!! (Ahem. Just like everyone else, I see.)

  • Audra Holtwick
    June 29, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Phedre and Joscelin
    audie@wickerness.com

  • Avalon
    June 29, 2011 at 8:34 am

    My favorite character is actually probably Imriel, either he or Sidonie. I know I’m in the minority but there you go. I neeeeeeed this book!

  • Zee
    June 29, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Another vote for Joscelin. Would love to win this book and read this trilogy.

  • Emma
    June 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I’m not eligible to enter but Mavros, definitely

  • Adrienne
    June 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Favorite character has to be Hyacinthe. He was her signal, she went to hell and back for him and he could do really cool things with the weather, what is not to love? 😉

  • Katy
    June 30, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Pursed of course!

  • Beverly
    June 30, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Phedre 😀

  • CG
    June 30, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Phedre of course! She is one of the most amazing heroines I have ever had the pleasure to read about. The strength of her courage is baffling to me! I just wish I had half of her will power, it would make an unstoppable force.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  • alana
    June 30, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I’m gonna go with Jehanne. I liked that she was flawed and passionate.

  • Mary
    July 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I’m not sure this counts but I’ve always been a big fan of Phedra’s Boys. Their devotion to a person who in any other novel would have been a joke to them was just so interesting.

  • Kimberly B.
    July 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    It may not be very original, but I’m going to pick Phedre. She’s so strong in a not-stereotypically-strong way. Plus her voice is so distinctive!
    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  • Nastacia
    July 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Melisande Shahrizai, always. Such a complicated villain- and I loved the bittersweet legacy she left her son.

  • Rachel B
    July 2, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Phedre, no question. Though I heartily agree with the fans of Joscelin, Melisande and Phedre’s Boys. Carey did such a spectacular job of characterization for large and small parts that it is easier to pick not-favorite characters than favorites; there are many fewer of the nonfaves.

    Hyacinthe was best in the first book.

  • Lisa Richards
    July 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Phedre and Joscelin –who else

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