Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In the latest installment of Travel the World With Moirin, we find our young heroine setting out from Ch'in (China) to find her One True Love Bao, who has ran off to Tatar country (Mongolia.) Once they are reunited (of couuurrrssee) everything goes to hell, and the next thing Moirin knows she's being chained up and sent to Vralia (Russia) to be religiously tortured by a Yeshuite (Hebrew) priest. Because she's a dirty, dirty girl. Somewhere along the way she frolics through Tutan and Bhaktipur (Nepal/North Eastern India), dresses up in saris, and brings the Light of Lesbianism to their queen.
Uh, I mean she goes head to head with the Indian caste system. Yeah. That's what I meant.
(Wow, that summary was so much shorter than the first book's!)
Book 2 of Moirin's Trilogy goes straight into the action - following Moirin into Tatar Territory in her quest to reunite with Bao, that guy who is barely more interesting than she is. If you read my review of the first book, then you know that I was not impressed with their relationship that's beaten over your head. So the fact this book started off with Moirin braving the winter elements to find her True Love was kinda meh on me. Especially since it took about 100 pages of her recapping all of book 1. Honey, I read book 1. We really don't need to go over it in fine detail as your ride your horse through the north.
The story doesn't really begin until she and Bao are reunited (there is some hilarity over the circumstances of Bao's new life...haha gj bro) and crap hits the fan when the Great Khan sells Moirin out to Yeshuite priests looking to convert them some bear children. A good deal of the first half of the novel is dedicated to Moirin being a prisoner of a really gross guy up in Vralia and having defend her very nature and the cultures of her people. I found this section the most interesting, especially all the parallels drawn to the Bible that are brought up. (In Carey's universe, the Hebrew tribes actually worship Christ as the Son of The One True God, so they are all about the whole biblical texts.) After her escape, Moirin follows where she believes Bao has gone and ends up in Bhaktipur, where she befriends the local ruler (very quickly) and vows to take down her sworn enemy and save Bao. This was the part that was pretty ~meh~ to me.
First, though, I feel like I should defend the fact that, although I had a lot of problems with this book, it was still a very entertaining read. I went through it super quickly (for me, I am a slow reader by nature) and kept stealing moments to read another chapter. So, one that front, I am giving it a strong three stars. But it lost the other two very easily, for reasons listed below.
I don't know, I feel like I am missing something in this trilogy. With Phedre's trilogy, you never knew what was going to happen, how much horror they would have to plow through. Everything Phedre did had a dire consequence to it that made her work hard for her happy ending. In Imriel's trilogy, there were so many twists and turns and puzzles that it was an emotional roller coaster. Thus far in Moirin's trilogy, I've rarely felt anything and everything is accomplished way too easily. Besides the fact that Moirin is far away from home and the simple life she once knew, I feel like there have been very few sacrifices. Certainly at least at the level Carey has made me come to expect this late in the realm of her universe. Compared to Phedre and Imriel, Moirin has everything laid out for her - her destiny tells her what to do every step of the way. Have a conundrum? Consult your destiny! I see a lot of other reviews lamenting this, and I fully agree. There was no real sense in these books. Moirin always knew more or less what to do and it was done swiftly with little loss. I stopped worrying about characters, which made me stop caring towards the end.
The other thing that bothered me was that Moirin makes friends and allies WAY too easily. While I know a part of the moral of her journey is that there are always friendly and helpful people wherever you go, I feel like this really detracted from the possible urgency of the story. Literally every leg of Moirin's journey included somebody who just shows up and helps her. At no point was Moirin even entirely on her own, save for the moments when she was actually traveling alone at the beginning of the story. Part of the reason I liked Phedre and Imriel so much was because they had a huge sense of agency, both in making decisions and choosing their friends wisely. Even when Moirin faced the spiritual inquisition she mostly rolled over. (Okay, in this part that was really her only chance of survival. And while I get that, it was still annoying we didn't get to see her defending herself or dissembling like I'm used to seeing Carey's characters do.)
I'm not going to really touch upon the whole White Savior aspect that occurred at the end re: the caste system. I feel like it's been expressed well enough by other reviews.
There's one story left in this trilogy, and yes, I am excited to read it! But I'm not gonna hold out much hope that will be as good as the first six novels in Carey's universe. I'm mostly excited about getting back to the religious intrigue left behind in Book 1. Gods mucking stuff up and making people's lives hell? Yes. Sign me up for that please. Although please promise me it won't consist of Bao and Moirin just waltzing in, consulting their destinies, and yawn while taking down the bad guys in two pages.
(view spoiler)[ I am so mad that Jehanne was killed off screen. So. Mad. She was the only character I really loved in this particular trilogy, and I was shipping her and Moirin pretty hard. Meh. Now we just get dream!Jehanne. IT looks like though she'll still be playing a part in the last novel, so there's that. (hide spoiler)]
Once again, a very strong three stars, but one of the weakest novels in this universe by far..
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