The promise of Kushiel's Dart (2001), the first volume of Carey's immense trilogy set in a skewed Renaissance world, is more than realized in this splendid conclusion. In the 10 years since the action of the second, relatively uneventful volume, Kushiel's Chosen (2002), the winsome and gritty anguisette Phèdre, bidden to seek pain in love by her demi-gods, the cruel Kushiel and the loving Naamah, has matured gracefully. Now the Comtesse Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève, she enjoys maintaining an estate together with the swordsman Joscelin, her faithful consort. She still follows her calling, though accepting but three patrons a year. Only the lonely fate of her imprisoned childhood friend, Hyacinthe, who's courageously volunteered to become Master of the Straits, disturbs her serenity. Then the beautiful, treacherous Melisande Shahrizai asks the anguisette to rescue her kidnapped son, Imriel. In return, Melisande promises to help Phèdre find the Name of God, the key to freeing Hyacinthe. Having traveled west in the first book from the French-Italianate city-state of Terre d'Ange, Phèdre here journeys south into the equivalents of the Middle East and Africa, where she triumphs gloriously. Effortlessly rich in adventurous incident, with a huge cast of well-defined characters, this poignant and robust story will appeal to both fantasy lovers and fans of erotic romance. Agent, Jane Dystel. (Apr. 21)
Forecast:A recent interview in Locus and strong cross-over appeal to romance readers who don't mind a touch of kinky sex will ensure sales that build on those of the previous two volumes.