Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review – “Namaah’s Kiss” by Jacqueline Carey

Once there were great magicians born to the Maghuin Dhonn; the folk of the Brown Bear, the oldest tribe in Alba. But generations ago, the greatest of them all broke a sacred oath sworn in the name of all his people. Now, only small gifts remain to them. Through her lineage, Moirin possesses such gifts - the ability to summon the twilight and conceal herself, and the skill to coax plants to grow.

Moirin has a secret, too. From childhood onward, she senses the presence of unfamiliar gods in her life; the bright lady, and the man with a seedling cupped in his palm. Raised in the wilderness by her reclusive mother, it isn't until she comes of age that Moirin learns how illustrious, if mixed, her heritage is. The great granddaughter of Alais the Wise, child of the Maghuin Donn, and a cousin of the Cruarch of Alba, Moirin learns her father was a D'Angeline priest dedicated to serving Naamah, goddess of desire.

After Moirin undergoes the rites of adulthood, she finds divine acceptance...on the condition that she fulfill an unknown destiny that lies somewhere beyond the ocean. Or perhaps oceans. Beyond Terre d'Ange where she finds her father, in the far reaches of distant Ch'in, Moirin's skills are a true gift when facing the vengeful plans of an ambitious mage, a noble warrior princess desperate to save her father's throne, and the spirit of a celestial dragon.

Naamah’s Kiss is the first book in a new trilogy set in Jacqueline Carey’s wonderful Kushiel universe. This intimate tale takes place several generations after the Imriel trilogy. Our young protagonist is Moirin, the great granddaughter of Alais. She is a half-breed with Alban and Terre d’Ange blood, thus with ties to the gods of both lands. Naamah’s Kiss is a coming of age story and an adventure divided into three parts, her early life in Alba where she learns she has a destiny, her journey and exploration of Terre d’Ange to find her father and understand the nature of her destiny and to Ch’in (China) where she believes her destiny may be fulfilled.

Naamah’s Kiss is narrated from Moirin’s first person point of view allowing us to view the intricate and complex world Carey has created through fresh young eyes, but previous readers will also delight in the many references to characters and events from the earlier tales that add an additional emotional punch. Naamah’s Kiss has much less political intrigue focusing more on Moirin’s pursuit of her destiny and the events and lovers that shape her character. Moirin is blessed by Naamah, who is the Goddess of passion and sexuality and these themes are thoroughly explored through Morin’s romantic relationships. The sensuality portrayed in Naamah’s Kiss is exquisite as are the romantic elements.

There is also strong theme of magic and the supernatural in this new trilogy, from Moirin’s magical abilities and connection to her gods and goddesses, to encounters with demons and dragons. Moirin’s quest for her destiny thrusts her into many dangerous circumstances and she often plays a significant role in events. In one pivotal scene in Ch’in when returning victorious, Moirin remarks –
And I understood that whatever else happened, we had just ridden into legend.
This quote is my favourite from the book and it perfectly captures the sense of wonder and grandeur that Naamah’s Kiss so effortlessly conveys. Interestingly, Nicola at the Alpha Heroes blog also highlighted the same quote in her review of the book. It really strikes a powerful chord when you read it in the context of the story.

Naamah’s Kiss is also populated with a host of wonderful secondary characters that illuminate the pages, springing to life vividly and fully formed. Moirin’s journey truly hits its’ stride when she arrives in Ch’in. Ch’in is lovingly depicted and the action and adventure notches up to an almost hectic pace propelling the novel to its’ climactic conclusion. The writing is always lyrical and this passage near the end of the novel resonated for me -
I glanced at Bao and Dai.

They were battered and weary and rapt, tears making streaks on their dirty faces. I laughed, unable to help it, my own voice breaking. "Hopeless romantics!"

"You're crying, too," Bao observed.

"Aye." I touched my eyelashes, and my fingertips came away wet with tears. I had come so very, very far from home. And for the first time since the Maghuin Dhonn Herself had turned Her face away from me with love and sorrow and regret, for the first time since I had glimpsed the ocean beyond the stone doorway and sensed the long and difficult destiny awaiting me, it seemed to me that despite whatever mistakes I had made along the way, the journey had been worthwhile. "So I am."
- because it so closely reflected my feelings about Naamah’s Kiss—unabashedly romantic, emotionally gripping and satisfying, and a superbly worthwhile literary journey that for many hours carried me away to a truly magical place. The story arc for this first book of the trilogy resolves nicely, with Moirin fulfilling part of her destiny but clearly promising much more to come.

I will be posting an interview with Jacqueline Carey tomorrow (June 17) about Naamah’s Kiss. The “Naamah’s Kiss” Kissing Contest also continues with an opportunity to win the book. Three copies remain to be drawn, two on June 18, and the last on June 25 the day after the book launch.

Official Jacqueline Carey Website

Grand Central Publishing
Published: June 24, 2009
ISBN #: 9780446198035
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 645

Read an excerpt of the first ten chapters here

Recent Interviews:
SciFiGuy (May 2009)
Suvudu (Dec 2008)

Kushiel's Series:

  1. Kushiel's Dart (2001)
  2. Kushiel's Chosen (2002)
  3. Kushiel's Avatar (2003)
  4. Kushiel's Scion (2006)
  5. Kushiel's Justice (2007)
  6. Kushiel's Mercy (2008)
  7. Naamah's Kiss (June 24, 2009)

Also Earth Begotten (limited edition companion book)

The Sundering Series:

  1. Banewreaker (2004)
  2. Godslayer ( 2005)


Santa Olivia (2009 - review here)


  1. This is a novel I need to put on my list to read soon. Thanks for the article! Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.

  2. Nicola I had forgotten that you used a quote for Santa Olivia that I used as well. Very strange that not only have we selected the same quotes to feature, but for two books from the same author. A little twilight zone a t work her I think.

    Sharon I am sure you know by now it really isn't appropriate to insert a shameless plug for your own work that has nothing to do with the conversation at hand. This is not the way to build a readership.

  3. i did comment under the prior post - but will do so again here, just in case i need to for the contest. sooooo looking forward to this book. not sure if i'm in the minority but i love when authors highlight different characters in the same world. it makes everything feel richer, deeper and more alive !

  4. Carey's world is so vivid, so real. I'm really looking forward to reading this interview.

  5. Hi Doug!

    What a beautiful review. I truly enjoyed reading it. You were able to convey the essence of the story, moving and sweet. It does sound romantic and wistfully adventurous.

    Thanks for the recommendation, I'll be looking for Namaah's Kiss.

    Dottie :)

  6. Thank you for the review! I expect nothing but lyrical poetry when I read anything from JC. I've just started the book but can clearly see that it will be the same.

    I will miss our old friends, but new ones are wonderful to make. Although Imri's story is my favorite so far as it resonates with me, but I'm willing to find a spot for Moirin.


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