After Carey's boldly imaginative fantasy debut, Kushiel's Dart (2001), in which the dauntless Phèdre nó Delaunay used intelligence and sexual skill to triumph in politics and war in a Renaissance-like world, Phèdre, elevated to the peerage and resuming her anguisette duties, returns for further fabulous, if at times redundant, adventures, determined to rest on something other than her laurels. While the first novel told a coming-of-age story, the sequel covers only a relatively brief period, though it has enough plot lines and melodrama for six heroines. The action first focuses on the recapture of Phèdre's evil nemesis, the dominating Melisande Shahrizai, who has escaped from prison and death. Alas, the initially fascinating Melisande turns into a tiresome harridan. Later plot twists include everything from a journey to the Venetian La Serenissima to imprisonment at Melisande's hands in a mountainous jail on a lonely island. For opulence, a costume ball rivals that of Broadway's Phantom of the Opera. Carey is adept at bringing both her exotic settings and vast cast of characters fully to life. The dream of every man and not a few women, Phèdre is too much to handle for all but her faithful Joscelin, the Cassiline monk who defied his vows to remain her loving companion. Phèdre's first outing deservedly won her a host of followers, but wordiness and needless complexity combine to make this hefty novel less of a stellar achievement than its predecessor. (Apr. 16)
Forecast:A push that includes national print advertising, regional author appearances and targeting to romance readers will bring back the faithful, but if too many of them are disappointed, Carey might do well to give her heroine a rest and apply her considerable talents to fresh challenges.
Release date: 04/01/2002