Just finished Kushiel's Dart. I have to say, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. Granted, the writing is, you know, nothing to win a Pulitzer, a fair number of adverbs - "I said softly" "She answered coolly" "He laughed harshly" - but to be honest, I didn't even notice that until the end of the book. Throw enough plot at me, and I cease to care, apparently.
So entering the book, I seriously thought it was going to be some erotica fest, some excuse to whip some servants in a fantasy world. But it actually turned out to be a story of political intrigue with some epic battle scenes that recall LoTR Two Towers in my head (okay not nearly as awesome, but you know what I mean). If the whoring S&M twist disturbed me at first, it actually struck me as clever in the end, that the protagonist ultimately used her threshold for pain to save the kingdom. I found myself really drawn in by the time I got to the last third of the book, racing towards the climax of the book.
I did face some issues of discomfort - not in just the extreme examples of torture/S&M, but also in being able to accept a world and character in which a woman is so afflicted with the comingling of desire and pain that even while she is emotionally revolted by forced bedding, she still manages to physically be aroused by it. Partly I was offended as a woman. I tried to accept it as part of the fantasy world, but it was difficult at times.
Other issues I had with the book - for the first third to half of the book I was really confused by the many names and lineages of people in the book. I often found myself flipping to the cover to read who was who and who was related to whom how. Annoying thing is the characters aren't even grouped together as a family tree, but listed alphabetically under some loose groupings. Family tree would have made the process easier.
Also, by the end, after the climax (which I enjoyed), the denoument was one of those LoTR3 situations -- took freaking FOREVER. Yes, it was setting up for the sequel, but seriously, I get really impatient when I know I'm nearing the end of the book. I just want to GET TO IT, and it's annoying when you've reached the climax, and you still have 50 pages left to read. At that point I barely care. Just get me to the final resolution already!
Beyond all that though, I'd have to say I'm pleasantly surprised. I was fairly drawn in to the world and unraveling the political mystery and following the battles that ensued. It's impressive to me when someone can create a completely original world - complete with allegiances, people, customs, language, etc etc - because it's something I don't think I could do well and with authenticity.
Also, I got attached enough to the characters to actually shed tears when my favorite character had to sacrifice himself for the greater cause. I was fairly heartbroken about it, and had to write the friend who lent the book to me, to rant and weep and mourn.
So, that being said, my friend is bringing me the sequels when he comes to visit me. He says they're better. I hope so! Question now is, what should I read next? I have a couple of other books with me I could start on... or I could pick up Time Traveler's Wife to reread - read it 5 years ago, and picked it up again today out of idleness. It was one of my faves. Hmm, what to do?
BTW, I had a couple of ranty words about BBC that are completely unrelated to books, but I think I'll save it for another day.