The ninth novel in Jacqueline Carey's D'Angeline series, Naamah's Blessing, is set over a century after the events of the incredible trilogy that began with Kushiel's Dart. Her alternate history Europe has entered the early Renaissance period, and our supernatural heroine Moirin — half-Maghuin-Dhonn druid, half-D'Angeline sex priestess — has already journeyed all across Asia. In this final book of the Moirin trilogy, Carey sends her impossibly beautiful and magically nice heroine to Terra Nova to meet the Aztecs, Inca, and an old enemy from her youth.
Though downright silly in parts, Naamah's Blessing also contains the genuinely arresting inventiveness that's required to wring a ninth book from a series originally conceived as a trilogy. Certainly the novel is not the best in Carey's ouevre, but it's a fun ride and offers an interesting alternate history twist on the centuries-old meeting between Europeans and Native Americans. Spoilers ahead.
Unlike Carey's other heroes in this series, who have distinct arcs, Moirin hasn't changed very much in her series. Yes, she's traveled to new lands and met new people, but she's still basically the super friendly person whose powers are a new agey blend of tantra and life-giving (she can induce plants to grow). To the extent that she exhibits any of the intriguing, subversive sex powers of Phedre, the series' first heroine, they're presented as healing, Earth-goddessy stuff: nice girl eroticism that doesn't challenge conventional ideas about love or desire.
Moirin's journey to Terra Nova to rescue Thierry, heir to the throne, also suffers from conventionality. The novel begins with tragedy striking the ruling House Courcel, sucking Terre D'Ange into a power vacuum. Moirin and her stereotypically stoic husband Bao have grown close to to several aristocratic families, and Moirin has a vision that her adoptive country will suffer horrifically if she doesn't lead a rescue mission to retrieve Thierry and set him on the throne. Aided by a set of characters who you'll come to know as "the guy who is pretty but with nerves of steel," "the guy who feels really bad about something," and "all the other brave men in armor," they sail to the Aztec empire. Though Mesoamerica is a pretty fascinating place to build a world, Carey doesn't give us much beyond "super fierce warriors" and "maidens who understand that human sacrifice is sometimes OK." There are a lot of feathered headdresses and obsidian weapons and simple people of the forest.
Perhaps most interesting is Moirin's discovery that her old lover, Raphael, has gone Colonel Kurtz among the Inca. Rumors of his godlike powers reach her rescue party long before they encounter Raphael, and the novel becomes preoccupied with the horrors of colonialism — especially when Europeans try to set themselves up as gods over the indigenous societies. Ultimately Moirin and her companions have to rescue Thierry from Raphael, in part to save the Americas from bad colonialism. Unlike Raphael, or the Aragonians (AKA the Spanish), Thierry will pursue a strategy of "good" colonialism where the D'Angelines will simply open trade with the Aztecs rather than trying to conquer them.
The best part of the book is Raphael's greatest weapon in his conquest of Terra Nova: he has gained control of the fierce Amazonian ants. This is a callback to the first Moirin novel, where Raphael's circle of sorcerers call up a spirit and ask him for power, only to be jokingly granted the power to understand the language of ants. It turns out that being able to communicate with ants is no joke in the Amazon, where these creatures can devour enemies and bring cities to their knees. So it's ant hive mind vs. druid magic — who do you think will win?
I won't tell, but the fact that you don't need any spoilers to guess the outcome should be indicative of what this novel is like. There are no surprises here — only familiar faces in slightly new situations. If you love nothing more than returning to the world of Terre D'Ange, then you'll have fun with the book. But even as a huge fan of Carey's work, I found that the main desire aroused in me by Naamah's Blessing was to see Carey tackle another fictional world and leave Terre D'Ange behind.
Naamah's Blessing comes out in late June.