The opening installment of another doorstopper trilogy, set in the same quasi-Europe as Kushiel’s Avatar (2003), etc.
The exquisitely beautiful inhabitants of Terre d’Ange, descendants of angels, are bidden by their gods to “love as thou wilt.” The “anguisette” Phèdre—her fate is to experience pain as pleasure—and her consort, Joscelin the former warrior-priest, have adopted young Imriel de la Courcel, son of the demonic traitor Melisande, after having rescued him from sexual slavery and torture. As he grows toward manhood, Imriel must confront those terrible experiences and the dark urges they provoke within him. Then Melisande, confined on pain of death within a temple following her treacherous attempt to seize the throne, vanishes. Those at Court not inclined to trust Imriel now have reason to redouble their suspicions. While confined, Melisande wrote many letters to Imriel, none of which he has read; now he asks Phèdre to read them, hoping for clues as to his birth-mother’s whereabouts and intentions. A few of Imriel’s rivalries at Court develop into enmities, though he becomes great friends with Prince Eamonn of Eire. Queen Ysandre urges him to marry into the family of her husband, Drustan, Cruarch of Alba—the children of such a union would inherit Alba’s throne—but Imriel refuses, instead tying himself to Ysandre’s daughter Sidonie through their mutual attraction and the secret oath of loyalty he has sworn her. Finally, he resolves to join Eamonn in Tiberium as a student—and the plots begin in earnest.
No great claims to originality, but skillfully rendered, sensual and thoroughly engrossing—this will appeal to newcomers and fans of the first trilogy alike.