Naamah's Kiss

Jacqueline Carey
Naamah's Kiss
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Grand Central Publishing
Release Date
June 2010
Erotic Romance, Fantasy Romance, LGBTQ

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.

Book Review by Silver (reviewer)
Sep 20, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
246 people found the following review helpful
Jacqueline Carey sweeps us into another epic adventure with her new heroine, Moirin of the Maghuin Dhonn.

Moirin was born of an Alban mother (a folk of the Maghuin Dhonn) and a D'Angeline father (a priest of Naamah), and her heritage burns brightly in her. Her destiny took her away from Alba and across the seas to Terre d'Ange, where she met Raphael de Mereliot, of whom she was infatuated. When her diadh-anam sparked in his presence, she thought he was her destiny. Little did she know that he was only a bridge, and that her destiny would lead her even further than Terre d'Ange to a distant land, Ch'in, where a cursed princess and a celestial dragon awaits her...

Moirin comes across as naive and innocent, certainly not as intense as Phedre. Even when she was Moirin's age (seventeen when she arrived at Tere D'Ange), Phedre was never that young. But this could be attributed to their different backgrounds. Moirin was a sheltered young woman, living with her mother in caves and in the forest, only venturing occasionally into Clunderry or Innisclan. They didn't even have much contact with their own people, the folk of the Maghuin Dhonn. Hence, Moirin's simplicity and her steadfast devotion to the Maghuin Dhonn, even her infatuation with Raphael de Mereliot, is justified. Though she wasn't as compelling as Phedre, she was a likeable heroine, steadfast and strong, and at times, even funny. A true child of Naamah, she loved where she wilt.

I didn't think much of Bao at first, but then I saw him through Moirin's eyes, who didn't think much of Bao at the start, since she was all starry-eyed over Raphael de Mereliot. Because of Moirin's preoccupation with first Raphael, then Jehanne, Bao was absent most of the first half of the book, but that changed when they were on their way to Ch'in. And as the story went on, he revealed himself to be a strong and skilled fighter (my, what he could do with a simple bamboo stick!), and he was steadfast and devoted to his mentor, Master Lo. I like his more laid-back character, as opposed to Joscelin Verreuil, but for all that, he was quick to protect people he cared for, even at great cost to himself. Because he wasn't a celibate monk, there wasn't much tension in this aspect between him and Moirin. For all his insouciance, he was reticent about himself, and coupled with later events, this created distance and left their future uncertain.

I think what I like most about Jacqueline Carey's books is the sheer epic vastness of her world. Her worldbuilding is top-notch and realistic, and I like going with her characters on grand, fascinating adventures into these new worlds. In NAAMAH'S KISS, we learn more about the Maghuin Dhonn and the repercussions they'd had to suffer after the events in the second Kushiel trilogy. We also travel with Moirin to Tere d'Ange, and the visit into this world that inhabited the Kushiel series is as interesting as my first visit, only this time, we see things from the view of an outsider. We also go with her to Ch'in and learn about the culture in Ancient China and the terrible consequences war could inflict on the innocent.

I'm not sure if it's because of Moirin's character or the fact that I'm not new to Terre d'Ange, but I felt that the intensity of emotions engendered in me wasn't as intense as in Phedre's story. On further rumination, I think it's this: Phedre's story has a great stake. Usually, it's the fate of Terre d'Ange or its queen that Phedre is trying to save. And there's a central villain (sort of) in Melissande, the woman Phedre both loved and hated. With Imriel, his story was more personal, yes, but in the 3rd book of his trilogy, which I think is the best of his series, not only did he want to save Sidonie, but Terre d'Ange as well. In both trilogies, both protagonists are called upon for purposes outside of themselves, they are called upon to be bigger and greater than what they are because the hope of an entire nation (even the world) is upon them. They make choices, for better or worse, and they live with the consequences of that choice. They become larger than life.

For Moirin, her main purpose is to follow the wishes of her diadh-anam, which always guides her true! I think there's not much tension in such a technique, and it doesn't really require her to make any choices. Moreover, she doesn't have a goal, truly. She just drifts along to where her diadh-anam or events propel her. So, it's not that exciting and tension-filled, not when you compare it to Phedre's story, which sprouts questions like: Would Terre d'Ange be conquered by the Skaldi? Would Melissande succeed in assassinating Queen Ysandre? Would Phedre succeed in locating the boy Imri and what would his destiny be?

Despite that, I was invested in the characters enough that I couldn't read fast enough to see how things would turn out for Moirin and Bao, and how I wished the book could've been longer when I reached the last page. (Oh yeah, there's book 2, Naamah's Curse.)

As this story happened generations after the end of the last Kushiel book, the original characters are no longer living, though there are mentions of them. Moirin, for example, is a descendant of Alais de la Courcel (Sidonie's sister) and Conor mac Grainne. Not much has been mentioned about Phedre and Joscelin, but I'm hopeful, as there are two more books in this trilogy!

NAAMAH'S KISS may not be as intense and compelling as the author's previous books, but fans would enjoy this start to a new trilogy nonetheless. It is not necessary to read the previous six books to enjoy this book, but if you're new to the series, I'd recommend you to read the Kushiel Legacy series instead.
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