I will agree with everyone, btw, and say that you will either love the Kushiel books or hate them. I adore them -- the first trilogy, at least, which is High Political Fantasy of the very finest and scratches all my "outsider character viewed as unimportant discovers reserves of inner strength and becomes pivotally important to the political machinations of the realm" itches like whoa -- but on the first readthrough I did have to let a lot of the politics go by me without trying too hard to cling to them. It wasn't until around halfway through the first book, after the second "everything is way more fucked up than we thought" or so, that I started really understanding who all the various players and factions were.
So my advice would be, don't feel like you have to understand everyone's motivations or desires up front, because a lot of the plotting is more subtle than the standard High Fantasy drawn-in-very-broad-strokes factioneering and it takes a bit for everything to really shake out and start becoming clear. I'd give it at least until when Phedre leaves the City of Elua on a first readthrough, if not longer. Everybody does eventually start making sense and you realize all the plotting and machinations have been very internally consistent all along, it's just that the book throws a lot of names and connections at you all at once and is willing to let you flounder for a while.
I do hope you'll like it, though; it's one of my favorite High Fantasy series, precisely because of how intricate and complex the motivations are. It's not without flaws, of course, and it does suffer a bit from "this book is trying very hard to postulate a society without hangups about sex but was written by someone who was raised in a society that has a fuckton of hangups about sex and therefore is sometimes unintentionally skeevy about things it's trying very hard not to be skeevy about", worldbuilding-wise, but I do love it very much anyway. And it's got one of my favorite fictional romances ever.
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