Friday, March 30, 2007

Kushiel's ________

So, some years ago--and by some I mean about five--my friend Natalie recommended Kushiel's Dart to me. Despite the fact that Natalie is one of those people who always recommends good books, and despite the fact that Natalie and I have always enjoyed some of the same books, I never got around to actually reading it. Then, earlier this year, I picked up a free copy of Kushiel's Scion which is the first book in the new Kushiel trilogy. Anyway, I should have gotten my act together and read these years ago because they're really enjoyable. It's hardly literary fiction in disguise a la John Crowley or Jonathan Carroll, but it's quality, well-written fantasy: intricately plotted, interesting, and original. It's got a bit of that fantasy-land language going on which I could live without but it's kept under control and doesn't really become an annoyance. And it's mercifully free of dragons, sorcerers, and all such done-to-death things.

As anyone with a passing familiarity with fantasy knows, the cover art tends to leave something to be desired. By which I mean it's the sort of stuff you're embarrassed to take out in public. Kind of like bodice rippers. The Kushiel art is thankfully rather above that level. The cover art is done by John Jude Palencar, who also does the art for many Charles de Lint books. A brief google search tells me that he's best known for doing the covers of Eragon and it's sequel, but the chances of my ever reading that are nil, so I was unaware of this. Let's face it, it takes all of one paragraph to realize that Eragon is poorly written crap. I was generous and gave it four before the urge to stab my eyes out got too strong. But anyway, back to Palencar. I actually have always liked his work for de Lint's books. He has a talent for the surreal and slightly meditative, which suits those books perfectly. It's classy art for a classy writer. What's more, his paintings of women lack the exploitative quality that so much fantasy has, which is perfect for a novelist who writes women as well as de Lint.

I wish his work was as effective for Carey's novels, but the truth is, I kind of hate it. First off, I'm totally bored with the main-character-stands-or-sits-contemplatively theme. She's not even the main character in the fourth book. Do something else. Please. Second, she's supposed to be incredibly beautiful and yet her face looks, well, kind of funny. I don't know if it's the jaw or the cheekbones or the forehead or what, but something is just not right there. Third, what's with the fabric? It's incredibly heavy, thick, and stiff looking. In Kushiel's Avatar the bottom of the skirt actually looks like stone. She's supposed to be sexy and clothing that looks like stone? So not sexy. I have more quibblers for I am a quibbler, but you get the point.

Nevertheless, when my biggest annoyance is the cover art, I suppose it's safe to say I enjoyed the books. These were the first books in a long while I stayed up all night to read.


N said...

Yeah, he's quite a good artist but he did a horrible job with the Kushiel covers, IMHO. She looks absolutely nothing like Ph├Ędre, and they are fairly boring. (Although, Kushiel's Chosen's cover was pretty good, but that was because you didn't have to see her face or hair, and was relevant to the plotline.)

I completely agree with you about fantasy as a genre. It's so..regurgitated. You really have to hunt for the truly well-thought-out books.

I also agree about Eragon. And I'm a bit jealous of the author...he's like what, 19 years old? And he got a movie deal for writing some blah fantasy that frankly seems like it's a thin veneer of older, forgotten boy-meets-dragon books.

Anyway, enough rantage ^_^ Glad you enjoyed the books.

Meg said...

And I'm a bit jealous of the author...he's like what, 19 years old? And he got a movie deal for writing some blah fantasy that frankly seems like it's a thin veneer of older, forgotten boy-meets-dragon books.

Oh, I know! I'm like...I could write that. But I wouldn't. Whatever.

I agree with you on the Kushiel's Chosen cover. It's my favorite of the lot. And I like the color of the dress. It's more visually interesting than the others.