Sometimes, a character will really get under your skin. You can’t make up your mind whether you love or hate them. Your feelings can be narrowly divided by the blade of a sword. I have always had mixed feelings about this character. Every time I read the books I equally admire and hate her. Maybe one of these days I will make up my mind about her.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
Full Name: Melisande Shahrizai de la Courcel
Age: 23 when we first meet her
Occupation: Villain, biggest traitor in Terre D’Ange
Who is She?
Melisande is the main antagonist in the first two books in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. The next four books see her a bereft mother and then a shadowy character haunting the existence of her son Imriel. Melisande is a woman without morals and for the sheer pleasure of playing games she wants to rule the kingdom. The words beautiful and deadly can be used to best describe the character. Her evil plots are often foiled by Phèdre and Joscelin.
“Oh, love and hate are two sides of the same blade… and an edge finer honed than yon Cassiline’s blade divides them.” - Melisande Shahrizai, Kushiel’s Dart
Why So Crushworthy?
Melisande is the woman everyone wanted. She even has a Prince going against his family to be with her. She’s smart, beautiful, and cunning. She can match wits with anyone. She’s often one move ahead in her schemes of betrayal. I admire how much intelligence she has. She isn’t one just to rely on her looks. Melisande has whatever the female equivalent of swag is. She would capture the attention of everyone she meets. People want to do things for her. Melisande has the amorality that every good villain needs. She doesn’t have any hangups about using blackmail and assassins. Melisande wants to takeover Terre D’Ange for the mere reason just to see if she can. “Hate the game, not the player” would be her motto.
Why So Cringeworthy?
I think one my biggest reasons for not liking her is how Phèdre loses her brains when Melisande is around. Phèdre turns into a puddle of ooze when she’s around Melisande. I didn’t like her effect on Phèdre. I know Phèdre is her foil and they have some deep, god-bound connection but I still didn’t like the dynamic sometimes. Another point against Melisande is that she never gets her hands dirty. She uses other people to do her dirty deeds for her. She just stands behind the scenes and controls the action from there. I think if you are going to be a villain you have to be willing to play in the mud. Still, she’s smart enough to not have to. She never got her comeuppance either. Some would argue that Imriel getting kidnapped was divine punishment. I would have liked to have seen her pay a little for her crimes. I mean, the woman lived out the rest of her days in a beautiful, Mediterranean island. There is no justice!