Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: Naamah's Curse

Author: Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Alternate History Fiction
Pages: 537
Warnings: Sexual Harassment, Consensual sex between adults
Series: 7/8(?) in Kushiel's Legacy
Rating: 3.5/5

Jacqueline Carey's "Naamah's Curse" is a reminder that the first requirement of a good book is to be entertaining. It took me over a week to read "The Sword of Shannara", and I had almost nothing else to distract me. In contrast I breezed through "Naamah's Curse" in a day and a half. I won't say I couldn't put it down, but I didn't have to: this book is very easy reading. It picks up immediately after "Naamah's Kiss" with Moirin traveling through psuedo-China (Ch'in) as she chases after Bao.

If you've read the previous book this should come as no surprise, but Moirin is very sexual. She sleeps with almost every major character in the book. It would differentiate this from harlequin romance novels though, as the descriptions of sex aren't terribly explicit, where explicit includes more than flowery euphemisms for vulvae and penises. However if you're uncomfortable with causal sex between members of any gender, avoid this book. You will not enjoy the opinions expressed in this book regarding sexual relations. Luckily for me  I really appreciate her attitude towards sex, although I was not interested in "Kushiel's Dart".

Something that did leave me concerned was the portrayals of the psuedo -Chinese (Ch'in), -Mongolian (Tartar) and -Bhutanese (Bhodistanese). Warning bells start ringing in my head when a book is written in English about non-English-speaking cultures, even if they're dressed up with different names. Typically such portrayals are stilted, with characters that are presented as over-played caricatures (like Mr. Miyagi from the movie "The Karate Kid", which always makes me cringe). As part of the intended audience instead of the intended subject matter I'm not in a great position to judge how stereotyped the non-native characters are, but I'd welcome critical analysis of it.

The only borrowed culture I do know for sure was one-sided was that of the Russian (Vralians) Christians. I know Carey made a point of stating that the Vralians in the novel were from an intolerant sect of Eastern European Christians, but they were all uniformly incapable of having healthy sex lives. While I have personal qualms about the more extreme sects of Christianity's opinions about sex, I seriously doubt that even the most uptight families are as repressed as Aleski's, and they were the only Vralian family mentioned. More importantly, being prudish isn't the same thing as being hateful. In all of the other civilizations Moirin meets a wide swath of people, while in Vralia she only meets sexually repressed, unhealthy people.

If you'd like an easy to read story, with some mildly interesting characters and a plot, I would encourage you to read this book if it's readily available. I will probably read the conclusion to this trilogy, but I am unlikely to go back and read any of the previous books in the series. However if you're likely to have any disagreements with the philosophy espoused within (that sex is awesome, and can be shared between any two people who are attracted and care about each other) ... I'm sorry. Also you shouldn't read this book.

Questions and Comments Welcome~

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