If Dune met, say, Tiffany Reisz's The Siren, you might have something like Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart. I'm way late to this party, but after having everyone and their sister tell me I had to read it, I picked up a used copy and spent a couple of days with this very long -- 315,000 words -- tale of wars, erotica, and espionage.Phedre (please excuse my lack of accent marks) is considered to be damaged goods because of a red mark in her eye, and therefore won't be raised to be one of the sexual servants at one of the houses her mother was from. Fostered at one of the houses anyway, her bond is purchased by a wealthy man who recognizes her mark as something special: Essentially, it designates her as a born masochist. Yes, I don't know either, but bear with us.Her patron has another student, and the two of them are trained in both the sexual arts as well as espionage, although it's never exactly clear what game he is playing. There is a somewhat barbaric country that wants to invade theirs; there are traitors who would hand them over; there is a queen who would rule, but she may be too young...In other words, there's a lot of drama. In the meantime, Phedre's patron sends her out (essentially as her pimp) where she earns her keep, hopefully a little more for herself, which goes toward completing the tattoo on her back that will mark her as a free citizen, etc. but then it all goes to crap and she ends up -- along with her sworn priest of a guard -- as a slave to the invading nation. Can her sexual wiles save her, her guard, and her country?HOLY HELL PEOPLE! That was a lot of exposition and I didn't spoil a thing or even get to half the plot of this 900-some-odd page book. There is a lot going on, and it involves religion (back to Dune), war (see again), and sex (oh yeah, Dune was a little short on that).A lot of people are horrified and call out the pedobear/Chris Hansen watch team, but I'm oddly okay with the idea that it was a culture. We can somehow block out that six-year-old kids are sewing our cheap t-shirts at Walmart because that's part of their culture, but create a culture where children are taught to serve as part of their future as sexual servants and everyone starts running around flailing. (No children younger than 16 have sex here).What this book did need, however, was not Pedobear, but an editor. There is so much going on and the wars and the locations and 800 million people coming in and out and Oh My Hell this could have been like five books maybe. I felt like twenty years had passed by the time I got to the end of the book and was amazed that Phedre wasn't 40 or so. I was tempted to skim parts of the war stuff, because it felt like there were two books going on, and maybe one of them I didn't need to be reading. I'm still not clear on how or why some of the power brokers came into play or what all they were doing, or how the sex got involved, or why some people had to die other than to clear the way for more people to enter the plot.So after all that stream of consciousness ranting, you might be asking why on earth I gave the thing four stars. The first bit, with the world set up and the culture set up, was stellar, and easily was five-star worthy. And the parts that set up Phedre's eventual love interest were swoony enough to beat out the most adorkable young adult romance. With a tighter (or ANY) edit, this probably would have made my all-time favorites, but as it is, there was just too much of everything.