Naamah’s Blessing is the final book in Jacqueline Carey’s companion trilogy to the first two trilogies comprising Kushiel’s Legacy, which began with Kushiel’s Dart. This newest trilogy takes place well after the end of the first two and can be read without first reading the books that came before (I’ve only read Kushiel’s Dart myself, although I really enjoyed it and should get on reading the rest of them). The books in the Naamah trilogy before this one are Naamah’s Kiss and Naamah’s Curse, respectively.
There will be spoilers for the first two books in this series in this review. If you have not read them, but are interested in learning more about the series, here’s my review of Naamah’s Kiss.
Moirin returns to Terre d’Ange with Bao with a mixture of joy and grief. While she is elated to be reunited with her father, the death of Queen Jehanne brings her great sorrow and impacts the kindgom as a whole. King Daniel is so upset by his queen’s loss that he’s no longer an effective ruler and has another performing most of his duties for him. Now that Morin has returned, the king asks her to do what he cannot – care for his daughter, Desiree, who reminds him too much of Jehanne for him to be around. Moirin agrees and vows to do so publicly, although she also reminded him beforehand that her diadh-anam may not allow her to stay in Terre d’Ange.
This is indeed the case. When news comes of Prince Thierry’s disappearance in Terra Nova, Moirin discovers it is her destiny to journey overseas and find him herself. While she’s hesitant to leave the princess, it becomes clear to her that the best thing she can do for Desiree is to find her half-brother and bring him home. However, there is another purpose for her presence in Terre d’Ange – Moirin is destined to once again meet Raphael de Mereliot, who used her powers selfishly and recklessly in order to gain more power of his own.
At first, I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy Naamah’s Blessing as much as the rest of the trilogy. While it was still elegantly written, it did take quite a while to get going since there was a lot of reminiscing about events from the first two books for quite a while. Also, it took about a third of the book for it to really feel like it was getting to the plot that had been set up toward the end of the previous book, Moirin facing Raphael de Mereliot once again. However, once it did pick up, this ended up being my favorite book in the trilogy. I just loved how it came around full circle back to plots and people from the first book, the beautiful writing, and how different cultures and beliefs were portrayed with such compassion.
Throughout the trilogy, it’s gone from different parts of an alternate Europe to Asia. This book added the Americas to the world tour with Moirin’s journey to Terra Nova. Fortunately, most of the mundane parts of what would have been a lot of traveling were left out so what we did see showed a grand sense of adventure and danger. Terra Nova did indeed come across as the most lethal place Moirin has visited, and there was one scene in particular involving a snake that just might give me nightmares even though I’ve never really been prone to fear of snakes (probably because living in Maine I’ve only ever seen garter snakes which are pretty small, harmless-looking, and could never swallow a creature the size of a capybara whole). There were some completely creepy scenes involving ants as well, but at least that was not based on reality, so while well done it wasn’t as terrifying.
As much as I enjoyed seeing Moirin traverse the jungles, what I loved most about seeing her visit distant lands was the cultures. Carey handles all the different beliefs and ways of life so sympathetically. Even the Aztecs, whose basic belief system was not changed for the purpose of the novel, were not portrayed as bloodthirsty savages but as people with reasons for their actions. Their convictions had value, and even with Moirin’s deities being so important to the story, Moirin’s gods and goddesses are not the only valid ones in the universe. When she encounters new cultures, Moirin always tries to learn something new from the other people she encounters instead of belittling them – even when she has some difficulty accepting it on principle, as she did in this book, which really put her to the test.
Moirin did face a big dilemma related to whether or not to trust in what she was told had to be done when it conflicted with her own values. These types of struggles are one of the reasons I like Moirin’s character, in spite of her not being as flawed as I generally like my main characters to be. In a lot of ways, she almost seems too perfect – she’s kind, compassionate, always tries to do the right thing, and everyone seems to love her or come to love her unless they don’t seem to be a decent person. That’s not to say she doesn’t have human traits like a sense of humor or occasional bouts of recklessness, but she doesn’t seem to have any big, glaring personality flaws. Normally, this would be a hindrance to my enjoyment of a series since I prefer my characters to have more bad traits than Moirin has. However, I can find a generally good character like Moirin interesting when she is given difficult obstacles that show what she’s made of and the thought processes she undergoes in her attempts to do right. That is certainly the case with Moirin, even if I do think that the resolution to some of her problems is wrapped up too easily without her having to act on a choice.
In spite of the tendency for a lot of things to work out too neatly in her favor, everything is still not easy for Moirin. As we’ve seen before, being used by her deities is both a blessing and a curse. They lead her around (often on very long, tedious journeys to other continents), she follows, and at times it does cause her great sadness. They took her away from Jehanne when Moirin had a gift that could have saved her life had she only been there. Knowing what she had to do, Moirin can’t regret it completely because she saved many lives, but she does feel guilt over not being there for Jehanne and agonizes over whether she’d be alive now had she just been there. In addition to not having a 100% wonderfully god-blessed, luxurious lifestyle full of riches and relaxation, Moirin has committed actions she must pay for. When she goes across the ocean, she has to correct a mistake she made when she was younger and more naive – and a different person than she is now. While she basically has the same nature as at the beginning of the trilogy, Moirin’s experiences have still shaped her into a more mature young woman than the one we met at the start of the trilogy. I appreciate the fact that she has developed, and I do love her open-minded spirit that allows her to acclimate herself to other cultures and absorb their beliefs so easily.
In spite of a slow start with a lot of recap and inclinations for some convenient resolutions, Naamah’s Blessing was an excellent conclusion to this trilogy. It was resolved very neatly with a satisfying ending for Moirin, and it was wonderful to see just how far she’d come since the first book. Her story in this book clearly showed the contrast between the very young, unworldly girl she was when the gods first call her away from her homeland and the more knowledgeable young woman she has become. Combined with lovely prose, entertaining adventures, and a broad, open-minded view of different cultures, Naamah’s Blessing was simply beautiful.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.
Other Reviews of Naamah’s Blessing:
Reviews of other books in this series: