From Kushiel to Naamah

I avoided reading Jacqueline Carey for years, put off by the avalanche of cliche and exploitation that oozed from the cover of Kushiel's Dart: half-naked girl spy exploits niche sexuality to save the world. Of course, when I eventually succumbed, I loved it in spite of myself. Yes, there's plenty to mock (not least Joscelin Verreuil – the Jondalar of modern fantasy), but it is ultimately a well-written, sensual, rollicking adventure.

Having devoured the subsequent Kushiel novels, it may seem odd that I felt no interest in Carey's latest foray into Terre d'Ange. I've avoided Naamah's Kiss for over a year, and only gave in because I was sick and book-less with a long flight ahead of me.

Arrant foolishness, of course.

Yes, it's derivative (pretty heroine with unusual gift travels halfway round the world to, err, save the world) and exploitative (ooh, lesbians – albeit not sadomasochistic ones), but it's also great fun. Moirin is feisty, naive and above-all compassionate; less clever and manipulative than Phedre, and with none of the angst-ridden baggage that made Imriel a struggle.

I find myself rather looking forward to her further adventures, which seem to be an excuse for Carey to explore the further reaches of her alternate Earth. Kiss travels from Alba through Terre d'Ange to Ch'in; I believe the sequel will focus again on the Far East. It is also a chance to finally allow herself to play with magic – where Phedre was a creature of harsh reality and Imriel struggled with magical antagonists, Moirin practices it in her own right.

Light-weight, easy to dismiss, and with a supporting cast so thinly-drawn they're almost invisible, this is highly enjoyable fluff.