Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 1)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

I’ve abut twenty chapters into the book right now (but this post will only discuss the first sixteen) and I’ll say that the jury’s out on my opinion. It wasn’t a book that grabbed me initially, and it might have been a DNF if I hadn’t had the read along giving me additional motivation (and the knowledge that it has a very devoted fan base that I’ve heard rave about it) However, I did find the opening to be rather off putting in several ways.

Here’s my response to some of the questions.

You know it’s an epic fantasy when it starts with not only a map but a list of Dramatis Personae. How do you feel about this approach to beginning a new story? Do you read the character list or use it for reference along the way?

I often find this a bit intimidating to be honest. It’s like the author is saying: “This is going to be tough going, so here are some study aids. You’ll have your first quiz on Thursday.” I often skip right past it. I mean, before I’ve started reading, the names of characters and places aren’t going to mean much to me. As I start they (hopefully!) gain more relevance to me. But hopefully, at that point, I’m too caught up in the world of the book to remember that stuff in the beginning. I’ve learned not to let the maps and character lists put me off too much, since it’s pretty common in fantasy. But it’s not my favorite approach for beginning a story.

What are your first impressions of Elua and his Companions, and of D’Angeline culture? Are you comfortable with the way in which Jacqueline Carey has reimagined the world?

I’m certainly alright with the way that Jacqueline Carey built her world, but I’m not a fan of how she related it to the readers, via info dump. I think an easy way to get the information across to readers might have been to have us learn about it alongside Pherdre in her childhood lessons. I wasn’t a fan of having Phedre lecture the readers on all of this in an early chapter. It’s a lot of information to take in early on, and it’s not given in a “friendly” way.

Phèdre’s story begins in the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers. What are your thoughts on the Court, its adepts, the service of Naamah and the earning of marques? What House would you patronise – or belong to?

For me, some of this is still a little fuzzy.

I think the acceptance of sex work (for lack of a better term) as a respectable career path, and an art in and of itself, is interesting. But the indentured servitude system doesn’t sit comfortably with me. How a marque is earned also isn’t clear to me just yet. It seems to be based on tips, which means that someone who isn’t lucky in terms of patrons could be indentured for a long period of time or potentially forever. Also, while the adepts do enter into the profession willingly, but it seems as if they are groomed of it from childhood, and not really presented with alternatives. Therefore, it’s a choice, but it’s one they’re groomed, pressured, and guided to make.

I understand that different courts cater to different tastes/predilections, but they don’t take on their own identities (at least thus far) for me either.

Guy, Alcuin and Phèdre are all devoted to the mysterious Anafiel Delaunay. Do you think he deserves their love? For first time readers, what are your theories about his past – and what do you think he is trying to achieve?

I’d say that the jury is still out on Anafiel Delaunay. I don’t have any theories about his past or his ultimate goal, and that’s my problem with him so far. He has three characters (that we know of) devoted to his service to the point where they’re going into potentially dangerous situations for him. Yet they don’t know why, because he doesn’t tell them what he’s trying to achieve! They all seem to think “Delaunay wants it, so it must be right.”

My other issues with that thread of the story, is that all of the politics are largely going over my head at this point. Delaunay has all these allies and enemies and they all have their own agendas, and weird, names and it’s hard for me to keep them straight! I’m hoping that some of that becomes more clear as time goes on.

What do you make of Phèdre’s choice of signale?

It makes sense that Phedre would use the name of the person that she considers her only friend as her “safe word.” But (much like with Delaunay) I don’t really have a sense of what Hyacinthe has done to earn her devotion. He’s been someone she visits over the years. He’s been someone she enjoys spending time with, but I don’t have a sense of a deeper emotional connection. That’s a problem, becaus I definitely feel like I should.

Last but not least, the big week one check-in: are you still in?

Absolutely!

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

The Schedule

Discussions will begin from today (Thursday 3rd September):

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

15 thoughts on “Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 1)

  1. Pingback: Read-along: Kushiel’s Dart – week one

  2. It does get off to a slow start, doesn’t it? Big emphasis on little details – we’ve really had such a zoomed in view of the world because Phèdre (weird though it seems to say so given her sexual maturity) has had such a sheltered life so far. I must admit I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed by all the character names thrown at me, even though I recognise some from previous rereads – although a lot of that has been “you’re significant, but I can’t remember why/how” – but not to the point of going back to check in the Dramatis Personae. I sort of feel those belong as an appendix, but I must admit that when they’re presented at the end I never find them if I’m reading an ebook.

    It’s interesting to reread after many years – I’m definitely looking askance at the Night Court this read, but also surprised myself by finding young Phèdre so naive (which makes sense, but… I’d not remembered her that way).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad you are giving this book a chance even though it hasn’t wowed you with the first section. And you’re right about the infodumps. I love this story but even I can sometimes sigh a little with the few lengthy infodumps we have. As for the politics, the story does a good job of untangling that and laying it out clearly as the story unfolds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s what I’ve been hoping. I think that as I have a better sense of the world of the story some of the politics will start to make a bit more sense. I think a lot of epic fantasy does this info-dump with the world-building fairly early on and it’s just the stuff that you have to get through, before we get to the good stuff! I do feel that now there are interesting characters and situations being laid out now.

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  4. I think I agree with every single one of your points (other than maps – I love maps!). I found the opening 150 pages a very slow experience where a lot of information was unceremoniously dumped on me in quite tiresome, florid language.

    I find the indentured servitude more akin to slavery and the Houses openly groom small children into the position of sex workers. I did love the idea that sex work was a respected and valued profession but the execution made me more than a little uncomfortable.

    I’m hoping that with the advent of Phèdre’s adult life some of these issues will go away and we’ll be left more ‘in the moment’.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Read-along: Kushiel’s Dart – week two

  6. Pingback: Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 2) | Fran Laniado- Author

  7. Pingback: Read-along: Kushiel’s Dart – week three

  8. Pingback: Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 3) | Fran Laniado- Author

  9. Pingback: Read-along: Kushiel’s Dart – week four

  10. Pingback: Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 4) | Fran Laniado- Author

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