Imriel's Trilogy, Book 1
Description (taken from Goodreads):
Imriel de la Courcel's blood parents are history's most reviled traitors, but his adoptive parents, the Comtesse Phèdre and the warrior-priest Joscelin, are Terre d'Ange's greatest champions.
Stolen, tortured, and enslaved as a young boy, Imriel is now a Prince of the Blood, third in line for the throne in a land that revels in art, beauty, and desire. It is a court steeped in deeply laid conspiracies ... and there are many who would see the young prince dead. Some despise him out of hatred for his birth mother Melisande, who nearly destroyed the realm in her quest for power. Others because they fear he has inherited his mother's irresistible allure - and her dangerous gifts. And as he comes of age, plagued by dark yearnings, Imriel shares their fears.
At the royal court, where gossip is the chosen poison and assailants wield slander instead of swords, the young prince fights character assassins while struggling with his own innermost conflicts. But when Imriel departs to study at the famed University of Tiberium, the perils he faces turn infinitely more deadly. Searching for wisdom, he finds instead a web of manipulation, where innocent words hide sinister meanings, and your lover of last night may become your hired killer before dawn. Now a simple act of friendship will leave Imriel trapped in a besieged city where the infamous Melisande is worshiped as a goddess; where a dead man leads an army; and where the prince must face his greatest test: to find his true self.
While this is book one in Imriel's Trilogy, it's actually book four in the Kushiel Universe. So if you're new to this story, be sure to check out Kushiel's Dart. This story is the beginning of Imriel's take on Terre d'Ange. He lives in a city blessed by Elua where the main command is Love as thou wilt. But Imriel has spent his teenage years living in his foster parents' shadows: the Comtesse Phèdre, the city's most infamous courtesan, and Joscelin, a deadly Cassiline warrior who gave up his vows in the name of love. As this story suggests, Imriel makes it out in the world once he is of age and begins to create his own heroic tales.
Imriel, a prince of the blood, has spent his later childhood years knowing he was born as a tool to help overthrow the ruling family: House Courcel. With the shadow of his mother surrounding him, his loyalties are often questioned. No one knows if he truly supports his cousins, Sidonie and Alais, who are above him in succession. And the pressures of court get to him. When he is finally of age, he denounces his name and looks towards knowledge in Tiberium. While there, he studies under a philosopher and makes new friends as well as enemies. But only time and dangerous situations will test his loyalties to determine who he truly is.
These stories are so well-laid out that you forget how long they are while reading them. There are so many connections and intrigue within this world that it becomes a well-rounded life you are reading. And this story has everything: love, war, lies, mysticism, friends, and family. While I enjoy these books, I felt like Imriel's beginning left a little to be desired in the grand scheme of his world. It set the scene and introduced him as the newest protagonist, but the story I'm looking for is yet to come (like when are they going to find his mother and get retribution?). However it was still good.
These books are pure fantasy meant for adults. They're set in olden times where the gods are still young and mysticism isn't superstition. I highly suggest reading Kushiel's Dart if you are a high fantasy lover looking for a book to steal a lot of your time. The books are huge and sometimes daunting but worth it.