Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

First, a bit of truth from Cecelia Ahern, my favorite Irish author:

Bestselling author Cecelia Ahern wrote a letter to booksellers "to woo
them into pushing her new novel. With her baby due in December, Ms.
Ahern will not be able to do a lot of publicity for her new book, The
Book of Tomorrow," the Irish Independent reported.

"I believe in the magic of books," Ahern observed. "I believe that
during certain periods in our lives we are drawn to particular
books--whether it's strolling down the aisles of a bookshop with no idea
whatsoever of what it is that we want to read and suddenly finding the
most perfect, most wonderfully suitable book staring us right in the
face. Unblinking. Or a chance meeting with a stranger or friend who
recommends a book we would never ordinarily reach for. Books have the
ability to find their own way into our lives."

Exactly, Ms Ahern! I have two of her novels awaiting my reading pleasure, "There's No Place Like Here" and "If You Could See Me Now."

I'd like to discuss the last three books I've read, but I want to first list what I am reading now, "Jenna Starborn" by Sharon Shinn and "Garden Spell" by Sarah Addison Allen. Despite the fact that one is science fiction and the other more chick lit, the two books are remarkably similar. Both have heroines who are abused and nearly crushed by parents or spouses or both, and yet they soldier on and try to make a life for themselves once they are away from their abusers. I'm trying to derive inspiration from these women for the hard times we are experiencing right now as a family.

Meanwhile, I've finished reading "Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism" by Georgia Byng, "Princess of the Sword" by Lynn Kurland and "Naamah's Kiss" by Jacqueline Carey.

I had the good fortune to meet Ms Carey several months ago at the University Bookstore. I've already written about it on my blog, so I won't repeat myself, but suffice it to say I wish that I had owned a copy of this book then so I could have had her sign it, and could have explained to her how wonderful it truly was to read her latest work.
"Naamah's Kiss" is so sensual, juicy and delicious a read that I envy those who haven't cracked the book open yet to inhale its contents. The book takes place 100 years after the last of her Kushiel's series, and instead of outlining the lives of Phaedra's decendants, we are treated to follow the life of Moirin, great-grandaughter of Alais the wise, sister to the heir to Ysandra's throne in Terre D'Ange. Moirin is also born into the Maghuin Dhonn, the folk of the bear goddess and the oldest tribe in Alba.Though they used to have great powers, those powers were lost when one of their number broke faith and killed Prince Imriel's wife and unborn child. Still, Moirin can make herself invisible (through a process called "gathering the twilight" which is so lyrical and such a perfect way of putting it that I found myself wanting to applaud Ms Carey for her way with conventions)and can help heal others, as well as removing other's memories from their minds. She can also converse with dragons and is, as a half D'Angeline, an amazing lover and friend who brings healing, hope and love with her use of Naamah's arts.
Moirin sets off under the aegis of not only the bear goddess, but Naamah, and Anael (I don't think I am spelling that right) two of Terre D'Ange's gods, of love and planting, to find her destiny and her father. Though Moirin finds her father, a priest of Naamah who was drawn to her mother for one night, she discovers that her soul tells her that her destiny lies toward the East, to China, where she travels with a Master and his apprentice to help a Chinese princess who has been possessed by a dragon.
The prose in this book is lyrical and sensuous, and the plot, which meanders a bit at first, finds its feet and sails along swiftly, like the Chinese ship after opening the silken bag of fast winds and thunder. My only quibble was that Moirin let herself be used nearly to death by a man with few scruples and great selfish ambitions. The fact that he is handsome didn't really cut it with me as an excuse for his using her sexually and magically for his own ends. Moirin is then saved by the queen, who has a very understanding husband, and, though she is treated better, I felt she was still sublimating her own interests in favor of being the queens lover and confidant. Granted, Moirin is a teenager, and young love is passionate, but I wanted her to be stronger early on, and not be used so severely. Yet Moirin is a loving, generous person, and her character charms everything and everyone she meets, from plants to potentates.
At any rate, I did love this book and its beautiful descriptions and heroine who manages to save the day in a foreign land. I highly recommend it to those who exult in stories of magic, love and destiny.

I was also enchanted by Lynn Kurland's "Princess of the Sword" the final book in her Nine Kingdoms trilogy. Morgan and Miach finally manage to marry and consumate their love, which is something that readers have been pining for through the other two novels, in which the characters just manage to kiss once or twice.
In this installment, Morgan and Miach are searching everywhere for the spell that will close the well of evil that was opened by Morgan's father, Gair the black mage of Ceangail, killing his wife and all but three of his seven children. Morgan must also deal with learning more about her own powers and those of her fiance, Miach.
There are fierce sword battles, horses turned to flying dragons, Catriona and Mehar, queens in their own right forging another singing sword, Fey relatives of Morgan reuniting, and the job of King landing literally on Miach's shoulders. A lot happens in this book, yet Kurland still finds time for her trademark witty dialog and fascinating supporting cast of characters. I couldn't put this book down toward the end, and was delighted by the HEA, though I knew it was coming. I highly recommend this series for all who enjoy their fantasy with swords ablaze, magic aplenty, light romance and women who aren't afraid to get their hands and skirts dirty.

Unfortunately, I was not thrilled with "Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism," mainly because it was as if the author read all of Roald Dahl's books, figured out his formula or general outline, and then filled in the blanks with her own transparent orphan heroine and her sidekick, and felt that was enough to make a book. It's not, it is just a derivation of Roald Dahl with a few extra modern British tidbits thrown in. I gather that this is Ms Byng's first book, and it shows. Her prose is niave and light, her plot is bogged down by clearly telegraphed happenstance and her characters not really lovable or nice enough to warrant the reader's sympathy. Though there were funny moments, the author drew them out too long, so they ceased to be amusing and just became pedestrian. Though everything turns out all right in the end, it wasn't a satisfying story. I can't recommend this book, unless you're too lazy to read Roald's work and would prefer the watered-down version with a pathetic heroine.

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