Kushiel’s Mercy, by Jacqueline Carey

An excellent conclusion to the second trilogy of Carey’s sequence of alternate history books, in which Imriel, the narrator, and his lover Sidonie, the heiress to the throne which his mother attempted to subvert, must deal with identity-changing sorcery and foreign domination, while sorting out geopolitical conflict at the same time. There is a bit more kinky sex than in the previous two books in this trilogy, though still nothing like as much as in the first trilogy. Instead, Carey is very effective in portraying her central characters’ deep relationship and the challenge it poses to the state where they live. But just when you think you know where the book is going to go, with potentally a brutal resolution to the story of Imriel’s mother, she takes us in a completely unexpected direction – Cyprus, Carthage and Catalonia, with a side order of the Basque Country. (I am not alone in my surprise at the plot developments – I was amused to find a post by in which she predicted what would be in the book, and was almost completely wrong.) I found the Basque bit a little bolted on and geographically inconsistent, but the rest of it is all great fun and a worthy finish.

Now for the third trilogy.