I think I'm officially a "fan" of the Kushiel/Terre D'Ange/whatever series, now. I mean, there was so much I didn't like about Kushiel's Chosen, the second part of Jacqueline Carey's first trilogy. Some parts even offended me, but I've invested what's now more than 1,500 pages into these characters so I guess I'm just going to see where this is going. At least until the next book. I'm not sure if I give a crap about the kid in the second trilogy. All this means is I don't weigh things anymore on the "good or bad" scale but on the "What made me happy and what pissed me off?" scale.

Background. I love the hell out of Kushiel's Dart, the first book in the series. Despite the fact that the person I took them from ([livejournal.com profile] imayb1) thought it sucked like a Hoover because the language was flowery and the main character, Phedre, is a Mary Sue with a capital "MS." She was ... kind of right. But so much of the book appeals to my sensibilities. Mostly because while a Mary Sue, Phedre is also a sexually submissive prostitute who nevertheless has a backbone and does not make your inner feminist cry to read about her. Plus, while Phedre is beloved by everyone she meets and totes beautiful and awesomecakes at every language and sings really well and can do ANYTHING SHE SETS HER MIND TO, she does occasionally screw up and be selfish and do things that are stupid, which puts her ahead of most canonical Mary Sues.

I also like how the book has fantasy elements (usually involving Gods) but is mostly down-to-earth. And everybody lives in an alternate version of medieval/renaissance Europe. Terre D'Ange is France, Aragoria is Spain, the Cardeccia Units are Italy, the Tsiango are the gypsies, Skaldia is ... kind of Germany but also Nordic. I don't know.

Still, first impressions of this book were bad. While I like Phedre pretty well, I've had a harder time with Joscelin, the emotional love of her life. Joscelin used to be part of a cult of celibate bad-ass fighters, but after he and Phedre spent some time in the last book escaping from Skaldians and he kind of broke that whole celibate thing. For the latter half of Kushiel's Dart, he got over this trauma by killing bad guys, but with no bad guys to kill he spends most of the first half of Kushiel's Chosen being a whiny little bitch because Phedre wants to go play spy whore again. I know in any other book this would be a REASONABLE request, but dude, I really, really, really like those sex scenes and resent that he has to make me feel bad about it.

Joscelin and Phedre also seemed determined to ruin my fun with the whole Yeshuite subplot. The Yeshuites are this series' version of the Jews but ... well.

See, here's the thing. In addition to this brave new Europe having alternate names for all the countries, every country also has a new religion. France/Terre D'Ange has this weird sort of Christian/Pagan mix. Their god, Eula, was born from the blood of Jesus and the tears of Mary Magdalene. (I know, I know. Bear with me.) And he's got a whore girlfriend and a bunch of sex!angel followers, one of whom is Kushiel, the God of punishment and ... well, whatever. Basically Christianity as we know it doesn't exist so much. So it would make sense that the Jews aren't quite the same in this world, either. However, instead of outfitting the new Jews with some new sort of God, Carey instead decided to write them as Messianic Jews/Jews for Jesus.

This bothers me. It's hard to explain, because the antipathy between Jews and Messianics can sound like just prejudiced hatred on the part of the Jews, who are so against any "alternate" form of belief that they won't let the poor Messianics into their special club, but it's more complicated than that. Without extending this to the individuals who practice it -- they probably have their own diverse reasons for following this -- I have a problem with Messianic Judaism because it bills itself as a natural outgrowth of Judaism, which -- if you actually look at Jewish philosophy and prophecy and law -- it isn't. Plus, a lot of Messianic outlets are Christian-run, convert-the-heathens missions and a lot of Messianic Jews have that conversion mentality. And that they bill themselves as "completed Jews" while outright lying about the meaning of certain prayers and certain Bible verses by preying on most American Jews' lack of knowledge about Hebrew or the Bible .... yeah, no.

So the Yeshuites, who are really meant to be Jews -- they have the same prayers, they have the same language, they have the same mores, they're subject to similar prejudice, yet they believe in the coming of the Messiah. Part of the whole subplot is that they believe Joscelin is going to lead them north to greet Jesus a.k.a. Yeshua a.k.a. what Messianic Jews actually call him.

Look, I know it's fantasy. I know Jacqueline Carey can do what she wants. I know there are probably some sensitive souls who would be offended by the whole Eula thing. But in the real world, NOBODY worships Eula while they DO worship Jesus/Yeshua. And to appropriate the Jewish culture and religion while tying them to the very culture and religion whose followers wanted to KILL THEM during that time period and to people who want all Jews to be JUST LIKE THIS is ... ugh.

And I don't say this to pick on all or even most modern-day Christians. I know most Christians are horrified at what happened and fine with Jews worshiping as they want. But ancient Christian prejudice still has its legacy today in shit like the blood libel and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and numerous "shady banker" conspiracies. And I don't think its wrong to be pissed about that.

So I spent most of the beginning of the book in a really bad mood (being in Israel during that time might have heightened my frustration, too). There were good parts, like Phedre's affair with a member of the Cardeccia Units royal family and another Longest Night festival. The King of Alba and Eire (England and Ireland) also showed up, and he's a lot of fun because he's basically like William Wallace with a clubfoot. But mostly I was just annoyed about the Yeshuites and Joscelin's bitching and the increasing lack of sex and the fact that Phedre's boys weren't characters so much as puppies in human form -- one smart puppy and two silly puppies. And whenever Phedre bitched about how much she missed Delaunay or Alcuin or Hyacinthe I was like "Damn right. When the fuck is a character like that going to show up again? This sucks!"

And then Melisande Shahrizai, Phedre's dream domme/sexual love of her life and the villainess from the last book, finally showed up. This excited me because I really like the character and when the two of them get together it's awesome. Alas, all she did was throw Phedre in prison and Melisande was like, "You can get out of prison and be my sex slave" and Phedre's like, "No way, you are attractive and I'm wet right now but you are totally evil" and I'm like, "Phedre, I know, but I have needs, too!" Alas, it didn't happen and I despaired for the rest of the book.

And then Phedre escaped prison and got captured by pirates.

You know, I've never been the type to be "Improve this by adding zombies/ninjas/pirates!" but you know what ... THAT SHIT ACTUALLY WORKED THIS TIME! And then came the adventures with the pirates, and betrayls with the pirates, and the visiting other countries with the pirates, and the sex with the pirates! ... okay, the pirate!sex kind of sucked, but they really just made the whole thing better. In fact, when they eventually got to the climax of the book Joscelin even started acting like less of a bitch and there were cool stand-offs and one of the Yeshuites was a cool warrior chick and I can't resist that and ...

Pirates ... THEY DO MAKE EVERYTHING COOLER! Even offensive, cultural appropriation blasphemy. YAY FOR PIRATES!
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