Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 3)

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.

Those interested in my thoughts on part one and part two can read those posts at the links. A lot happened in this week’s reading (spoiler warning!) and I feel like I finally got interested! Here are my answers to the questions for part three. Just FYI, there are a lot of questions, so this may be a long post!

Phédre slipped during her assignment with Melisande and mentioned that Delaunay is “waiting for word from Quintilius Rousse.” She believed this slip contributed to Delaunay’s murder, but Melisande assured Phédre that she’d already known that information.
• Do you think Delaunay was right to keep Phédre unaware of his identity, motivations, and true intentions to prevent such slips on her assignments?

No, I think that Delaunay was wrong to to keep Phedre unaware of his intentions for many reasons. One is to prevent such slips, yes. But another is that Phedre is thrust into a dangerous world, working for Delaunay. She can’t make an informed decision about whether or not she wants to take that risk, without knowing why. I think that’s my biggest issue with his secrecy. Ultimately it doesn’t protect anyone, it puts Phedre at risk of these kinds of slips, and it robs her of agency.

Delaunay, Alcuin, and the entire household are murdered.
• What are your thoughts on the manner in which this happens (Melisande using Phédre; it occurring shortly after Phédre’s assignment with Melisande; unidentified soldiers committing this crime; entire household killed)? Do you think Phédre and Joscelin were lucky to escape, or is Phédre as unlucky as she believes her name to be?

I don’t think Phedre is nearly as unlucky as she believes herself to be. She was born into a world and a society where a high value is set by her gifts. That gives her a kind of power. She’s also able to take personal enjoyment in the work and the role that society put her in. That is lucky. And yes, Phedre and Joscelin were lucky that they weren’t at the house when the murder took place. Would Joscelin have been about to prevent it if he’d been there? It’s hard to say. It depends on how it was carried out, and how many people were involved in the attack.

I don’t know what I think about Melisande’s role in the murder yet. But I think that Phedre was very naive to go with her and trust her after it happened. Ditto for Joscelin. As a bodyguard, who also distrusts Melisande, it seems like he should have known better than to go along with her and eat/drink anything she gave him!

• Do you think it’s significant that this murder takes place when Phédre has gained enough to complete her marque — that her guardian dies at the moment when she’s able to gain freedom from Naamah’s service, if she wants it?

From a literary point of view, I suppose this means that she’s come into her own. It’s a sort of personal milestone. Now she has a fresh start in a sense: a new location, with new characters (and one familiar face with Joscelin)

But I don’t know if it was intentional on the part of the murderer!

• Do you think Phédre will be able to have her marque completed? Do you have any predictions of how her unfinished marque might affect her in the future?

No, to be honest, I didn’t really think of the marque being unfinished very much. At one point Phedre mentions that if she’s ever able to return home, the marquest will complete it for her. As far as I understand, the completion of the actual marque is symbolic more than anything else.

• Is it just me, or are you also curious about this strong, compulsive attraction Phédre has to Melisande to the point where she can’t even think straight sometimes? What are your thoughts on this? Do you think Melisande is as drawn to Phédre, or is she simply fascinated by Phédre being an anguissette and what Phédre’s limits are?

That’s a good question. It’s interesting that I never really though about whether or not it was mutual. I think that Melisande strikes me as so icy and manipulative, that I simply assumed that she was fascinated by Phedre’s limits!

We get to meet the Skaldi!

What were your initial thoughts when Phédre and Joscelin were handed over to them? Were you disappointed that Phédre did not try to fight like Joscelin did or aid him? Were you frustrated by her seeming to surrender or impressed by her quick assessment of the situation or didn’t care and wanted to the story to take a different route?

I was actually a bit disappointed in Joscelin’s attempts to fight. It obviously wasn’t a fight that he was going to win. Phedre’s move seemed much smarter. I think we see Delaunay’s influence in her quick assessment of the situation and her seeming surrender. Phedre seems impulsive by nature, but I think this is an example of her keeping a clear head despite what might be a natural impulse (to fight) in a situation this. She remains cool and calm. She speaks to the the Skaldi in their own language, and puts them at ease.

What do you think of the Skaldi (lifestyle, culture, government, thinking the d’Angelines are barbarians, etc.) and how Gunter’s people treat Phédre and Joscelin?

I think it’s interesting that the Skaldi think that the d’Angelines are barbarians, and that the d’Angeline’s tend to regard the Skaldi in much the same way. In reality, I think that both have barbaric traits, but also very benevolent, civilized traits. Overall, I think that the Skaldi treat Phedre fairly well (with the exception of Gunter, who we can argue, rapes Phedre) and Joscelin poorly at least initially. But then Joscelin’s behavior toward them was violent, so I can see why they responded the way that they did.

Phédre and Joscelin’s relationship is slowly changing. This began before Delaunay’s death when Joscelin shared a bit about his background with Phédre and Alcuin, but the change grew by leaps when Phédre and Joscelin become slaves to the Skaldi.
• Do you have any predictions about where/what these changes will lead to?

At a few points I got a sense of sexual/romantic tension between them. I don’t know what (if anything) will become of it, but it would definitely be a challenge to manage. Joscelin is supposed to be celibate, and Phedre is extremely sexual, so I don’t know how that could ever happen in a way that would be satisfying to both. I’m interested to see where it leads though.

I would like some scenes where Joscelin and Phedre just talk and get to know each other better though. I think those scenes are skipped over in a lot of Phedre’s relationships, and as a result the relationships don’t always feel as deep to me as they’re meant to.


• As their enslavement under the Skaldi persists, both Phédre and Joscelin seem to gain a greater understanding of the sacrifices their representative angels made. What do you think about the roles Phédre and Joscelin have to play in comparison to the acts of the angels they worship? (Phédre serves Naamah, who laid with strangers to protect and aid someone she loves; Joscelin serves Cassiel, who remained Elua’s companion despite having to turn on the One God to do so.)

I suppose that Phedre sleeping with Gunter can be seen as similar to Naamah, but she does that because she doesn’t really have a choice. It’s not really to help someone she loves. I suppose things go more easily for her because she did it willingly though. And come to think of it, she’s able to help Joscelin because she’s on good terms with Gunter…

As for Joscelin, he remains with Phedre (rather than try to escape back to Terre d’Ange) because of his vows to her.


• We’ve now gotten a couple scenes that show Joscelin’s badassery as a sword-dagger-wielding Casseline brother dude. Are you convinced of his abilities as a fighter? He’s also had to loosen his hold on some of his oaths to remain by Phédre’s side. How do you think that will affect him?

I’m pretty convinced at his abilities as a fighter. The only thing that struck me as a bit unrealistic was his ability to fight so well, after not being able to practice for so long. It’s hard to stay in shape like that! But it’s fiction after all. These people are also all bizarrely attractive. Maybe it’s the same kind of thing!

I think that the fact that he’s able to loosen some of those oaths may indicate that in the future, under the right circumstances, he might feel OK about loosening some of his other vows.

We meet Waldemar Selig, the Skaldi who aims to unite all Skaldis and conquer Terre d’Ange.
What do you think of Selig? Were you impressed?

I think he’s certainly an intelligent, charismatic leader.


How did the way he was introduced in the story affect your impression of him when he does show up (first rumors mentioned every now and then of Skaldi joining forces under one dude; rumors of Skaldi movements indicating they have a leader; Phédre hearing stories of mythical proportions about the Skaldi leader; Phédre hearing his voice and peeking at him between tall Skaldi men; and finally seeing the dude and realizing he’s a tricksy one)? Did it increase your anticipation and curiosity about him?

Not really, because I wasn’t that interested in the early rumors of the Skaldi movements (it didn’t mean much to me at that point.) The stories Phedre initially heard, seemed more like they were about a myth than a real person. I think he only seemed real to me once Phedre heard his voice!

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

THE SCHEDULE

Discussions will begin from 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…

14 thoughts on “Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 3)

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

  2. I rather enjoy that we get an external view of Terre d’Ange. Phèdre gives us her inevitably biased, incredibly privileged perspective on the perfection of her homeland; the Skaldi gives us a much earthier counterpoint 😉 I like that she’s big enough to admit that the Skaldi aren’t the completely barbaric monsters she was raised to believe; but also that moment of horror where she has to confront that for all they can be kind and humorous and human they are also still the raiders who delight in putting border villages to the sword…

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. I think Joscelin and Phedre were in shock after the murder of their entire household when they put their trust in Melisande. Also, both were inexperienced in this level of betrayal. It’s not a mistake they will make again.

    Liked by 1 person

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