I was sent an ARC of this book to review from Hachette Books.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK, Naamah’s Kiss
The Premise: This is the continuing story of Moirin mac Fainche, and her adventures away from home. Moirin is of the Maghuin Dhonn (a clan in Alba that honors a Great Bear) but also a descendant of Alais de la Courcel (from Terre de Ange, across the sea) and so to find herself, she sets into the world, at first to find her father, then to help the Ch’in. At the end of book 1, Naamah’s Kiss, Moirin is in the land of the Ch’in, but her lover Bao has left because he’s still coming to grips with his second life and with the diadh-anam that he and Moirin now share as a result. Moirin lets him go, but after some time has past, she can’t wait for him anymore. She sets off after him, following the second half of the spark they share. This leads her out of Ch’in to Tartar territory, and then to Bao. Of course, things are never simple, and because of Bao’s rash decisions which anger the Great Khan Naram, Moirin and Bao are forced apart once more.
My Thoughts: As with the first book, Carey’s writing has a simplicity that allows you to read without really feeling bogged down. At 567 pages, I was a little daunted by the length of Naamah’s Curse, and it certainly isn’t a book I could read in one sitting, but it wasn’t one that I felt I had to slog through. Like in Naamah’s Kiss, Moirin, covers many miles, through an amazing world that is of course familiar, since it’s a fantastic version of our own. The encounters with the Ch’in, Tartars and the Bhodistani made me want to see many of the places and people that Moirin describes. I particularly liked the families that took Moirin in. The cheerfulness of being surrounded by a large family who took their host duties seriously was comforting to read.
I would divide this book into three major parts: Moirin’s search for Bao through Ch’in and in the Tartar lands, her time separated from Bao in Vralia, and looking for him again in the mountainous Bhodistan.
Moirin is of mixed heritage and because of this heritage, she is a follower of more than one god, the Maghuin Dhonn from her mother’s clan in Alba, and Naamah, who she is connected to through her D’Angeline blood on her father’s side. Both of these deities favor her but also push her to do their will which they convey through visions and Moirin’s diadh-anam, which flares up inside her to steer her towards her Destiny. This is an unusual combination but it means that Moirin is very open to other people’s beliefs. I noticed this spirituality in Naamah’s Kiss, and Moirin stays true to character in Naamah’s Curse, but she discovers that she’s still an innocent when it comes to what other people believe. In Ch’in she sees that people have different ideas of modesty than she may, but I don’t think she really knows how far some people would go when they think their beliefs are correct and hers are wrong.
When Moirin meets the Vralian Patriarch of Riva, Moirin sees how man may interpret the word of their gods for their own ends, and it’s a lesson bitterly learned. The Patriarch (a “Father” of the Church of the Yeshua), blames Moirin’s Alban ancestor for a schism in the current church, and declares Terre d’Ange a “bastion of depravity”. Moirin is a way for him to further his ambitions and he forces her to convert to his faith. His character with his shiver-inducing “creamy smile” and his absolute views made me wonder where the author was going because the book seemed to be condemning just Christianity as a religion of close-mindedness. Just when I thought that this was going to be anti-Yeshuite/anti-Christian book, the story is saved by characters that are followers of Yeshua but who take a gentler, broader, view. Moirin also imagines a gentle god – Yeshua who forgives, not an harsh god who promotes suffering, but she can’t bring herself to fully convert and lose her connection to her own gods. I thought this part of the book was the strongest. It brings up a lot of interesting ideas about religion and I think it stirred up the most emotion in me, reading this section and worrying over Moirin. The lessons about men and the words of gods are also used later on in the story when Moirin sees a similar case where men have interpreted god’s words in a way that benefits them.
It’s a little telling that enjoyed the sections where Moirin was alone and traveling the most, rather than when she is with Bao, which was in the first and last thirds of the book. If I take them at face value, they have cute moments together and they’re well matched in terms of both being impulsive, sharing a diadh-anam, and liking one another. However, if I think about it beyond that – and I mean by looking at their actions, it feels like Moirin is with Bao by default, and this book does not make me warm to him. She had other lovers, but they were either in previously established relationships that they didn’t want to leave, or they were friends sharing a bed out of curiosity rather than romance. The latter group often also seemed like a stretch – like inserting sex just to reinforce Moirin’s role as a child of Naamah rather than to show the reader something more profound. Anyway, back to Bao. He truly acted like an idiot in this book, and it seemed contrary to his matter-of-factness and streetsmarts in the first book. The only explanation I can think of is that there needed to be a reason for why Moirin was traveling from Ch’in to Tartar lands and beyond, so following Bao, and having him run away and be an idiot was the reason. Sadly, it undermined my belief in their relationship.
As with Naamah’s Kiss, Naamah’s Curse ends in a satisfying place with just enough of a hint of more adventures to come to continue the series.
Overall: This was a strong second book, which continues it’s epic tale of a wild Beauty traveling the world and changing it as she does. Naamah’s Curse has particularly engrossing elements on religion, which I think will make it linger long in my mind. The only issue I had was with the primary relationship, and I hope to find it more convincing in the third book, Naamah’s Blessing.
Fantasy Book Critic – “Overall Naamah’s Curse (Strong A) is an excellent follow-up to the brilliant Naamah’s Kiss“
The Book Smugglers – 8 Excellent, again, leaning towards a 9 (one of her favorite reads of 2010)
Fantasy Literature – “a “ripping good yarn” and kept me enthralled for days”