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Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series encompasses three trilogies, told from first-person perspective by one character in each. It lies somewhere between Alternate History and fantasy, using recognizable names for real-world places, events, and occasionally people.

The first trilogy, beginning with Kushiel's Dart, continuing with Kushiel's Chosen, and ending with Kushiel's Avatar, follows the exploits of Phèdre, a woman with a red mote in her eye which marks her as an anguissette, one who experiences pain as pleasure. This talent means she draws a high price, as prostitution is a highly valued and respected profession in her home country. Added to this, she is trained in espionage, escape, and other things by her bondholder, with intent to use her as a weapon to stabilize the realm. Over the span of three books, Phèdre goes from girl to adult, and winds up deeply involved in the politics of the realm and the divine, thanks in part to her... unique talents, both as courtesan and spy.

The second trilogy begins with Kushiel's Scion, continues with Kushiel's Justice, and ends with Kushiel's Mercy. It follows Phèdre's adopted son, Imriel - who happens to be the biological son of one of the realm's most infamous traitors. The books follow his coming of age, and his struggle to live up to his adoptive parents while putting aside the reputation in his blood.

The third trilogy takes place a century after the second trilogy ends, and follows the adventures of the druid Moirin from the land of Alba. A descendant of the Maghuin Dhonn from the second trilogy, Moirin must learn to deal with the consequences her ancestor's actions foisted on her people, master her magical powers, and learn about her half-D'Angeline heritage. The first book, "Naamah's Kiss", came out in 2009, "Naamah's Curse" in 2010 and "Naamah's Blessing" in June 2011.

All seven-plus books are probably examples of Your Mileage May Vary, at least on the erotica part, but are still interesting stories without the sex. Kushiel's Legacy is widely lauded by reviewers for having complex societies, likable characters, and a continuous onslaught of politics and intrigue which blend seamlessly with the sex.

Now has a Character Sheet!

Tropes used in Kushiel's Legacy include:
  • Affably Evil- Melisande may be the villainess, but she's also exceedingly beautiful, charming, and clever, and might have gotten away with a lot more if she wasn't half in love with Phèdre.
    • Melisande is arguably more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist than truly evil--she's still following the prime D'Angeline tenet of "Love as thou wilt." It's just that she happens to love manipulation, magnificent bastardry.
      • There's also a subtext that strongly implies that it was all part of the plans of the Gods to prevent the destruction of the world.
  • The Alcatraz - The prison island of La Dolorosa in Chosen.
    • With shades of Azkaban as well, given the endless, wailing, soul-rending winds.
  • Always Someone Better: The ancient Hellenes are this to D'Angelines. In the second half of Chosen, Phedre travels to the island of Kriti and gushes about everything she sees there. This is interesting because-this one exception aside-she (and most D'Angelines) tend to look down on non-D'Angelines.
  • All Myths Are True.
  • The Archer: Moirin. No tricks, just a nice bow and a lot of practice.
  • Ars Goetia - The spirits summoned in Naamah's Kiss all come from here.
  • As You Wish - In Kushiel's Mercy, even though Sidonie's under the influence of Fake Memories wiping out the memory of her boyfriend Imriel, and Imriel himself is a Manchurian Agent, the use of the word "always" when it comes up in conversation always (har) triggers something for them, which they eventually figure out.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love - Joscelin has a hard time admitting his love for Phèdre. It takes him two full books to finally decide he'll put up with her no matter what.
  • Author Appeal- Terre D'Ange is a society who worships love and believes that prostitution is a sacred calling. Everyone Is Bi and the books feature a lot of BDSM. Oddly, this seems to be the only real fetish as such that anyone practises - there's vanilla sex and bondage, but no foot fetishism or cross-dressing.
    • Of course since the book is told from the perspective of Phèdre, she might not encounter too many fetishes outside of BDSM, since that's her speciality.
      • Confirmed with the newest trilogy. Moirin is just as sexually active as Phèdre and Imriel, but she has yet to show interest in BDSM and is thoroughly baffled that it exists.
        • It Makes Sense in Context. Fetishes occur when something that isn't "supposed" to be sexualized is. Feet aren't "supposed" to be sexy, but they are for foot fetishists, for some reason or another, and the taboo associated with that enhances its sexiness. The only taboo thing, sexually, at least, in Terre d'Ange, is pain: that which isn't "supposed" to be pleasant is. Hence, sadism and masochism are the only recognizable kinks.
  • Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other - "You will stand at the crossroads, time and time again, and make the choice."
  • Babies Ever After - Eventually, after Imriel and Moirin earn their happy endings.
    • Subverted, however, with Phèdre and Joscelin, who never do have biological children.
  • Badass - Joscelin to the freaking max.
    • And, in the newest series, Bao.
    • Barquiel L'Envers, Isidore d'Aiglemort and Waldemar Selig qualify as well.
  • Badass Long Hair- Joscelin, but many of the men qualify.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: the Mahrkagir.
  • Band of Brothels -The Court of Night Blooming Flowers, which is composed of the different pleasure houses at which the Servants of Naamah work.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: In Chosen, every time Melisande comes to visit her cell on La Dolorosa, Phedre is forced to wash and don clean clothes.
  • Batman Gambit - It's heavily implied that the first 2/3rds of Kushiel's Avatar is part of Kushiel's plan to punish Melisande and kill the Mahrkagir. The former Punisher of God does not putz around.
  • Bawdy Song - "Phèdre's Boys" have made up a few songs about her. An example? "Man or Women/We don't care/Give us Twins/We'll take the pair!"
  • The Beard - Allegra Stregazza for her husband Ricciardo
  • The Beautiful Elite - Almost everyone in Terre d'Ange is supposed to be beautiful, though some are exceptionally so. This is somewhat justified as the people of Terre D'Ange are distantly descended from fallen angels who intermarried with humans.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed - A Cassiline technique called Terminus is built around this trope. If things are looking particularly grim for a Cassiline and their charge the Cassiline will use their daggers to kill both of them.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The biggest Big Damn Heroes moment in the series is when Barquiel L'Envers charges out of Troyes-le-Mont to rescue Phèdre and Joscelin, just as Joscelin is about to perform a Mercy Kill on himself and Phèdre to save them from Waldemar Selig.
    • Also, the Albans arriving along with Isidore d'Aiglemort's armies to break the siege of Troyes-le-Mont & defeat the Skaldi.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family - The de la Courcel, Stregazza, L'Envers, Shahrizhai family tree. Lampshaded when Phèdre takes Imriel to meet Severio Stregezza and reflects that he is one of the few people in Imriel's family who isn't guilty of some version of murder or treason.
  • Bodyguard Crush - Joscelin is originally hired on as a bodyguard to protect Phèdre during her assignations.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Nearly gets Queen Ysandre killed during the climax of Kushiel's Chosen.
  • Boisterous Bruiser - Quintilius Rouse and later his son Eammon.
  • Boring Return Journey - Subverted in this series: it still takes a pretty long time to get home from every journey, and things still happen.
  • Brains and Bondage: The entire series runs on this trope.
  • Bring News Back: Happens in Dart when Phèdre and Joscelin flee Skaldia in the dead of winter in order to warn Ysandre of the impending invasion. Also, Phèdre spends the entire second half of Chosen trying to warn Terre d'Ange of Melisande's plan.
  • Brown Note - When Phèdre learns the "Name of God", a powerful word that contains within it the secrets of the nature of the entire world and uses it to compel an Angel to break a curse over Hyacinthe. Carey cheats in order to avoid printing the Name. Whenever it is spoken, it appears as "____________"..
  • Bury Your Gays - Despite the series taking place in a society where homosexual love is celebrated alongside heterosexual love, gay characters either die, like Alcuin, Roland, and Delaunay or live in the closet/straight marriages of convinence like Lucius and Ricchardo, though neither are from Terre D'Ange and would be disinherited/slandered for being gay. The one gay relationship that lasts happens in the Offstage Waiting Room with Ti-Phillipe and Hughes.
    • Not quite. Alcuin and Delaunay are both bisexual, though they are killed off suspiciously quickly.
    • Alcuin is arguably not bisexual. He slept with women because it was his job.
      • He always loved Delaunay the most, but genuinely enjoyed some of his female customers. For example, he was shown to be quite pleased with the courtesan from Orchid House, a branch of the Night Court specializing in laughter and cheeriness.
    • Rolande died in war. And Delaunay and Alcuin got involved in politics against Melisande. A dozen people per book die thanks to Terre D'Ange war and politics, so perhaps it was inevitable that the mentor and childhood friend would've been among them. At least they didn't die because of their sexuality. The series still needs more happily together gay couples, though.
    • Add Imriel to the list. He often intimates that he would like to try making love with a man, but he is comparatively squeamish about it compared to Phèdre. It only happens twice, once with a random prostitute, and again when he uses magic to become someone else.
      • Imriel's squeamishness is probably justified, considering the horrible things he was exposed and subjected to by the Mahrigakir. The folk of Terre d'Ange might be Anything Goes when it comes to sex, but the things that go on in the Mahrigakir's chambers of horrors that pass as a harem are the kind of things no child should be exposed to
        • Actually in Imriel's case, he eventually heals to the point where he can enjoy sex without being mentally tortured. He learns he enjoys kissing men, but decides that he's a bisexual who prefers women.
    • There was also the case of the current D'Angeline queen and former adept of the night court, Jehanne, who took Moirin as a lover and confidante in Kiss, but did not survive the birth of her child. Her death occurred off the page and Moirin does not find out until almost a year after the fact.
      • A review somewhere that bemoaned the fact that female characters (including heroines) are allowed to have sex with other women, but can only find true love and long-term partnership with men. Are there any examples of long term Girls Love partnerships in the series?
  • Camp Follower - It's mentioned in Kiss that there are plenty of women on board the great ship the Ch'in Emperor sent to fetch Master Lo Feng. Who are only along to keep the sailors and soldiers from being too lonely.
  • Can't Stand Them Can't Live Without Them - Joscelin towards Phèdre. Really, what do you expect from a celibate warrior-priest paired with a courtesan who enjoys her job?
  • Cast From Hit Points - What Moirin does if she uses her powers for something other than their original purpose.
  • Celibate Hero - Joscelin is a Warrior Monk, raised from age ten to be the "perfect companion." Part of their final vows is indeed a vow of celibacy. Breaks his vow later in the books, is outcast, but still gets his respect.
  • Chekhov's Gun - The Companion's Star Ysandre gives to Phèdre at the end of Chosen, which entitles her to one boon. It finally pays off in Avatar when Phèdre uses it to force Ysandre to let her and Joscelin adopt Imriel
    • Also, the password of House L'Envers.
  • Chekhov's Skill - Surprisingly enough Joscelin's ability to fish becomes important in Avatar.
    • There's also Phedre's Cruithne and Skaldic language lessons, which come in handy in Dart.
    • In the Naamah trilogy, the language of ants. Oh dear god.
  • The Chessmaster - Melisande and, to a lesser extent, Anafiel. Phèdre inherits this from the both of them, and is incredibly clever when god-ordained lust isn't turning her brain to mush around Melisande.
  • City of Canals - La Serenissima.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination - Justified The traitors hire mercenaries to start a riot in a crowded temple during the largest celebration of year. That way, the assassination would just look like an accident amidst the pandemonium. Really, what do you expect of a plan backed by Melisande?
  • Cunning Linguist - Phèdre. Both meanings.
  • Deadly Decadent Court
  • Deadpan Snarker: Barquiel L'Envers
  • Death By Origin Story Prince Rolande for Delaunay
  • Death World - Drujan
  • Defrosting Ice Queen - Sidonie.
    • In Naamah's Kiss, Jehanne, sort of.
  • Demonic Possession - Almost(?) happens to Raphael. What everyone thinks happened to Snow Tiger.
    • It did happen to Imriel's friend Lucius, when his jerkass ancestor, Gallus took over his body.
  • Depraved Bisexual - Melisande to the extreme. Then again, everyone in Terre D'Ange is bi, so there was bound to be some evil people thrown in the mix. Aversions: Phèdre, Alcuin, and Delaunay.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The Mahrkagir is an expert at pushing people over it. Many women in his zenana have crossed it, and some starve themselves to death as a result. Phèdre and Joscelin come close to hitting it during their time in Darsanga, but never actually do.
    • In Naamah's Blessing, Jehanne's death, followed by ((overly hasty)) news of his son's death, push King Daniel over this. He drowns himself in the river.
  • Determinator: Several. Joscelin and Phèdre both have this in spades, and Moirin shows tons of it when chasing Bao. Jacqueline Carey likes her women strong-willed.
  • Double Standard Rape (Divine on Mortal) - Along with irresistible angelic gifts, there is the matter of Moirin, Snow Tiger, and the dragon. Not perceived as okay exactly, but certainly not held up as a terrible evil.
    • Although the Master of the Straights is the product of precisely this form of rape. When nobody will seek pardon for him, he places a curse on his own son and refuses to lift it until he is himself pardoned.
  • Double Standard Rape (Female on Male) - Both played straight and averted depending on who the protagonist is. In Naamah's Kiss, Moirin more than once jumps on a man who is saying no (both times because she's a bit under the influence herself, but still) and compels him to go along with it. However, when Imriel is assaulted by a woman (ironically, of the same people as Moirin) who tries to compel him to respond to her desire, this is held up as an abomination.
  • Dramatis Personae - Each book in the series has Loads and Loads of Characters and therefore have a dramatis personae that can go on for pages and pages. Averted most recently in the soft cover edition of Namaah's Kiss, a few pages of praise for the past books, the usual title pages, and the ever present map, then it jumps straight into chapter one with no preamble.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come? - Alais can receive dreams of the future. But she doesn't always interpret them correctly.
    • Moirin gets this, in a way, when she talks to the spirit of Jehanne in her dreams.
  • Dungeon Bypass - In Scion the Duke of Valpetra eventually got fed up trying to siege Lucca the traditional way that he dammed a river and diverted it to knock down a wall and flood the city.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending - Imriel. Poor guy.
    • This pretty much applies for any main character in the series. Joscelin and Phèdre, Imriel, Moirin and Bao...
  • Earth Drift - Dart has little more than divine lineage to elevate itself above historical fiction. Naamah's Trilogy, in contrast, begins with a character who can turn herself invisible, and takes a pit stop at summoning demons from the Ars Goetia before running off to Chinese dragons.
  • Epic Flail - Tahmuras, The Dragon in Kushiel's Avatar wields one. He comes closest out of anyone in the entire six-book series to besting Joscelin.
  • Erotic Literature: Ohhh so much. With a heaping dose of alternate history, espionage and fantasy thrown in.
  • Estrogen Brigade Bait - Nearly every darn male in the series. Alcuin and Delaunay certainly have their moments. And why, why, why is Joscelin so hot?
    • Um, because he's a gorgeous, Badass, chivalrous, protective, sweet, devoted man with incomparable swordsmanship and more than a bit of woobiefication. That's why.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom - The motto of Elua is "Love as thou wilt", and most D'Angelines are more than happy to follow it. Educated and successful Servants of Naamah often have political power and are treated with as much respect as a Companion in Firefly--if not more. However, Terre D'Ange also has age of consent laws and extremely harsh punishments against rape (It's not just a crime; it's heresy). Definitely one of the more intelligent examples of this trope.
    • It's also noted that having sexual freedom doesn't necessarily make choices of the heart easier. In some cases, they're actually harder.
    • Also inverted. Most of the countries around Terre D'Ange aren't half as free about sex.
  • Even the Girls Want Her - Melisande and Phèdre, both in canon and among fans. Can we add Moirin and Snow Tiger to this list as well?
    • Don't forget Nicola L'Envers y Aragon.
    • Or Queen Jehanne!
  • Even the Guys Want Him - Alcuin and Delaunay are both bisexual Yaoi Guys with more notable male lovers than female ones. Averted with Joscelin when he and Phèdre are sold into slavery. The Skaldi women find him, um, desirable, but the Skaldi men thinks he's a pretty-boy with no beard. At least, they acknowledge his "manliness" when he kills one of their own in a sanctioned duel.
  • Everyone Is Bi - In Terre d'Ange? Yes. Yes, they are, apparently. But also averted in places like Caerdiccia Unitas, where the inhabitants are quite prudish about sex and such.
    • Seems like there are more bisexual females than males in the series. The only man who seems bi is Mavros Sharizhai who is quite the Casanova.
    • At least a few of Alcuin's clients also had relationships with women, I believe.
      • Anafiel is an example of bi male too.
    • There's also Julian Trente, who at one point laments Phèdre's "luckiness" at landing someone like Joscelin, and Moirin's father, a priest in Naamah's service who served as the Duc de Barthelme's royal companion when both were younger. Bisexual males are there, they just tend to not be given much attention other than incidental lines that are easy to miss.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier If French - The D'Angelines.
  • Everything Is Worse With Bears - The shapeshifting Maghuin Dhonn bear-witches.
    • Which leads, in fairly short order, to the removal of said shape-shifting powers.
  • Evil Uncle: At first, Barquiel L'Envers appears to be this. Phèdre is very suspicious of him in Chosen, and easily believes the real traitors' attempts to frame him for Melisande's escape. However, he is in fact staunchly loyal to his niece Ysandre and works to secure her throne, making him a subversion.
    • Played straight with Benedicte de la Courcel, Ysandre's great-uncle.
  • The Fair Folk - The second Kushiel's Legacy trilogy introduces a human tribe of the Fantasy Counterpart Cultures Alba and Eire, who are described very like the Fair Folk: an old people who live in the wild, untamed areas, powerfully magical, and not malicious but adhering to a different moral standard. Some characters fear them and refuse to speak of them, while others welcome bargaining with them. Their Voluntary Shapeshifting and sympathetic magic play a vital role in the plot.
  • Fallen Angel - Elua's Companions, Rahab from the first trilogy, and the spirits in Naamah's Kiss.
  • Famed in Story - Pretty much every major character.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: Joscelin's "two daggers and vambraces" fighting style probably qualifies.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture - Terre d'Ange is France down to the language, and various other parallels - in one particularly egregious example, the Venice-counterpart is named "La Serenissima", a nickname by which the real city is sometimes called.
    • Basically every single location is some version of this.
  • Fantasy World Map - Each book in the series has them, even though they're renamed versions of Europe and North Africa whose names that make the Fantasy Counterpart Culture even more obvious.
  • Fate Worse Than Death - Hyacinthe, poor guy.
  • Fertile Feet - Blessed Elua according to legends. This is similar to the Real Life story of Buddha.
  • Fetish Fuel Station Attendant: Phèdre.
  • Flower Motifs - Each of the houses/themes of the Night Court are inspired by flowers and all adepts have to earn a flower tattoo in order to finish their indentured servitude.
  • Fiery Redhead - Favrielle no Eglantine who is also a bit of an Insufferable Genius when it comes to designing clothes.
  • Feuding Families
  • Girls Love - Amarante, the daughter of the head priestess of the goddess of prostitutes, was hired to teach Sidonie, the crown princess, of the realm the "arts of the bedchamber". Also, Phèdre winds up in this position, occasionally. Her relationship with Nicola L'Envers is pretty much friends with benefits.
    • She has more male than female lovers, sure, but her... relationship with Melisande balances the scale.
    • Moirin and Snow Tiger.
      • Jehanne and Moirin.
        • Moirin and the Rani Amitra. Girl likes girls...
  • Girl-On-Girl Is Hot - Perhaps an explanation for the lengthy sections between Moirin and Jehanne and Moirin and Snow Tiger. Also the celestial Dragon in Snow Tiger is either of this opinion or a Yuri Fanboy. His comment when Snow Tiger decides that she's not too different from D'Angelines.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Phèdre journeys to Alba to enlist the Albans' aid against the Skaldi in Dart.
  • Good People Have Good Sex - but S&M is subsumed under this umbrella and Imriel needs to accept and explore his sadistic side in order to accept his sexuality.
    • Basically, especially in Terre D'Ange, the only "bad sex" is rape. If it's consensual and nobody dies and everyone has fun, it's good for D'Angelines!
  • Green Thumb - Moirin's power through Anael's line let's her talk to plants and make them grow.
  • Green Eyes - Moirin's eyes are often mentioned to be jade-green and she is regularly called a bear-witch. Her ability to talk to plants fits in the nature aspect nicely.
  • Healing Hands - Raphael and Master Lo Feng from Naamah's Kiss.
  • Heroic Sacrifice- Isidore d'Aiglemort's death after dueling and killing Selig.
  • Hero of Another Story - A few examples, but most prominently Micah Ben Ximon and the Yeshuite pilgrims from Kushiel's Chosen, who later reappear in Kushiel's Justice. Not to mention the result in "Naamah's Curse"...
  • High Class Call Girl - Phèdre definitely qualifies at this through the first book and first half of the second book.
  • Honor Before Reason: Joscelin does this a lot, especially where his Cassiline vows are concerned--however, Phèdre knocks this out of him eventually.
    • Though, admittedly, Phèdre has shades of this as well, given that she's willing to give herself up to a madman's seraglio because of an oath she gave her greatest enemy.
      • She wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for Elua revealing his plan. It had nothing to do with Melisande.
  • I Gave My Word - Comes up a lot, but Melisande takes it to Catch Phrase levels with "I keep my promises".
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy - Joscelin with Phèdre at points (and Phèdre right back at times). Imriel and Sidonie, as well.
  • I Will Protect Her: Several examples, the most notable being Joscelin's vow to protect Phedre, but also:
    • Delaunay swearing an oath to protect Ysandre
    • Barquiel becoming the oath-sworn protector of Imriel and Sidonie's firstborn.
  • In the Blood - Imriel is the son of the biggest traitors to his country, and despite him being a good-hearted person (and raised by other good-hearted people), many people suspect that someday he might take after his mother. Later on, a group of The Fair Folk have a psychic prediction that Imriel's son would take after his mother and destroy their nation, and so they kill his pregnant wife to make sure this doesn't happen.
    • Moirin gets this a lot too, given that she's descended from The Fair Folk that killed Imriel's pregnant wife.
  • Insufferable Genius - Favrielle no Eglantine is a brilliant seamstress, but she has a caustic and impatient personality.
  • IKEA Erotica - Becomes a characterization point. Imriel is not comfortable with his sexuality. Phèdre is.
  • Improvised Weapon: Most notably, the hairpin that Phèdre uses to kill the Mahrkagir.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: The D'Angelines, who impress every other people with their beauty.
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople - All of the country, and more than a few ethnic, names are older and/or foreign words for easily recognizable places.
  • It's Not You, It's Me - Imriel pulls this on Sidonie in Justice. Joscelin and Phèdre exchanged this occasionally.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies - Sidonie and Imriel do this to each other in Justice as well. Then again, given her position, and his mother's, possibly reasonable.
  • Jedi Truth - A few times, but especially with Melisande.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Joscelin and Bao both. However, once Phèdre takes the stick out of Joscelin's ass, and Moirin smoothes off Bao's rough edges, this disappears.
  • Karma Houdini - Melisande Shahrizai; she's just too good at Xanatos Speed Chess for karma to catch up to her.
    • Though it does catch up a little in the end--she never gets to have her son back, for one.
  • Kissing Cousins - Sidonie and Imriel, with a good bit more than kissing going on.
    • A less severe example than most. Imriel is the son of Sidonie's great grandfather's brother. They're technically cousins, but there's two generations between them.
  • Like Brother and Sister - Imriel and Alais - but in this case it really is like that, no romantic undertones at all. (Well, as far as this series goes, anyway.)
  • Let's Get Dangerous - The Cassiline Brotherhood are sworn only to get their swords out to kill (normally, they use daggers and vambraces). You'd better believe that when they do, things are going to get VERY dangerous. Especially if it's Joscelin, and doubly especially if Phèdre is in peril.
  • Libation for the Dead - Traditional in Alba. Drustan does the honors most of the time.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine- Averted. D'Angeline men typically have long hair and it isn't considered feminine.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy- Nearly every D'Angeline man qualifies.
  • Loophole Abuse - The spirits in Naamah's Kiss do this to avoid giving usable answers to their summoners.
    • Moirin does this as well to let Jehanne know about her promise to Raphael and get help to get out of it.
  • Love At First Punch - Well, she never actually hits him, but Sidonie's snarkiness is one of the first things that attracts Imriel to her.
    • The verbal version of this is also a big factor in Moirin and Bao's attraction.
  • Love Hurts - The later half of Scion, and most of Justice, deal with Imriel and this. Not to mention Phèdre and Joscelin's rocky start in Dart and Chosen.
    • Also shows up in the Naamah series. Could be considered an underlying theme of the universe.
  • Love Ruins the Realm - One of the prime arguments against Imriel and Sidonie's relationship in the second trilogy. (No one is really bothered that they're cousins - Terre d'Ange is that kind of place.)
    • Comes roaring into play in the Naamah trilogy. If Daniel and Jehanne didn't love each other quite so much, Jehanne's death probably wouldn't have crushed her husband's spirit so much--which ends up causing many of the conflicts in Naamah's Blessing.
    • Averted in Dart: Queen Ysandre of Terre D'Ange and Cruarch (King) Drustan of Alba fall in love. Their alliance crushes the invading Skaldi and brings peace to both countries.
  • The Magnificent - Alais is known as Alais the Wise in the third trilogy. Many Skaldi have one after their name. There's a Lampshade Hanging when Phèdre wonders what Harald the Beardless would be called when he's old enough to grow a beard.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin - Averted, we get to see Imriel's first time.
    • Also, Phèdre and Joscelin's first time is an inversion. Phèdre's not a virgin, but Joscelin is.
  • The Masochism Tango - Phèdre and Joscelin's relationship to a T.
    • However, it tones down eventually, once Joscelin loosens up, and Phèdre stops getting yanked around by Melisande every three seconds.
  • Masquerade Ball- Terre D'Ange celebrates the winter solstice by having masked balls and celebrations. Typically Phèdre attends in a Pimped-Out Dress of some sort.
  • Master Swordsman: Several, most notably Joscelin. It's noted in Kushiel's Chosen that he's better than even the most practiced of the Cassiline Brothers for a very good reason--he's fought for his life many more times than they have.
  • May-December Romance - as above Delaunay and Alcuin. Maybe also Phèdre and Melisande?
    • I'll give you Delaunay and Alcuin but Melisande is about ten years older than Phèdre, so Your Mileage May Vary
  • Meaningful Echo - Kinda. After the second book Melisande's reply to Phèdre's accusation of treason gets said in one form or another at least once per book. It's usually mentioned that Melisande said it first.
    • Original quote

 Melisande: Elua cared naught for mortal politics, nor did Kushiel.

    • Notable one in Scion

 Sidonie: It's not that simple!

Imriel: No, it's not. Mayhap if we obeyed Blessed Elua's precept, it would be. Elua cared naught for thrones or mortal politics.

    • Even the third trilogy continues the trend

 Jehanne: Elua bids us to love as we will. And I do. Why isn't that enough? Why does it have to be so damned complicated.

Moirin: We're the ones who make it that way. Blessed Elua cared naught for crowns or thrones.

  • Mentor Occupational Hazard - Damn you, Jaqueline Carey! Why does such a Magnificent Bastard like Delaunay have to die? At least write a prequel about him, please?
    • She's going to.
    • Also, Lo Feng
    • And Jehanne, in a way, given that she's Moirin's sexual mentor.
  • Moe Couplet - Imriel and Alais.
  • Multi Melee Master: Joscelin, and by exension, all Cassilines. They dual-wield daggers when they're not trying to kill you--and a two-handed sword for when they absolutely, positively must send someone back to their maker. Preferably in pieces.
  • My Greatest Failure - Backstory that transformed Delaunay from being a Crown Prince's consort to the man known as Whoremaster of Spies.
  • Mysterious Protector - Canis for Imriel in Scion. Turns out Melisande sent him.
    • This also applies to Lo Feng, his failure to raise his biological son right is what later allows Snow Tiger to be possessed by the celestial Dragon and the creation of Divine Thunder (cannons)
  • No Accounting for Taste - This is stated to be the realm at large's opinion of Phèdre's relationship with Joscelin.
    • Then, later, their reaction to Moirin and Jehanne.
  • No Periods, Period - In Terre D'Ange women can only become pregnant if they pray to Eisheth, a fertility goddess to open their wombs, and then the Goddess may or may not grant this wish. So essentially no one has a menstrual cycle until then, and no one has to worry about unwanted pregnancy unless they change their mind. Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • Not Hyperbole - The Mahrkagir's iron rod is, in fact, just that.
    • Iron and spiked, and covered with the dried blood of the women he's raped with it.
  • Not Worth Killing - Inverted. Instead of killing Phèdre, Melisande continuously deals her more merciful punishments, like selling her to slavery, trapping her in the worst prison in the world, etc. because legend has it that a descendent of Kushiel who kills a bearer of Kushiel's Dart suffers ten-thousand years of torment in the afterlife. This is a smart decision in a world where gods and angels are proven to exist. Rather than not being worth killing, Phèdre is too valuable to kill. That, and the fact that Melisande just finds her too much fun as a sex slave.
  • Omniglot: Phèdre picks up 13 languages over the first three books, most of which she learned while traveling. Imriel can speak almost that many.
    • Justified in that once you've picked up three or four languages, the rest become somewhat easier--especially if you're dealing with "Romance languages" that have similar pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.
  • Older Sidekick - Imriel seems to get a new one in every book to help him out.
  • One-Hit Kill - The main power of the Aka Magi, who can kill with a glance. Because of how ridiculously powerful that is it only took a small number of them to kill Khebbel-im-Akkad's entire invading army.
  • Oracular Urchin - Hyacinthe, sorta.
  • Orphanage of Love - Imriel grows up in the Temple of Elua, living a very simple and happy existence.
  • Our Angels Are Different - Blessed Elua and his Companions. It is outright stated that the companions were angels of God. They are treated as gods by some of the mortals of the books, though.
  • Our Dragons Are Different - Naamah's Kiss has a traditional Chinese dragon.
    • So...our dragons aren't different?
  • Parental Marriage Veto - The entire second trilogy pretty much revolves around getting over this for Sidonie and Imriel.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Ysandre and Drustan. Also Nicola and her husband.
  • Pet the Dog - Mahrkagir literally has a dog statue which he gives to Phèdre because he loves her. Also Melisande's love for Imriel.
  • Pimped-Out Dress / Costume Porn - Phèdre spends a while waxing lyrical about her dress before every fete, ball, masque or other special occasion. The red and black dress for her first assignation comes to mind. When she anounces that her return to being a servant of Naamah she wears a gown with a low back that shows her tattoo, to show she means business. Phèdre gets really dressed up on the night she plans to kill the Mahrkagir with her hair-pin.
    • Other characters get to wear these as well, especially in the books that don't have Phèdre as a main character.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party - Phèdre is able to solve a lot of problems by having sex with people, but equally, if not more important, are her skills as a clever spy, linguist, and diplomat.
  • The Power of Love - Might as well be a physical force equal to gravity in this series.
    • It does get twisted from time to time. For example the source of the Aka Magi's powers over death comes from them sacrificing and eating the heart of a person they truly love
      • This is also the key to why the Mahrkagir is vulnerable to Phèdre. He loves her, and if he performs the ritual sacrifice, he will unleash the full furry of his God. The fact he wants to do this is the only thing that allows Phèdre to get him alone long enough to kill him.
  • Proud Warrior Race - This defines no less than three of the nations that are not Terre d'Ange: The Eiran, the Albans, and the Skaldi.
    • In Terre D'Ange, the Camaelines are credited with only being to think with their swords before one of their leaders turns out to be Melisande's traitor. The Skaldi, meanwhile, are never credited with thinking, swords or otherwise. Then, their leader also turns out to be working with Melisande. Hmm, notice a pattern here?
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy - Drustan and Eammon fit this trope although both are very clever and thoughful men. It's more about how other people preceive them as being couth or uncultured.
    • Waldemar Selig tries to avert this. He dreams of ruling over a sophisticated empire, but the Skaldi care too much for fighting and drinking to pose a threat to Terre D'Ange, until he unites them under one kingdom. But even he loses his head in the heat of battle at Troyes-le-Mont...
  • Psychological Torment Zone
  • Psycho Serum - Imriel gets a surprise dose of this in Kushiel's Mercy. Ironically, being flat out of his head for a month turns out to be the best thing for him, given the situation that he's in. Being mad for a month was part of his mother's plan to make him immune to the spell being cast on everyone else in the city.
  • Purple Eyes - Ysandre, Alais and those from House L'Envers.
  • Purple Prose - Justified. Phèdre's an active courtesan-spy trained to observe details and appreciate beauty, so it makes sense that her inner dialogue would contain lots of description. Fortunately, Carey's prose style, while detailed, is rarely unintelligible, and anyone who's above an 8th-grade reading level should be able to undertstand it. Imriel uses his infiltration skills less, and so his POV is less detailed. And Moirin, who spends the first 15 years of her life in the wilderness and finds the D'Angeline pre-occupation with looks silly has even less description than Imriel's.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil - Especially when Terre d'Ange regards it as not just a crime, but blasphemy.
  • Redemption Equals Death - In Kushiel's Dart, Isidore d'Aiglemort goes on a suicide mission to avoid being remembered as a traitor (and foil the plans of Chessmaster, Melisande).
  • Rescue Romance - Subverted. Imriel attempts to save Sidonie from a boar, but it turns out to be just a deer.
    • Reversed both ways with Joscelin and Phèdre. Joscelin's one of the best fighters in the series and saves Phèdre countless times, but his Cassiline arrogance and idealism couldn't mentally prepare him for the harsh realities of Skaldic slavery. He would have starved himself out of humiliation if Phèdre hadn't snapped him out of it. And while Joscelin's not dumb, he's not Delaunay-trained either. Phèdre's observation and subterfuge skills are key to many of their plans.
  • Romanticized Abuse- Melisande and Phedre's relationship certainly qualifies.
  • Rope Bridge - In Kushiel's Chosen, island prison La Dolorosa is connected to the mainland only by a rope bridge, which has two guards on the island side armed with axes, who can cut the bridge long before anybody gets across. Joscelin's solution? Climb along the underside of the bridge.
  • Royal Brat: Mostly averted with Imriel--who was raised in an orphanage for most of his life--and played mostly straight Jehanne's daughter. In the latter case, she mostly just needs people who know how to handle her.
  • Sacrificial Lion - Dorelei. And arguably Alcuin and Delaunay qualify as this as well.
  • Safe Word: Known as a signale. Not heeding it is considered heresy.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Zigzags in the case of Imriel and the Maghuin Dhonn. They foresee the possibility of a terrible future, and at first all their attempts to avert it make it more likely and worse. However, in the end, they do manage to change the course of fate... but at a terrible price.
  • Semi-Divine: The D'Angeline people are like this; descended from God's son and his angelic companions.
  • Sex as Rite-Of-Passage - Patrons pay extra to take the virginity of a new courtesan. And it's typically part of an aristocrat's 16th birthday celebration for them to visit the Night Court for the first time.
  • Sex God: Any of Terre D'Ange's courtesan, due to the glorification of prostitution as sacred. Special mention goes to Phedre.
    • Taken very literally in the case of Naamah, though she's more of a Sex Angel than a Sex God.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit - All courtesans from the Night Blooming flowers must earn their marque, a tattoo covering the entire back, in order to complete their debt of servitude towards their House. It's considered unseemly for an adept to bare her back in public before her marque is complete.
  • School of Seduction: The Court of Night Blooming Flowers.
  • Screw Destiny - Phèdre's reaction to Hyacinthe's fate in the first trilogy. Succeeds, of course. Joscelin after deciding he can't live without Phèdre in Chosen.
  • Scream Discretion Shot - Kushiel's Dart has a scene where Phèdre is captured, tortured, and raped by Melisande Shahrizai. We only hear Phèdre's very short and non-explicit summary of it.
  • Secret Relationship - Sidonie and Imriel are like this when they actually hook up. It doesn't last long though.
  • Shiny Midnight Black- Melisande, as are nearly all of House Shahrizai.
  • Siege Engines - The Skaldi build siege towers for use during the siege of Troyes-le-Mont.
    • Most recently the 'Divine Thunder' (cannons) seen in Kiss.
  • Slap Slap Kiss - Moirin and Bao bicker with each other right up until the point where they start having incredible sex.
  • The Sleepless - Lucius when he was being possessed by Galladus. Imriel eventually challenged him to a duel just so his friend could rest for a night.
  • So Happy Together - Melisande and Phèdre towards the middle of Dart.
  • Someday This Will Come in Handy - Or as Delaunay and Phèdre like to say, "All knowledge is worth having".
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Imriel gets stalked/harassed in various ways by a Maghuin Dhonn witch, who at one point thinks she can Screw Destiny by getting pregnant with Imriel's child. Boy, does he not want to.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers - Joscelin and Phèdre are presented as this at first, as are Sidonie and Imriel. Moirin and Bao seem to be setting up for this as well
  • Taking You with Me - Galladus, not to another person but to a flood when he returns to the underworld after protecting Lucca.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Sort of. In Kushiel's Chosen, Joscelin makes a dagger throw that disrupts the aim of an enemy on the other end of a large temple filled with fighting men. Phèdre comments that she thought the throw was impossible.
  • Time Skip - The books mainly continue where the last one left off, but there's a ten year jump between Chosen and Avatar and a hundred year jump before the third trilogy. There's also little time skips during the books when the characters are traveling or nothing important is happening.
  • Too Kinky to Torture - Phèdre. Early on in Dart she is burned with a red hot poker. She states that "There was no pleasure in it, at least not one who was not an anguissette would understand." Of course, there are lines even for that - she derives no pleasure from being skinned, for example. Still, she says late in the first book that she cannot be forced to tell secrets through torture. This appears to be true.
    • She also pretty much hits her limit in Darsanga with "the rod."
  • Troubled but Cute - Imriel, according to others in the book. Sometimes when reading, it's far too easy to imagine him in a James Dean type get up.
  • Trust Password - Used during the siege in Scion.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy - Well, not so much a fantasy, but actually played out in Chosen.
    • And it gets a song written about it!
  • Tyke Bomb - Joscelin and Cassiline brothers in general. Sadly for Joscelin being hyper competent at combat didn't prepare him for much of life outside of being a bodyguard.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension - Joscelin and Phèdre in Dart. (It gets resolved.)
  • Unusual Euphemism - "I/you should catch a fish" between Joscelin and Phèdre.
  • Warrior Monk: Joscelin and the other Cassiline brothers--complete with vow of chastity. Which one do you think Joscelin breaks first?
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome? - Just learning the Name of God causes the room to rumble and make you feel like your head's going to explode. Phèdre fainted when first hearing it. Calling on the power of the Maghuin Dhonn to drive out a fallen angel from a room almost causes earthquakes.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? - The ability to speak the language of ants was originally given as a prank by an irritated spirit. In Terre D'Ange, it's this. In the Amazon Rain forest, it's a little different.
  • We Could Have Avoided All This - Almost as soon as he sets foot on Alba in Justice Imriel is stalked and harassed by the Maghuin Dhonn. They keep mentioning they are trying to prevent a future disaster, but instead of just talking to Imriel they stalk and bind him with magic. When they eventually reveal that the disaster would be Imriel's son killing off the Mahguin Dhonn and becoming a conqueror due to his and his father's hatred for them. Imriel was understandably not impressed and immediately called them out as idiots for not just talking to him.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Melisande is arguably simply following the precept of "Love as thou wilt" as concerns her passion for intrigue and backstabbery.
  • When the Planets Align - used by the Carthaginians in Mercy to put a spell on the entire city.
  • White-Haired Pretty Boy - Alcuin. Although he's a good guy and is only Phèdre's rival in terms of vying for Delunay's affections.
  • Wife Husbandry - Variation. Delaunay adopts Phèdre and Alcuin with the plan that he wants them to work as spies/courtesans and believes that the kids see him as a mentor/boss figure. Instead both of them fall in love with him. Alcuin waits until he's free and legal to make his move.
  • Winds of Destiny Change - How the Aka Magi explain their power to kill with a glance. Everybody is just a step a death at any moment, they could have a heart attack, they could trip and break their neck, a clot could form in their brain or any other hundreds of other accidents. All the Aka Magi do is give fate that little push.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity - Snow Tiger is strong enough to casually bend steel bars, but if she sees her own reflection, even in someone else's eyes, she goes on a killing spree.
    • Though, technically, it's not her. It's the dragon bound up inside her head, which can't stand to see itself in the wrong body.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask - Ysandre, as well as with Drustan, her husband. Both find themselves in this position during Dart and Chosen.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Mahrkagir, full stop, which leads to some nasty nightmares for Imriel.
  • The Plan and Xanatos Speed Chess - Phèdre working to uncover Melisande's Evil Plans.
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