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 Today's December meme comes from [personal profile] netgirl_y2k I feel like most people have heard my opinions on this on one platform or another (in fact I think it was part of the [livejournal.com profile] kushielsorting questionnaire) but I will try to add some new insights to make it interesting. In my mind, this almost feels like 2 questions: what I would change to make the books objectively better from a literary standpoint vs what i would change to make them the story of my heart. I'll try to tackle both angles. And disclaimer, I don't claim to be the arbitrator of literary taste by any means...at the end of the day, it's still an opinion. 

From a literary/editorial standpoint, there's very little I would change about Phedre's trilogy. I love Phedre's POV, Dart especially has a clockwork plot, and the last book brings it all full circle. I find the first part of Chosen kind of boring...it's my least favorite of Phedre's books...but even so I appreciate why it needs to play out the way it does. 

I'd say my biggest want for all 3 trilogies would be more same sex and non-monogamous pairings. Carey creates this alternate history where people have more sexual freedoms than we do in our own society, where technically there is no prejudice against same sex relationships (though it can mess up inheritance) and chastity is not prized except by the Cassilines who are definitely a minority. And since conventionally hetero couples figure in all the endgame pairings, it just feels like a waste of that premise sometimes. I felt like all the same sex couples got somewhat short-shrift. Melisande and Phedre are denied a true sex scene, the scene where Phedre gives Nicola the lover's token happens offscreen, Amarante and Sidonie  are all offscreen, Imriel rejects Lucius, Anafiel and Alcuin are the embodiment of Bury Your Gays, etc. And I'm not saying those relationships aren't shown to be important, but it's hardly equal footing: go back and read Kushiel's Dart and see how many pages are devoted to Phedre's sexytimes with Gunnar for pete's sake, a completely minor, forgettable character. Go read Naamah's Kiss and compare how many sex scenes Raphael and Moirin get compared to Phedre and Melisande. You don't need a PhD in statistics to know that straight couples get a lot more explicit screentime. 

Oh and I do not believe for a hot second that Phedre/Ysandre never happened. I was rereading Dart while writing The Kusheline Reel and I was like, "um, exactly why did those 2 ladies never bang again?" To quote Melisande, "Phedre, you're a horrible liar."


And the thing is, I'm a historian and I get why when Kushiel's Dart was published in 2001 it was groundbreaking for having both queer and bdsm content. It still is groundbreaking I think for the epic fantasy genre. I can see how in 2013 when everybody and their Aunt Marge has read Fifty Shades of Grey and many states and countries have passed laws supporting same sex marriage it can feel like not enough. I get that and I've lived through that and let me tell you that 2001 when I graduated high school was a very different time. And it's not quite fair to judge Phedre's trilogy by 2013 standards- but I think she really could have gone a lot farther with the Naamah books than she did. By that time, Carey had built up an audience that clearly had no problem with same sex relationships. There's no reason Moirin's story couldn't have had an f/f or m/m or f/fm or f/m/f/m main pairing. In fact, i think the last would have actually solved everyone's problems!

Which brings me to the Naamah books. I know they have their fans. Again, they're a breath of fresh air compared to most epic fantasy. They're disappointing to me as someone who was such a big fan of the first trilogy. I missed that unique first person POV and the more politics-heavy vs. magic-heavy plot. It's not that I object to magic (it works fine for me in Imriel's trilogy) I just wished it hadn't been used as a "get out of jail free card" or automatic plot mover by Carey. I'm not one of those purists who objects to the time jump- I actually think it's a great premise to check in with Terre d'Ange 100 years down the road. I think these books would have worked better if they had stayed in Terre d'Ange more. I was really getting in the summoning demons and the Moirin/Jehanne stuff and then we were rather arbitrarily yanked away for an extended tour of duty in medieval China. I actually think Moirin maintaining her outsider's perspective and showing us more of D'Angeline society, getting to see those parts that had previously gone unexamined was a missed opportunity. Or alternately, I wish Jehanne was the heroine of the Naamah books. Her rise to power from adept to Queen would have made for a fascinating story. 

Now, what would I personally want to make these books even more the story of my heart than they already are? Oh, if you know me you know the answer: MOAR MELISANDE. 

Specifically, I would have loved a story where Melisande wasn't so irredeemably the villain. When someone pitched these books to me, i was under the foolishly misguided hope impression that she was more of a general antagonist, that she would kind of be playing the part that Barquiel L'Envers sort of ended up playing. And I do wish her status had turned out to be a little more ambiguous. Or at least that Carey hadn't pulled the trigger on her treachery quite so soon...if only to allow for more happy sexytimes with Phedre, or the possibility for a true reconciliation. I understand why it is written the way it is....and I have trouble squaring my own morality with shipping them at times, less because of the treason, assasination plots etc, and more because of the torture/dub-con situation that is implied to have happened between them. Honestly, that fade to black is the one thing I would change...if only so I could ship them with a clearer conscience. Oh well...I guess that's what AU fanfic is for. If anything, shipping Phedre/Melisande has made me less judgey of other people's ships. 

I also think it's sometimes a waste that Melisande has to be a character in a moral universe where apparently the gods give a shit about mortal affairs. I think she'd probably be happier in a John Le Carre novel. Ah, someday I'll write my Cold War AU, Tinker, Tailor, Courtesan, Spy
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