Tor, Apr 2003, 27.95, 702 pp.
"Anguisette" Comtesse Phedre has for the most part over the past decade lived in domestic tranquillity with her loyal swordsman Joscelin though she also meets the demands of her demi-gods to feel pain when making love by annually taking on a few “lovers”. However, her former lover and rival, Melisande, imprisoned in a temple for an unsuccessful coup, asks Phedre for help. Melisande's son, Imriel vanished. If Phèdre rescues Imriel, Melisande will provide the location of the lost tribe of Dan, whose elders reportedly know the hidden Name.
Phèdre and Joscelin quickly learn that slavers heading south abducted Imriel. They follow the trail to the Pharaoh of Menekhet who informs them that the lad was taken to the nightmarish Drujan, headed by The Conqueror of Death and bloody priests who kill, seemingly by magic, for any slight. Imriel is the sacrifice that authenticates the Conqueror's dominance. Phèdre knows she needs to get inside so she arranges for Joscelin to sell her to the Conqueror of Death as a sex slave.
The latest Kushiel tale is fantasy at its most powerfully visual best. The story line is colorful as the audience journeys with the heroine on her trek to what is the equivalent of Africa. The lead protagonists as expected are complete individuals so that fans understand their motives and how each interacts with others in adventurous scenarios while the secondary characters appear so authentic that the depth of the plot is as deep as a tale seemingly can become. Though better if read after the first two novels, KUSHIEL'S AVATAR could stand-alone to the delight of an appreciative genre.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner