Book Reviews Dungeons

From Thea’s Dungeon

This episode’s unearthings: Kushiel’s Dart and Howl’s Moving Castle

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

This book is the first of the Kushiel’s Legacy series (currently 5 books with the sixth coming soon). These books are pure magic. It has a little something for everyone. For the fan of intrigue and plot, there is enough political scheming, layering and betrayal here to be worthy of a comparison with George R.R. Martin. For the fantasy obsessed, Ms. Carey’s re-imagining of Europe and religion is flawless and utterly believable. For those craving action and adventure, there are bloody battles and escape episodes that leave you breathless. And for the romantic–there is sex, there is angst, and there is love.

Phedre no Delaunay is a child born beautiful as any D’Angelline…but for a single scarlet mote in her eye. Because of this small flaw, Phedre is denied a position as an adept in the Court of Night Blooming Flowers (the collective houses of honored courtesans), but can make her marque (paying her debt) through other work. Sold by her mother to one of the houses of the Night Court, Phedre is discovered for what she really is–the mote in her eye is not a flaw, but a mark of those god touched by Kushiel. She is an anguisette–one who can take pleasure from pain–and the only one to be born in generations. Phedre’s marque (think of it as her indenture contract) is bought by the wise and kind Anafiel no Delaunay, who trains her in the arts of espionage and secrets.

And thus, Phedre’s adventure begins as a rare and gifted courtesan spy.

I cannot say enough good things about this book, and of the series. Phedre no Delaunay is a heroine for the ages, and refreshingly knows exactly who and what she is and does not make any excuses for herself. She is cunning, smart, and yet passionately empathetic. I know the whole “pleasure from pain” thing sounds kinky and S&M–but TRUST ME. These books are not about bondage and erotica. Kushiel’s Legacy is one of the best imagined worlds I have ever had the pleasure to read. The writing is flawless, the characters are all well realized and have great depth, the villainy is very real…and the romance is heartbreaking in all its beauty.

I encourage EVERYONE to read this book (including you Ana!!!). From romance fans to fantasy addicts, Kushiel’s Dart is in a league of its own. You will love it.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2006) Hayao Miyazaki

Based on the young adult novel by Dianne Wynne Jones (also worth reading) this animated interpretation by Hayao Miyazaki is simply magical.

Sophie, a 19 year old girl, is content to spend her days making hats in her family’s hat shop. While her mother and sister are extravagant, beautiful and charismatic, Sophie thinks of herself as plain, but infinitely sensible. All this changes, however, when the local wizard Howl enters her life and saves her from ravishing at the hands of some soldiers. While Howl’s attentions save Sophie, his actions have also been detected by the Witch of the Wastes…who curses Sophie and turns her into a 90 year old woman. Sophie leaves her safe, routine, sensible world to find a way to break her spell and undergoes a wonderful, romantic adventure.

I have to admit, I am NOT a fan of anime. A lot of it seems weird to me, or kind of pervy, or…just not in general my thing. Howl is the first anime movie I had taken a chance on and watched, and I cannot say enough how happy I am that I took the gamble. Hayao Miyazaki, rightfully called the great animator of our time, is brilliant in his images, scenes, music, and characters. There is something, for lack of a better word, magical in his movies (after watching this, I quickly watched the rest of his work). Howl has a sweet love story, a smart and wonderful heroine in Sophie, and a dead sexy voice in Christian Bale as the titled wizard.

If you’ve never tried anime before, please just give this movie a shot. I couldn’t love it more!


  • ames
    January 22, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Hi Thea! I’m delurking to gush about the Kushiel books. I love this series and eagerly await each new installment. 😛

    There’s a blog called Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, and he usually has a contest to give away a signed copy of each new book. He usually opens the contest a month before the release date.

  • Thea
    January 22, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Hey ames! Thanks for delurking to comment! I am absolutely in love with the Kushiel books (if you couldn’t tell) and am always trying to get my friends to read them.

    I’ll definitely check out that blog–sounds awesome! Thanks for the heads up.

  • Li
    January 25, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    I love both the Kushiel books and Howl as well! Can’t wait for the third Imriel book to come out this summer.

    As for Howl, I preferred the book to the movie, but I admit I left the cinema with a teeny weeny crush on Howl – gosh, that felt so wrong!

  • Thea
    January 26, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Hey li! I am so stoked for the third book to come out too. I was a little hesitant on Imriel as our new main character, but I have loved the two books devoted to him.

    And Howl is pretty hot. *giggles* Nothing wrong with a harmless crush on a fictional cartoon character–you’re in good company! (Just ask Ana about her obsession with Dream from The Sandman series)

  • Mikka
    March 26, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Howl’s Moving Castle (the movie) is just wonderful & unforgettable. A definite movie for anyone regardless of age (yes even old and wrinkled face human beings). The book is okay, but the movie is better (for me, because my imagination sucks and Hayao Miyazaki portrayed it so beautifully). I love watching it over and over and over and over again. Thanks Thea that you actually know this (because I love anime; slice-of-life genres mostly), I just started reading your blog last night (meaning ana and you) as a b-day gift for myself (since I really love to read and don’t know what to read except for those books in the NEWS that is said to be good). I’m very happy I discovered this site. ^_^ I will be reading the 2008 entries till the present time. Wish me Luck! <3

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