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If You Like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel Series . . . hosted...

We are starting a new series called “If You Like” which will be hosted by various readers, authors and bloggers of Dear Author. The purpose of the post and the comments is to explore what we like about a particular iconic author and what other authors have books like the iconic author. Val Kovalin who writes about fantasy fiction at and m/m fiction at Obsidian Bookshelf is hosting this If You Like entry on Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. Val Kavolin did a great piece on Julia Spencer Fleming, a favorite of author of mine.


If you like Jacqueline Carey –

Book CoverJacqueline Carey writes the Kushiel’s Legacy epic fantasy series (six books: Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, Kushiel’s Avatar , Kushiel’s Justice , Kushiel’s Scion , Kushiel’s Mercy), which may appeal to fans of historical romance and fantasy romance. To see why, please read on and rest assured that I don’t include any plot-spoilers.

Setting (era): Medieval.

Setting (geographic): Action takes place in Terre d’Ange (Land of the Angels), loosely based upon medieval France. The epic plotlines range across recognizable equivalents to medieval Britain and the Mediterranean area.

Heroine type: Subtle and sophisticated
Subtle, sophisticated, and serious. The heroine of the first three Kushiel books (Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, and Kushiel’s Avatar) is Phaedre, abandoned as a child to be raised in a brothel. In Terre D’Ange, however, sex is considered sacred and prostitutes are held in the same esteem as priestesses. Phaedre narrates the first three books from the perspective of a much sought-after courtesan who is also an elite spy. This is nowhere near as frivolously adventurous as it sounds. Phaedre is a very grave person, driven by loss and duty to queen and country.

Book Cover The heroine of the next three books (Kushiel’s Scion, Kushiel’s Justice, Kushiel’s Mercy) is Sidonie, seen through the first-person narration of Imriel, Phaedre’s foster-son. Sidonie is the Crown Princess of Terre D’Ange. She struggles to repress her inappropriate attraction to Imriel and focus on her duty as the daughter of the queen.

Hero type: Strong and intense
The hero in the first three Kushiel books is Joscelin, a warrior-priest viewed through the first-person narration of Phaedre. Being rather young and inexperienced, he comes across believably rigid and intolerant. Assigned to protect Phaedre, he expresses his on-going disdain for her exploits as a courtesan. (Apparently, his particular priesthood holds a view towards prostitution that is atypical of that of most D’Angelines.) Later, he believes her to be a traitor. Eventually, he comes around.

The hero in the next three Kushiel books is Imriel, the foster son of Phaedre. Imriel is third-in-line for the throne. He’s probably the most complicated character in the six books: a handsome and hot-blooded type haunted by the memories of the slavery he endured as a child. His parents are remembered as the worst traitors in the history of the realm. Not only does he have their infamy to live down, he also has to struggle with an inherited tendency towards sexual sadism.

Plot: (action-oriented / character-driven): Both
Primarily, these are character-driven plots. The main characters make decisions bBook Coverased upon their fears and desires. This is turn results in real-world consequences such as intrigue or revenge which provides the action-oriented aspects of the plot.

Plot (slow/fast): Slow
Due to ornate writing, many side-plots, and a huge cast of characters.

Writing style (simple v. ornate): Ornate
From the first page of Kushiel’s Dart:

“It is not, of course, that I lacked beauty, even as a babe. I am a D’Angeline, after all, and ever since Blessed Elua set foot on the soil of our fair nation and called it home, the world has known what it means to be D’Angeline. My soft features echoed my mother’s, carved in miniature perfection. My skin, too fair for the canon of Jasmine House, was nonetheless a perfectly acceptable shade of ivory. My hair, which grew to curl in charming profusion, was the color of sable-in-shadows, reckoned a coup in some of the Houses. My limbs were straight and supple, my bones a marvel of delicate strength. No, the problem was elsewhere. To be sure, it was my eyes; and not even the pair of them, but merely the one. Such a small thing on which to hinge such a fate. Nothing more than a mote, a fleck, a mere speck of color – My eyes, when they settled, were that color the poets call bistre, a deep and lustrous darkness, like a forest pool under the shade of ancient oaks.”

Dialogue (lots v. little): Medium
A medium amount flavored with the occasional Elizabethanism (e.g., “Mayhap”).

Humor (Yes/No-serious/some): No-serious
Some subtle glints of irony and wry observation.

Emotional Angst (high/medium/low): High
Lots of emotional angst. See “Conflict” below.

Conflict (externally driven/internally driven/both): Internal
The internal conflict centers upon the sacrifices one must make for duty, and the hardships involved in growing beyond the legacy left by one’s parents.

Book CoverHeat level: (kisses/warm/hot/scorching): Hot
Other than the graceful writing, the treatment of sex is what makes these books so remarkable. In romance fiction, sex is par for the course. But in fantasy fiction, sex never used to occur and especially not in detailed descriptions.

In Terre D’Ange, the guiding principle is “love as thou wilt.” Sex of any type is sacred and there are houses of pleasure devoted to gay, straight, and lesbian love; and to sadists and masochists. Our heroine Phaedre is an anguisette, which is a rare type of masochist who thrives upon pain and heals quickly. In the later books, our hero Imriel has sadistic tendencies. Since both tell their stories in first-person, and there are a lot of sexual encounters, you can probably guess how explicit the narrative can get. The courtly and formal writing style does tend to keep the reader at a comfortable distance, and this is why I rated the Heat Level “Hot” rather than “Scorching.”

Other variables to consider:
The books are written in first-person viewpoint, past-tense. The focus tends to be upon medieval action such as battles and court intrigue with very little emphasis upon magic.

If you like Jacqueline Carey, you’ll like –Book Cover
Fantasy books that come to mind include George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book is A Game of Thrones These books, set in a made-up medieval kingdom, combine intrigue, gritty realism, and the cast of thousands found in many historical novels.

Also, there are the various Robin Hobb books such as the Farseer series and the Liveship Traders series. Her books are populated with vivid characters and much intrigue. Historical romance fans may enjoy the nautical details in the Liveship Trader books.

Readers, feel free to suggest any romance titles.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Estara
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 06:53:38

    What a lovely way of saying just enough and not spoiling the books.

    I’d like to add Sherwood Smith‘s Inda, The Fox and The King’s Shield to comparable books, although the hero there is male. It’s also coming of age, it has a lot of political intrigue and it’s totally dependent on the relationship of the characters among one another. We do get outside threats in the second and third book, much like we had it in the first book of Carey’s (there’s a fourth book on the way). It’s a coming of age (has some plot threads based on love and desire, but the country isn’t based on it, as it is with Carey).

    Or for a female heroine pivotal to her own gods’ plots (but quite a bit more clueless at first and much too busy for thinking of love) in a well realised quite original epic fantasy world with character-driven action: P.C. Hodgell‘s Jamethiel Dreamweaver – Baen’ll be rereleasing her first two novels as The God Stalker Chronicles Omnibus in January.

  2. DS
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 07:48:20

    I’m glad Baen is picking up Hodgell’s books. She has had the worst luck with publishers. I have them all, several in multiple editions, and Most also in ebook.

    I’ve never managed to become involved in Carey’s books although they have been recommended by both fantasy and romance readers.

  3. Randi
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 09:24:33

    Possibly folks might like Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series (there are six now, the first one is Daughter of the Blood). It’s not as dense as Carey, and does include magic, and the sex is less than Carey’s; but IMHO, the plot is intricate and character-driven, like Carey’s.

  4. Jennifer Estep
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 09:26:18

    I’ve heard a lot of good buzz about Carey’s books. These are trilogies, right? I’m hesitant to start another epic fantasy series that just keeps going and going and going (a la Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind).

    I enjoyed Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughn, and I’ve just started reading Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson. I’d classify both of those as fantasy romance.

  5. Amy
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 09:47:56

    Jennifer, yes they are trilogies. The first trilogy (Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, Kushiel’s Avatar) are about Phedre. The next three (Kushiel’s Scion, Kushiel’s Justice, Kushiel’s Mercy) are about her foster son. Jacqueline Carey is also working on a third trilogy set in the same world but a few generations later with a whole new set of characters.

    So while the series keeps going, each trilogy is pretty self-contained and you can easily stop at the end of each one (though the third trilogy hasn’t been released yet, so I’m assuming based on the others). Definitely check them out! I stumbled across the series in the library and it was one of those books that completely changed what I thought writing could be — along with A Game of Thrones, actually.

    For more historical fantasy with female protagonists, I recommend Juliet Marillier’s books, like Daughter of the Forest and, my favourite, Son of the Shadows. They’re usually set in medieval England or Ireland, involve a bit of magic, and have romance, too.

  6. Val Kovalin
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 09:55:52

    Wow, thanks, Jane! Looks good.

    Thanks to everyone in the comments for the excellent recommendations. Thanks also to Estara for

    What a lovely way of saying just enough and not spoiling the books.

    I definitely try to keep those spoilers to a minimum. :)

  7. Lucinda Betts
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 10:30:55

    I love these books and George RR Martin’s. Can’t wait to see what else is recommended in this vein.

  8. The BookWhore » Blog Archive » “If You Like” The Kushiels Legacy Series…
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 10:55:44

    […] Dear Author for more […]

  9. Wendy
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 11:01:34

    I’ll finally pick up her books (based on your comparison to Robin Hobb). I’ve been having such a hard time falling into a book lately. It’s kind of distressing. Maybe I’m just getting really picky, but I just haven’t been able to lose myself.
    *has hope now*

  10. JC
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 11:09:56

    Amy, I’m so glad you mentioned Juliet Marillier… not only is the strong female heroine a large component of both series, but the covers are similar (coincidence? I think not)

  11. rebyj
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 11:54:14

    I LOVE the writing style of Kushiel’s Dart so much that I am trying to get it in audio format. Carey’s descriptive prose is so lyrical at times.
    These are definitely on my keeper shelf. I’d suggest Sharon Shinn’s Archangel series on the list.

  12. Jessa Slade
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 14:05:04

    Kushiel’s Dart is on my must read once a year list. I love the dense, lyrical storytelling. Which is not to say it’s slow. The story is epic adventure fantasy all the way through. And I found the love story very satsifying. The BDSM sex isn’t gratuitous; it’s built into the central foundation of the story and the world.

    Anne Bishop was a good suggestion. Janine Cross’s Dragon Temple Saga also intrigued me. And creeped me out. The interested and creeped out sides of me are in a battle over whether I read book 3.

  13. Mary Winter
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 14:39:28

    Oooh, I loved Robin Hobb (though I couldn’t finish her fool trilogy :( ) and JV Jones. George RR Martin, while my SO loves him, took me two years to read a Game of Thrones. So argh!

    But I am a huge Jaqueline Carey fangirl and am so delighted to see this thread with the lovely recommendations! :)

    I do love Fiona Patton and am hoping to pick up the sequel to her The Silver Lake very soon. (I believe it’s out or will be out within the next month or so.)

  14. Jia
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 14:51:40

    Janine Cross's Dragon Temple Saga also intrigued me. And creeped me out. The interested and creeped out sides of me are in a battle over whether I read book 3.

    I think many people have that reaction to Cross’s books. I know I do. Right now, the creeped out part is completely winning.

  15. muñeca
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 14:59:35

    Jennifer Fallon’s Hythrun Chronicles
    -Treason Keep

    Are a great epic fantasy filled with politics of the most dangerous kind, family betryal, and love lost. They are not romances but they fit the spirit of Jaqueline Carey’s Kushiel Series.

  16. Christine Rimmer
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 15:53:34

    I’m totally in love with this series. Have read the Phedre trilogy and am just finishing up Imriel’s books with Kushiel’s Mercy. I love the world-building and the wonderful use of sexuality and sexual love as a sacred and integral element of life. And the characters…they just come alive. The first two hundred or so pages of the first book, Kushiel’s Dart, were rough going. So many characters and I had to keep referring back to the character lists at the front of the book, just to keep straight who was who. Also, there was a sort of world-immersion going on in the opening 200 pages of that first book that was hard going. But Phedre held me through that learning phase, she was such a fascinating character. And then the whole thing just exploded wide open when her world changed forever. I couldn’t read fast enough. I’ve never read a six-book series before where my interest didn’t fade off as the books wore on–especially considering that each book approaches a thousand pages in length. So it’s lovely to have a few suggestions of books that might be as powerful a reading experience. Thank you.

  17. Laura
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 16:50:32

    I’m generally not a fan of fantasy, but one notable exception – and a required regular re-read – is Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan. I love the way Kay re-imagined the reconquest of Spain and the intersection of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures in the Middle Ages, and his characters are all fully formed and realized, with an intelligent woman at the center of the tale (and an interesting sort of love triangle to provide some lovely tension). This book is a stand-alone, though Kay has written others in the same universe, of varying quality – I also recommend the Sarantine Mosaic duology.

  18. an
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 17:57:51

    I double endorse all Guy Gavriel Kay’s books, especially Tigana.

  19. SonomaLass
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 18:07:32

    If you like Carey’s Kushiel books, I agree that you might really like Guy Gavriel Kay. The writing is careful, wonderful and intricate. He tells a good love story, too, although it’s fantasy, not romance, so you don’t always get the expected HEA ending. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a Kay book without crying at some stage. But I always feel uplifted at the end.

    To me, the most similar Kay would be A Song for Arbonne; it is also set in a world based on medieval France, although the ideal of courtly love is very different from Elua’s “love as thou wilt.” But there are a lot of similarities, including how devotion to a concept of love has major political implications. Just wonderful stuff. I always recommend Kay to people who like romance and are interested in reading fantasy.

    @an: If I had to pick ONE BOOK to reread for the rest of my life, I think it would be Tigana!

    I agree also with the recommendation of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy. Those books definitely have some of the dark and sexual that you find in the Kushiel books, but they are a lot more magic-based and with more “traditional” fantasy elements.

  20. Jia
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 19:06:45

    I agree also with the recommendation of Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy. Those books definitely have some of the dark and sexual that you find in the Kushiel books, but they are a lot more magic-based and with more “traditional” fantasy elements.

    I agree with this as well. I especially recommend these books for people who want the feel of the Kushiel books but shy away from them because of the ornate writing style. Bishop’s writing is terse and frenetic, with a more “modern” sensibility about it.

  21. Tae
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 19:50:44

    Gaaaa, these are some of my favorite books. I was only of those people who considered getting a Phaedra thorn/rose tattoo (but decided against it). I love, love, love these books. They’re amazingly beautiful and the sex scenes are amazing, though I’m not into sado-masochism.

    I’ve read the Anne Bishop book and I can see some of the similarities, but I have to say that I really didn’t like them very much. I read the Black Jewels Trilogy and the various short novellas dealing with Janelle’s world. What I didn’t like about them was that I didn’t think the male/female roles in the society were that believable and everyone was too perfect. I’m not big on characters who are all powerful, gorgeous and perfect. It just ruins the fantasy.

    I third, fourth, fifth the Juliet Marillier recommendation though. Both her Sevenwaters Trilogy and the Wolfskin/Fox Mask duology.

  22. Evie Byrne
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 19:53:05

    I love Carey’s books and I’ve recently discovered another author who hits many of the same buttons for me: Sarah Monette. I’ve just read Mesuline and the Virtu, and am itching to get my hands on the third in the series. Carey plugs her on the cover of Mesuline, fwiw. Anyway, gorgeous writing, a rich, well-imagined world and dark, complex, unforgetable characters. First person, too–but dual first person with dual protagonists.

    The only flaw in my recommendation here on a romance site is that these books aren’t romances. Not exactly. But the books revolve around is this incredible relationship between two brothers which is twisted and borderline incestuous and makes me very, very happy.

  23. CD
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 20:10:10

    I would second Kay’s “A song for Arbonne” as a book that is quite close to the Kushiel books in themes.

    Another one which is now an honest to God classic is Kushner’s “Swordpoint”. It’s a precursor to Carey’s books in both its use of prose and its “pschosexual drama” (to quote Mrs Giggles in her review). It’s been described as a melodrama of manners and “mannerpunk” – part of its appeal is how horrific and subversive incidents are described in elegant Jane Austen-style language. I, like Mrs Giggles, found it swooningly romantic but it’s definitely not a typical romance, and not only because it’s between two men.

    Another fantasy that I’d recommend that reminds me of Carey’s books is Monette’s books starting with “Melusine”. The prose is very different from Carey’s but the elegantly decadent atmosphere is somehow reminiscent. Social and political intrigue also plays a large part in the books, as well as one of more intriguing uses of magic that I’ve encountered in my years of fantasy reading. There are hints of a romance in the first couple of books but it seems to have faded out in the third ;-( but I’m still hoping…

    A newer book which I’ve only just started reading is Lane Robins’ “Maladicte” – one of the more succesful of authors inspired by Carey and Kushner. This is the review which peaked my interest.

    Although I worship George R R Martin, I think his books are very different from Carey’s. Same with Robin Hobb. Anne Bishop is fun but not in the same class as those writers unfortuantely although I love me some Daemon as much as the next red-blooded female… Juliet Marillier is very good and often swooningly romantic but her books are also quite a bit different in tone – much more mythic landscape, less decadent court intrigue. If you like Marilier, I’d recommend Cecilia Dart-Thornton’s Bitterbynde trilogy – similar celtic mythology and lush prose, and also very romantic.

    This is a fantastic post – fantasy is my first love so keep on with the recs.

  24. Evie Byrne
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 20:58:42

    I think CD and I have similar tastes. I had to jump back in to second Swordpoint and its sequel, Privilege of the Sword–not because they seem particularly Carey-esque to me (the writing is not as dense, the themes less heroic) but they are fantastic books. I want to start a Mad Duke fan club.

    And thanks a lot for the spoiler re: Monette #3, CD! I know what you’re talking about, and I had high hopes. :p I’ll check out Lane Robins on your rec.

  25. CD
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 22:30:40

    Yeah Evie – was a bit bummed out by that – all that tension in the second book and then, nothing much. Still, not giving up: need some hot incestuous man-love… I had to laugh at how Felix dealt with the whole incest issue: “Don’t worry. I won’t get you pregnant.”

    The third book is still good for other reasons though. And am enjoying Maladicte so far. As for “Privilege of the sword”, was rather disappointed with the book as a whole, although the $6.99 price tag was actually worth it just for THAT scene. When Alec says “I’ve brought some fish.”, I was almost crying.

  26. SonomaLass
    Nov 03, 2008 @ 23:29:01

    I couldn’t get into Melusine; it just started out too dark for me. So far I’m really enjoying Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, but I don’t know yet if it has romance.

    I do agree about Juliet Marillier and Cecilia Dart-Thornton. Loved them both!

    Jia and others are right that Anne Bishop is only similar to Carey in some respects — the style is very different. And I can only speak for the Dark Jewels books — other Bishop I have tried just didn’t do it for me, too simplistic.

    As unofficial head of the local chapter of “Defending George R R Martin” (LOL), I have to say that his books are very different. Epic, very gritty, extremely well written, and only occasionally and briefly romantic. Lots of Martin’s characters are cynics, and the ones who aren’t often learn to be. That doesn’t make for good romance — oh, and he is a lot more willing to kill off characters (no spoilers!) than a lot of fantasy writers. In Star Trek lingo, you can’t tell with George who’s wearing the red tunic. A lot of people I know who prefer romance don’t enjoy Martin, although he’s a favorite of mine. He was certainly not in my first thoughts on the “if you like Carey” thread — unless you liked Carey’s books Banewreaker and Godslayer. Which I did, but I know a lot of Kushiel fans who didn’t.

  27. Selene
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 03:03:18

    It’s hard to find good alternates to Carey, I think, simply because the mix of intrigue, epic storytelling and a focus on “Love as thou Wilt” is not very common.

    Kushiel’s Dart is a wonderful book and I particularly liked the mix of internal and external conflict (celibate warrior monk and BDSM courtesan spy–there’s natural conflict right there. And it’s nice to see BDSM novels where characters actually have “incompatible” limits they stick to).

    I have to say that for me, after the first book (which fortunately is stand-alone in many ways), the Kushiel books went downhill. The second trilogy especially was a disappointment to me. Was I the only one who couldn’t stand Sidonie?

    Anyway, I think what to recommend depends on what attracted you to the Kushiel novels. Was it the intrigue and politics? Then GRRM is a good choice (and IMO far superior in that respect). Was it the BDSM aspect? Then Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy could be the way to go. Was it the religious/philosophical aspect? Then maybe try Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy (which also has great worldbuilding and characters, and real, dark conflicts).

    There are surprisingly few Romance recommendations in this comment trail and I for one (as a fairly new Romance reader) would love to hear some! Anyone?


  28. Selene
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 03:20:59

    Lots of fantasy recommendations here that surprised me as I wouldn’t at all call them similar to Carey (goes once again to show how different reader perceptions are).

    Inda by Sherwood Smith struck me as a male-fantasy-youth coming of age novel more than anything.

    Hobb writes wonderful books, and some of them does deal somewhat with royal intrigue, but that’s it. Different tone, different kinds of plots.

    Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest I’m often recomminding to romance readers who’d like to read fantasy because it has a wonderful love story, but it doesn’t have any of the epic, intrigure or philosophical aspects of Carey’s work.

    Lord of the Fading lands is in structure more of a Romance novel than a fantasy novel, and the love story aspect is IMO very different from the Kushiel books. The fantasy part, I have to admit, felt very Been-there-done-that to me.


  29. Estara
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 08:14:01

    Lots of fantasy recommendations here that surprised me as I wouldn't at all call them similar to Carey (goes once again to show how different reader perceptions are).

    You’re right about that, but then Val mentioned Martin and Hobb, which haven’t got any of the sexual slant that Carey has. So I picked complex books which didn’t have them either… but which were epic, political, character-based inventive fantasies… (with occasional relationship issues – only that Jamethiel has the most problems with her family not any lover).

    I’ve been thinking what might come closer to the love/sex importance, how about Guy Gavriel Kay‘s Fionnavar Tapestry (considering that the main conflict inherited across the ages came from one sin and one wronged love), or Judith Tarr‘s Avaryan Rising (with the prose and also the gods-walking-the-earth trope and in the third there is even one incredible profound change due to love and need)…Sharon Shinn‘s Archangels have already been mentioned.

    A very old release came to mind because I’ve recently reread (and finally bought in English) the first two books by R.A. McAvoy released in the 80s. I think her Damiano trilogy might be more alike to Phedre’s life and times, though. R.A. McAvoy has a lovely author’s voice as well. Also has angels and in this case the literal devil interfering with humans.

    Romance with sexual politics in a pseudo-historical fantastic world, makes me think of Emma Holly‘s Demon series with its Victorian mindset. I still think the first one is strongest and can just as well be read standalone. The hero and heroine are very much their own people and not cookie cutter material. Remember that Holly got her start in erotic fantasy for females and hasn’t toned that down for her romances much.

  30. Wensi Chen
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 11:00:48

    Maybe I should give JM another try. It was too slow for me in a , if I put this book down, I have no incentive to pick it back up or continue reading throughout the night. I think the one I tried was the Forest one.
    I second a lot of the recs already made in this thread, but I offer two more. Not really romancey, and more on the epic fantasy side, but Name of the Wind and Lies of Lamora Locke? Romance is not a key point in either one of them, and they’re not finished, but the books are just… magic? XD Although both main characters are smartasses, and that may annoy you if you don’t like characters say, like House.
    Hmm, what would people say to Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series (Dead Witch Walking being the first one)…eh, that’s too paranormal and not enough fantasy (if only Trent and Rachel would get together.. but I digress…)

    Going to try Maledicte.. sounds like it would be right up my alley.

    If only Laurell Hamilton still wrote early Anita Blake…

  31. Amy
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 12:24:25

    Lots of fantasy recommendations here that surprised me as I wouldn't at all call them similar to Carey (goes once again to show how different reader perceptions are).

    That’s true Selene — I think Carey’s writing is so unique, it’s very hard to name even one writer who hits all the same marks. I think readers will have to choose a couple aspects of the Kushiel books (be it the romance, the intrigue, the writing style, etc.) to chose from the recs.

    muñeca, I like Jennifer Fallon, too. I sort of think of her books as “GRRM lite” — the same sort of epic fantasy & intrigue, but not as gritty.

  32. Selene
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 13:23:27

    I haven’t tried Emma Holly yet, I’m going to look her up!


    I think Carey's writing is so unique, it's very hard to name even one writer who hits all the same marks. I think readers will have to choose a couple aspects of the Kushiel books (be it the romance, the intrigue, the writing style, etc.) to chose from the recs.

    Yes, she does put in a unique mix. I was kind of hoping someone here might have jumped in with recommendation that were similar in the romance aspect, but almost all recommendations have been in Fantasy, and I’ve already read nearly all of them…


  33. CD
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 16:41:18

    I was kind of hoping someone here might have jumped in with recommendation that were similar in the romance aspect, but almost all recommendations have been in Fantasy, and I've already read nearly all of them…

    Well, Carey is very much a fantasy writer so the recs probably make sense (although the George R R Martin and Robin Hobb recs did make me scratch my head a bit!). Despite the strong romance, I don’t think anyone could really think of Carey as a romance writer or even a fantasy romance writer.

    Even regarding the romance – outside erotica, romances tend to be play it pretty safe sexually. The only mainstream romances I can think of off-hand with BDSM elements are Kinsale’s ENCHANTER and Joyce’s SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT – both good but neither of them with fantastical elements. Even with erotica, you might get the pushing of boundaries regarding the sexual relationship but even if set in a fantasy environment, the worldbuilding tends to suffer. Generally, with the exception of certain paranormals, I tend to find that romance/erotica writers tend to create pretty derivative worlds – especially for someone who’s read quite a bit of fantasy/sci-fi.

    Racking my brains, a fantasy (sorry!) which is reminisient of Carey in terms of its epic scope, alternative sexuality and intrigue but otherwise completely different in setting is Ricardo Pinto’s SONG DANCE OF THE CHAMELEON books. Here is a review for the second book – couldn’t find a review of the first unfortunately. Although there are romantic elements, especially in the first book, it’s most definitely not a romance. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly but it seems to have a similar “feel” as Carey’s books despite its differences…

    In terms of other books mentioned here, I would second Estera’s rec of Judith Tarr’s Avaryan Rising books as well, and for the same reaons. The second and third books, especially, have strong romances in them – and the third is rather unusual even by today’s standards.

  34. Estara
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 16:53:39

    Even regarding the romance – outside erotica, romances tend to be play it pretty safe sexually. The only mainstream romances I can think of off-hand with BDSM elements are Kinsale's ENCHANTER and Joyce's SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT

    Did you know that Emma Holly started her regular erotic romance/fantasy career (as I said, she started out in female erotica) with some historical (regency, I believe) romances set in the UK? The very first one of those – Beyond Innocence – has mutual BDSM (in a smaller dose than regular BDSM from the few books of that – female aimed – that I’ve read), although she already had some in her Black Lace release Velvet Glove, which for some reason is shown as having been published in 2007 although my edition is from 1999.

  35. Selene
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 04:25:13


    The only mainstream romances I can think of off-hand with BDSM elements are Kinsale's ENCHANTER and Joyce's SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT – both good but neither of them with fantastical elements.

    I’m a great fan of Kinsale! So good characterizations, wonderful conflicts, historical details… *bliss* I’ll definitely check out Joyce, whom I haven’t read!

    Generally, with the exception of certain paranormals, I tend to find that romance/erotica writers tend to create pretty derivative worlds – especially for someone who's read quite a bit of fantasy/sci-fi.

    I’ll second you on that!


  36. Miss M.
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 05:10:17

    I can’t believe nobody’s suggested Mary Renault, especially The Persian Boy. In several interviews (see the link for a good one) Carey herself cites Renault and, specifically, The Persian Boy as an influence on her own writing.

    Renault’s stories are rich historical adventures, always with some romance elements (either straight or historically homosexual, mostly the latter), set in ancient Greece, Italy, and Asia. She had a particular fascination with Alexander the Great that she explored in three books, and The Persian Boy is the last of them, the story of Baogas, a lovely eunuch who really existed in Alexander the Great’s entourage. I’ve enjoyed several other books by Renault – The Mask of Apollo in particular.

  37. Mike D
    Apr 11, 2009 @ 18:37:09

    Great web page, I’ve been going insane trying to find a new author.

    At first I was disappointed with the web page’s author; but, only because she recommended authors who I’d already completely read out! :). As a result of this page I am going to try the Anne Bishop “Black Jewel” series.

    This will be nothing new so I won’t go into the great detail several of the other posters have done. Let me just state that my first and favorite adult author has to be Guy Gavriel Kay, I’ve read Tigana at least 3 times over the past 19 years and love it every single time. Just today I finished rereading the Fionavar Trilogy for the 3rd time which was my very first GGK read, again, great story. Also loved Song for Arbonne but I’ve only read that one twice :).

    I’d put George RR Martin on the same level as GGK for his Fire and Ice series; however, I’m a little afraid he’s going the way of Robert Jordan and Stephen Goodkind which would disappoint me to no end (yes, I actually read the mega Stephen Goodkind series, I gave up on the Wheel of Time though).

    Jacqueline Carey and Robin Hobb kind of round out my top 4 favorite writers for reasons already stated by others, hopefully Anne Bishop can be #5…

  38. Chenebe
    May 18, 2009 @ 00:56:35

    I know this is a bit of a wierd recommendation, but I went to look up ‘The Persian Boy’ and it reminded me of a little known Anne Rice book that has haunted me for a long time: “Cry to Heaven” about the castrati in 18C Italy, with intimately rendered characters and written in a rich, lush prose that a Carey fan will appreciate.

    Note: Don’t discount this book just cos you can’t stand vampire books. This one has nothing to do with Interview with the Vampire.

  39. Elle
    Jul 09, 2009 @ 15:40:45

    Anne Bishop’s Black Jewel Trilogy is where I started and from Rec’s I stumbled in to Carey’s Kushiel series.


  40. Tiff
    Jul 11, 2009 @ 12:32:21

    I agree with recommendations of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Trilogy as well. Carey’s book are much more drawn out and complicated than Bishop’s, but I think both have a great emotional depth and beauty. Both worlds have strangely dark aspects that would of been wrong in our modern society, but the authors both make them highly believable and beautiful. I disagree that Black Jewel is too simplistic, because at the end of the trilogy, the emotional crisis that faced the character was, in my opinion, as beautiful as Carey’s. Both series are some of my favourite fantasy books, and I will definitely be checking out some of the books recommended here.

  41. Khargosh Agha
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 12:01:03

    I have a fantasy-book recommendation (see below):
    “The Road and the Hills” (first book in “A Walk in the Dark”-trilogy), written by Alison Spedding. It is a fantasy-adaptation of the life of Alexander the Great, but set in a totally imaginary world (called “Sard”). The first of the “dramatis personae”, however, is a female bisexual (and pot-smoking) soldier (with a “jaw-breaking name”: Aleizon Alilix Ayndra) who is out there to make a career for herself in the war-business (become a high-ranking official)!

    I highly recommend this to fantasy-fans of all ilks, including those who like Jacqueline Carey´s works (even if the prose in “The Road and the Hills” is of a different kind).

  42. Tiff
    Apr 28, 2010 @ 23:34:32

    Some other books I forgot to mention that I really enjoyed reading. The Name of the Wind has a really beautiful writing style. It does not have the romance Kushiel has, but the language is superb. I am literally dying for the next book. Sharon Shinn‘s Archangels was already mentioned, but that is definitely a good one. I found Acheron by Sherilyn Kenyon was really incredible too. It had a lot of depth that her other books tend to lack. Sarah Ash‘s books as well.

  43. Mmcflyer
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 13:14:21

    This might be an unorthodox rec, but there are some amazing options available in the fan fiction world. I love the romance of the Phedre centric trilogy and its epic scale has put these books on my constantly rereading list. But when I am looking for something else, the fan fiction world of Harry Potter in particular has stories of I would say equal caliber, and that can take a far more adult look at the series. There are some “fics” that are over 100k, 200k and even 1mil words and are as engrossing as Carey’s series, but can only be published online for obvious reasons. If you are looking for some fantastic writing try delving into this world- hey, its also free!

  44. Lauren
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 02:18:11

    If you enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of Carey’s work, you might want to try The Light Bearer by Donna Gillespie. It’s a wonderful novel focusing an a Germanic warrior woman and her role in the struggles between Germania and The Roman Empire.

  45. Alina
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 21:44:21

    I am so thrilled that I found this page with all of it’s wonderful recommendations. I am a voracious reader (in about 10 months I finished the epic Robert Jordan Wheel of Time saga), and have been a fan of Jacqueline Carey from the very beginning (I have actually been reminded that I still need to finish Naamah’s Curse) and have always dreaded the feeling of walking into a library/bookstore and not knowing what to read…Several authors have peaked my interest, so I’ll see how it goes….Thank you again! =]

  46. Ashley
    Mar 09, 2013 @ 05:17:50

    I would recommend Sara Douglass’ ‘The Troy Game’ as being similar to Jacqueline Carey. It has the intrigue, the romance down and the writing down pat. Sara Douglass’ other books can be rather alienating but this, for me, is a stand out series.

  47. Heather
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 06:29:00

    Glenna MacReynolds is one of my favourites, and I feel she matches Carey in the depth of character and the richness of the setting. It is another medieval, England/Wales setting, predominantly a love story, not a huge amount of political intrigue but a gripping plot none the less. The story continues beyod the first book (a good stand alone novel itself) to complete the tales of other characters we meet, and introduces light elements of sci-fi into it, which I normally do not like, but suit these stories well.
    The first book is ‘The Chalice and the Blade’, followed by ‘Dream Stone’ and then”Prince of Time’.
    I read a few of these forums and surprisingly have never seen great mention of her, but I strongly recommend her works!

  48. Cynna
    May 13, 2014 @ 15:31:29

    I agree with many of the suggestions here (I’m a big fan of Anne Bishop myself), and would like to add one you may not have heard of yet. Try ‘Of Plight & Promises’ by Sandi Randelle. It’s the first book in a new trilogy, and book two is supposed be released later this year. Really good stuff!

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