Cassiel's Servant

You know that I'm a big fan of Jacqueline Carey and that the Kushiel books are one of my favorite SFF series of all time. So when the author announced that she was writing a retelling of Kushiel's Dart but from Joscelin's perspective, needless to say I was pretty excited!

Having said that, I was also a bit worried. Other than Joscelin's upbringing and training among the Cassilines, the tale would be exactly the same. There was no way for Carey to surprise us with something new, something unexpected. The plot would be the same, only we'd witness events occurring through the eyes of the warrior-priest. And Phèdre has such a singular voice; she's by far one of my favorite narrators and her thoughtful POV is what gave the original trilogy its unique flavor. Could the perspective of her honorable and stiff-necked bodyguard be as interesting? I was eager to find out!

Here's the blurb:

The lush epic fantasy that inspired a generation with a single precept: “Love As Thou Wilt."

Returning to the realm of Terre d’Ange which captured an entire generation of fantasy readers, New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Carey brings us a hero’s journey for a new era.

In Kushiel’s Dart, a daring young courtesan uncovered a plot to destroy her beloved homeland. But hers is only half the tale. Now see the other half of the heart that lived it.

Cassiel’s Servant is a retelling of cult favorite Kushiel’s Dart from the point of view of Joscelin, Cassiline warrior-priest and protector of Phèdre nó Delaunay. He’s sworn to celibacy and the blade as surely as she’s pledged to pleasure, but the gods they serve have bound them together. When both are betrayed, they must rely on each other to survive.

From his earliest training to captivity amongst their enemies, his journey with Phèdre to avert the conquest of Terre D’Ange shatters body and mind… and brings him an impossible love that he will do anything to keep.

Even if it means breaking all vows and losing his soul.

First of all, I didn't expect to go through this book as fast as I did. It was a pleasure to revisit Terre d'Ange and the events and the characters from Kushiel's Dart. As always, Jacqueline Carey's spellbinding prose creates an imagery filled with wonder and beauty that never fails to fascinate. Even though I knew almost everything that would happen from the get-go, still Carey's words took me back to her enchanting universe and provided another wild ride. Instead of a cash-grabbing author's preferred edition that brings nothing new, Cassiel's Servant tells Joscelin's version of the tale. My fear that the change of perspective would be somewhat jarring was unfounded. The first hundred pages or so recount Joscelin's early years and I was surprised by how quickly I got used to his POV. I figure that it allowed me to let his voice settle in my mind before he finally meets the woman who will turn his world upside down. And though he is righteous and unyielding, there is a depth to Joscelin that was fun to discover. Seeing how being with Phèdre forced him to learn how to bend and ultimately break all the vows that define him made for a compelling read.

Should one read it if they haven't read Kushiel's Dart? Even if it's possible to enjoy Cassiel's Servant on its own, why would you want to do that? Why deprive yourself of the first person narrative of Phèdre nó Delaunay? She's a deeply flawed character with a remarkable voice. Her strengths and weaknesses make her genuine and her perspective, that of an older Phèdre relating the story of her past, misleads readers on numerous occasions by playing with their expectations. Reading Joscelin's account of those same events can't quite compare with the original novel. No, this one is for fans relishing the chance to follow these two unforgettable protagonists for another go-around. And even though it may not be as memorable as the first time, it is nevertheless a totally satisfying reading experience.

With such a stellar supporting cast, it was great to once again meet such characters as Anafiel Delaunay, Alcuin, Melisande Shahrizai, Hyacinthe, Waldemar Selig, Ysandre, Thelesis de Mornay, Drustan mab Necthana, Admiral Rousse, and Ti-Philippe for the first time through Joscelin's eyes. I was especially looking forward to see how the relationship between the Cassiline and the Tsingano would unfold. They both love Phèdre in their own way and it was interesting to see that from Joscelin's perspective.

Cassiel's Servant is a rare treat for Jacqueline Carey's fans. It's a retelling of a beloved novel, one that spawned three different trilogies. If, like me, you can't get enough of these two star-crossed lovers and you want to revisit the tale that brought them together, then this books is definitely for you!

Here's to hoping that Carey will now write about what took place following the second trilogy. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants more Phèdre and Joscelin!

The final verdict: 8/10

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