This book was really hard for me to rate, but I finally decided on 4 stars. There were some things that were exceedingly well done and some aspects that were not, but overall I was impressed with this book and felt that it was better than my average 3 star rating.
I'll start with the cons.Exposition. Exposition. Exposition.
The world of Terre d'Ange is hugely complex - it's religion, it's politics, it's cultural groups. It's a beautiful world (of which I will speak on more later) but the beginning of the novel is a huge
information dump. There are so many things to keep straight and people to remember that the first 30%-ish was really dry and difficult to get through. To put the amount of exposition into perspective, the first third of the book takes Phedre from a young child to 16-or-so while the last two thirds take place over the course of about a year.So many characters.
Part of Kushiel's Dart is a huge political game for the throne of Terre d'Ange. Scattered throughout the book you meet tons of nobles and it's very difficult to keep track of who is good and who is bad and where you remember that guys name from. Fluffy Prose.
Carey's prose is super fluffy. I think there were several sections that could have been cut down considerably to help the prose flow better.
Now for the pros.World Building.
Terre d'Ange and it's surrounding countries are beautifully conceived. Kushiel's Dart takes place in an alternate history where the blood of Jesus Christ, the tears of Mary Magdelene and the womb of Mother Earth birthed a child named Elua. Elua and a group of angels who chose to fall from heaven to be his companions are the deities of the world. The story also takes place within what we know as Europe - with Terre d'Ange being a representation of France. I was really impressed with Carey's ability to take inspiration from the cultures and ideas we know and create such a world that was unique and didn't scream "HEY I'M FRANCE."Character Development
. Though not all characters have the same amount of growth, I thought that both Phedre and Joscelin learned a lot through the course of their journey. Not only did the grow, but their growth was natural - due to the nature of Joscelin's growth (which I will not spoil), I was afraid that it was going to be an abrupt change, but I thought it was very well handled.
I have more cons than pros, but I'm still sticking to my 4 stars. I really had a fun time with this book, and I can't look past how well crafted the overarching story and culture was. I've put the series on my "rainy day" shelf. I'm not jumping at the bit to read the next in the series, but it is a world I could see myself returning to in the future.