Squirmy Uncomfortable Feelings: Kushiel's Dart
by Madeline Iva
Hello beloved readers — it’s been one of those days. I’m editing under deadline, I’ve got some kind of bug, and I feel like I’ve lost my outer skin. Talking to other people is especially painful. It’s like every sentence coming out of my mouth is wearing its own little ass-hat. My self-loathing quotient is sky-high.
Well, this too shall pass. Meanwhile, if you’re out there looking for something a little Game of Throne’s ish — but maybe less violent and a bit more woman-friendly smexy?–Then check out KUSHIEL’S DART.
I found it so comforting to read about a heroine experiencing her own squirmy issues. (People, is *this* why we like BDSM so much? So we can displace our internal discomfort onto someone else and watch her writhe around? Hmm.)
Did you see our Lady Smut #ReadHotter challenge? KUSHIEL’S DART is a great book if you enjoy BDSM-y flavor, and want to try a fantasy novel on for size.
KUSHIEL’S DART, the first book in the series KUSHIEL’S LEGACY, is NOT a romance. It does not end with an HEA (at least the first book doesn’t). But it’s got enough BDSM squirmies, sex, and potential romance to keep you going.
It’s not an erotic romance you say? ;<
No, the structure is different. Yet it revolves around a character who is a devotee of BDSM. You don’t get that up close camera kind of description for the sex scenes, but you get the gist.
The heroine of this series, Phedre, was was born with a unique fate: a red blotch in the otherwise black iris of her eye. The blotch is Kushiel’s Dart, and it marks her out as one chosen by the gods, but also someone who thrills to the submissive side of BDSM.
Sold by her mother into one of the houses of prostitution in her city (a place kind of like Paris), she starts off like the other children getting an education first. Yet during this time, she accidentally discovers how much she loves the feel of pain, how it sends her into a space of fascination and sexual squirmies. Eventually, her aptitude for experiencing sexual plain and pleasure swirled together becomes a kind of religious frenzy where she sees the face of the god Kushiel.
And then it gets really politically complicated. She is eventually sold out of her house to a handsome man with an agenda. Facing betrayal, kidnapping, and sexual slavery, Phedre always has at least one interesting companion/friend at her side. Yet as someone who cannot help but swoon at the thought of being submissive to a dominant lover with a strong interest in BDSM play, we know that for her to find true love, she’s going to need to find someone who likes her kinky games.
While the book doesn’t have explicit BDSM scenes, it describes Phedre’s melty BDSM-y feeling so well. Then a certain guy walks on stage in the book you’re like: Hey! That guy. Him. I want *him* to be Phedre’s hero.
But this potential hero is not into her kink—so that’s a definite hurdle to their relationship. Most of the time he’s under a vow of celibacy–another hurdle. Finally, not only is he a virgin and has to stay that way–he absolutely hates her. It’s gonna be a long slog for these two to get together.
Author Jaqueline Carey knows that. She is adept at torturing us. She makes us read hundreds of pages in hopes the two of them to get together and then that bitch makes us wait and wait some more. We’re in agony, but she’s clever enough to make us like it at the same time.
So check it out!
P.S. After reading Kushiel’s Dart, I realized that it was part of a larger discussion we’ve been having on the blog for a while now.
Then Kiersten had a guest blogger Jill Sorenson talking about the struggles we face in accepting a sex workers heroines HERE.
I wrote a response to her post HERE – and there’s tons more good discussion in the comments section.
Let me just wrap up this post by saying OMG — THIS is the book we should have discussed when we had that discussion! Phedre is a sex worker, and yet there’s a whole possibility of her having a romance with one of the other characters, because her relationships & friends are so very separate from her work.
Phedre and her friends need for each other in a tight spot, they join together out of an alliance against mutual enemies, they adventure together. These activities run concurrently along side her work where she is paid to have sex with people. Why does she? Because she wants to earn her freedom, because she wants to please her employer, or because she has to save her life. Eventually, Phedre does it because she’s motivated to sway people for political reasons to help her home land.
She’s very professional about her job. It’s a profession, it’s a skill. It’s her pathway to becoming an emancipated, independent woman.
However, her gift is also her fatal weakness. Because BDSM kink causes her to go into a rapture-like state, she loses herself in being chastised by her clients. Sometimes doing so is a boon–she is essentially a spy and hears things. Yet the pain makes her so high she loses her will to impose boundaries. She must say yes, and she cannot say stop–even if she might die from the sex play getting out of hand.
I find this book a rather fascinating, (mostly) highly idealized vision of what legal sex work could look like. Meanwhile, to have a BDSM-y best selling book that’s S/F and not romance? Shocking!
Madeline Iva writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance. Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, and her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out March 15th.