Cannonball Read V: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Because her left eye bears a scarlet mote, Phedre is regarded by some as a little freaky, but Anafiel Delaunay recognizes that she is a a chosen one. He sees that she is a true anguisettte - one with the rare gift to transform pain into pleasure. Delaunay takes Phedre in once she's completed her cursory training amongst the Night-Blooming Flowers. Under his care, she learns tumbling, multiple languages, politics, customs, oratory skills as Delaunay shapes her to be a spy of sorts to him.
The story moves effortlessly from Phedre's childhood to womanhood, from the tranquil home of Terre d' Ange to the bitter, war-hungry vestiges of the Skaldic territories, and then back again, culminating in a war rife with betrayal, heroism, bloodshed, and glory. One of the things I found most intriguing, though, was the novel's treatment of sexuality, sexual preference, and BDSM. For the most part, at least in Terra d' Ange, bisexuality is common and widely accepted. Especially as it pertains to adepts of the Court of the Night-Blooming Flowers, where Courtesans are free to choose male and/or female patrons on a case by case basis. Sex itself is literally paying homage to a god's sister, Naamah, who laid with strangers to keep her brother safe. And two of the houses in the court deal with the "darker arts" of sadism and masochism, but they're accepted as part of the human experience.
If you're looking for a heroine and a storyline to grab your attention, beat it, sleep with it, and in the morning, pay you towards a really awesome tattoo, this is a beautiful beginning in fulfilling that desire.
(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate linksin this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)