rhinoceros hide

Kushiel's Avatar

Kushiel's Avatar is the third novel in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series. It is often referred to as the last of the Phedre Trilogy.

Plot Introduction

In the final leg of Phèdre nó Delaunay's journey, vows will be tested and the will of the gods to have a chosen of Kushiel walk the earth will finally revealed. "To damnation and beyond", the vow from long ago, will be pushed to the limit to where not even love will be held sacred. And always, there is a promise made to a friend and an angel to be put back into place. The gods use their chosen hard as the culmination of an anguissette's journey comes to a close.

Plot summary

The Missing Prince

The anguissette Comtesse Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève is contacted by her former lover and rival, Melisande Shahrizai, to find Melisande's son Imriel de la Courcel. The Prince has been missing for nearly ten years because Melisande had hidden him (see Kushiel's Chosen). Now it appears that he has gone missing from there as well. Melisande reveals that he had been hidden in an isolated Temple of Elua in Siovale, raised having no knowledge that he is a royal prince and believing that his parents are dead. Melisande has tried to find him through her extensive list of allies but has been unable to. Knowing Phèdre to be loyal to the throne (House Courcel) she asks her to find him.

Melisande and Phèdre make a deal: if Phèdre will promise to find Imriel, Melisande will give her the location of the lost tribe of Dan, whose elders know the Name of the One God, allowing Phèdre to free Hyacinthe of his terrible burden.

Following her own investigations about Imriel from various sources, Phèdre eventually finds out that Imriel had been abducted by slavers along with a couple other Siovalese children. Following their route takes her through Aragonia and Menekhet. In Menekhet she learns that the dangerous bone-priests, the Skotophagoti, from the new born kingdom of Drujan have bought Imriel. These Skotophagoti seem to control death itself and worship an evil god.

This leads Phèdre to Drujan's neighbour and once occupier, Khebbel-im-Akkad. There she learns more of the new kingdom and king of Drujan, the Mahrkagir ("Conqueror of Death"). Each piece of information is more frightening than the last. In Nineveh, Phèdre is refused aid from Khebbel-im-Akkad, despite Valere L'Envers being married to the son of the Khalif, and begins to doubt that she can save Imriel.

Kushiel's Price

Those around her beg her not to enter Drujan. As she is about to agree with them she hears Kushiel's bronze wings and feels the presence of Elua and His Companions. She tells them it is too much to ask of her. She feels sympathy from them but also their retreating. All their power, all their presence, leaving her truly empty. At this she replies that she will do this task they give her, as long as they stay with her and help her. Their powers return and she is flooded by love and sympathy. Joscelin Verreuil later tells her that at this time he saw her mote shrinking until it was barely visible, only to return an instant later in full.


Phèdre decides to enter the harem (zenana) of the ruler of Drujan, in the capital Daršanga, under the guise of a noblewoman abducted by a vengeful former lover, Joscelin Verreuil. Phèdre soon realizes that her time in Daršanga will reveal the darkest depths of depravity to which an anguissette can sink. The Mahrkagir, who witnessed the mass killing of his father's household as a child and suffered a severe blow to the head in the ordeal, is completely mad. In the bedchamber, he forbids Phèdre to commit any act which begets life, and cruelly uses her body to its limits and beyond. Elua and His Companions are with her, however. At times she feels their bright light and give her visions during these rapes, but after they leave her she feels as lost and depressed as before. She is disgusted with her nature, for she finds great desire in these vile acts that he commits and instantly becomes his prize whore.

When she finally sees Imriel in the zenana, he calls her 'Death's Whore' and spits in her face. In pain and fatigue, she leaves him alone but not without one final message - "I come from your mother, Imriel." She knows that Imriel's curiosity will get the better of his disgust and that he will come to her. True enough, eventually he came and a fragile sort of trust develops between the two.

She eventually comes to learn that in ten days she is to be offered as a sacrifice to the Angra Mainyu, the god who channels power to the Skotophagoti (in Drujan, called the Aka-Magi) by sacrificing a person they love and eating their heart, in an act called the vahmyâcam. The sacrifice symbolizes the destruction of love and a turning away from all that is good. The Mahrkagir has never known love, until Phèdre. By killing her he will become more powerful than before, perhaps also increasing the powers of the Aka-Magi, and can spread his empire across the world. She decides that she must kill the Mahrkagir on the night of the vahmyâcam as they will both be alone, unarmed, and in near darkness. She plots with the women and eunuchs of the zenana as well as Joscelin Verreuil, using Imriel as messenger, to stage an escape.

On the night of the ceremony, during the festivites in the hall, the women of the zenana taint the drinks of all the guards and guests with opium. When taken to the darkened room with the Mahrkagir, Phèdre stabs the Mahrkagir in the heart with a sharpened hair pin. With the Mahrkagir dead, the Aka-Magi loose their powers. In the hall, Joscelin and the women and boys of zenana stage their attack. The slaughter is massive and the cost high but eventually all the drugged guards and guests are killed. Joscelin's arm is badly injured in the fighting and many fighters of the zenana are dead. Phèdre, Joscelin, Imriel, and the rest of the survivors of the zenana flee to Khebbel-im-Akkad.

Prince Imriel de la Courcel

In Khebbel-im-Akkad, there is an assassination attempt on Imriel, who is third in line for the D'Angeline throne. Imriel also learns his true identity as a royal prince. He also later learns from the guards that his parents are great traitors of the realm, had a hand in the death of many people, and that his mother is living under the sanctuary of Asherat-of-the-Sea. Knowing this he now hates who he is and refuses to travel. Phèdre talks to him and tells her a kinder version of his parents, though she can not deny what they did. This brings some solace to the Prince and he agrees that he will travel back to Terre d'Ange while Phèdre and Joscelin travel onward on their search for the name of god. Imriel, however, pays a boy to pretend to be him so that he can stow away on Phèdre and Joscelin's ship headed for the city of Iskandria in Menekhet.

The Name of God

Phèdre and Joscelin find Imriel but agree to take him with them. From Iskandria they travel down the Nahar, stopping at some Temples and generally enjoying the journey. They then leave the Nahar at Majibara and ride Camels through the desert to reach Meroë. Here they meet the rulers of Jebe-Barkal and receive free passage through the land and gifts to be taken to the lost tribe of Dan in Saba. On their way, they take the last of the zenana women, Kaneka, back to her home of Debeho, a small town of huts and very friendly people.

While Phèdre's skin heals cleanly, the scars on her heart do not, and it takes many months for her and Joscelin to love and understand each other as they once did. After a rhinoceros attack in the camp, Phèdre and Joscelin go to a secluded pool and finally make love, as his caresses erase all of the physical, mental, and emotional scarring that Drujan exacted upon them both. Phèdre and Joscelin soon learn that they have grown to love Imriel as their son and that he has grown to love them like parents.

Phèdre, Joscelin, and Imriel eventually reach the lost tribe of Dan. There the people debate but decide not to let them travel to the island that contains the Name of God. The women, however, disagree with this decision and help Phèdre, Joscelin, and Imriel to escape on boat. They row toward the island of Kapporeth, where the Ark is kept. Having been betrayed, the Sabean male rulership chase after them, leading to a stand-off on the island. The doors then open and Phèdre gains access to the Temple and learns the Name of the One God. She knows that she has been given this covenant so that she may free Hyacinthe from Rahab's curse of the Master of the Straits and should not utter the Name for any other reason or face the One God's wrath.

The tribe of Dan give up their charges as they can see in her eyes that she contains the Name of God. They travel back to Tisaar and on to Meroë with a tentative re-alliance between Saba and Jebe-Barkal. In Jebe-Barkal, Phèdre is given gifts to take back to the Queen of Terre d'Ange and is given gifts of her own. Joscelin receives a traditional warriors outfit, to everyone's chagrin, and Imriel receives a rhinoceros-hide belt to hold his daggers. They travel back the way they came though the journey is very different as it is rushed and Phèdre is acting strangely because she contains the Name of God. She sees beauty everywhere and often forgets to eat or drink, her mind is filled with the Name and sometimes must bite her lips so as to not utter it.

Melisande's Agreement

From Menekhet they depart straight for La Serenissima and Melisande. Melisande promises Phèdre that if Phèdre herself would raise Imriel, Melisande will never raise a finger against Queen Ysandre's daughters and will never use any form of trickery against the D'Angeline throne.

Terre d'Ange

Phèdre presents Imriel in Terre d'Ange to the Queen, where she is punished by Queen Ysandre for not having sent Prince Imriel back to Terre d'Ange and instead taking him with them on a dangerous journey. Her punishment is that she must stay in the City of Elua until Drustan mab Necthana, the Cruarch of Alba and Ysandre's husband, returns to Terre d'Ange in the spring. Phèdre is upset about this, since she knows the Name of God and wants to help Hyacinthe immediately. Phedre, however, has her own boon to ask. Phedre asks Ysandre for custody of Imriel, as foster parents. Ysandre refuses but Phedre uses her promise from over ten years ago -- a favour that she can never be denied. This is the favour that she asks. The Queen agrees reluctantly and insists that Imriel and her daughters must still have a relationship and that visits by the prince will need to be frequent.

Upon the Drustan mab Necthana's return she journeys to the Straits and frees Hyacinthe from the curse with the Name of God.

Upon their return to the City of Elua, Phedre throws an enormous party for Hyacinthe's return. Hyacinthe, refusing leadership of the Tsingani, helps choose a new leader for the Tsingani, because he desires to move to Alba to live with Sibeal, Drustan's sister, whom he has come to love.

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