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…

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 2)

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.

If you’re interested in my thoughts on the first part of the book, check out my post here. I’ve now read through Chapter 32 of the book, and I’m starting to get more interested in Phedre’s life with Delaunay and Alcuin. I was invested in Alcuin’s completion of his marque and the complication with poor Guy. But so much of the politics is still over my head. With so much time and space being give to that, I feel that I’m missing out on a lot. I try to follow it, but the weird names all blend together, and I’ll be like “who is that?” and of course they all have complicated backstories… So I haven’t formed an opinion of the book overall just yet. I’m definitely intrigued, but I’m not hooked. Here are my answers for the questions about part 2.

We get a few more hints of magic or the supernatural in this section. Phedre sees Kushiel’s visage after Alcuin is injured; Hyacinthe’s mom & he himself both have things revealed via the dromonde; that moment of deep peace at Elua’s statue. What do you think of magic in this world?

I actually didn’t regard this as magic/supernatural per se. Rather, I see it as the characters and their religion. Often people will speak of a feeling of deep peace at prayer. People can sometimes think they see religious figures in times of high stress and trauma. We don’t usually think of that as magic really. As for the dromonde, I see it as the a psychic kind of thing. When people go to see psychics we don’t think of it as doing magic. Again its about the power of belief.

I suppose you can argue that faith and magic are the same thing ultimately. But I don’t think that the characters would regard these things as a belief in magic/supernatural.

Q2) More politics! For those new to the series, what do you make of Baudoin and his mother, the Lioness of Azzalle? For those rereading, are you noticing details you missed before?

I think that I followed the broad outlines of this case, but I probably missed a lot of subtleties. I don’t know what I think of the Lioness of Azzalle. But I definitely wasn’t sorry to see Baudoin go. He always struck me as a spoiled brat!

Q3) What do you think of Alciun’s final assignation? Guy’s death? Would Alcuin have been happier, but perhaps less useful, as something other than Naamah’s servant?

I think this was the storyline I was the most invested in, because it was exactly the kind of situation I thought had the potential to emerge from the system of indentured servitude that exists in this world. Yes, Alcuin was asked if he wanted to become a servant of Naamah, but it’s not like he was ever given an alternative. He was in a position where he owed a debt to Delaunay, and this was the only way people seem to have of repaying that debt. I don’t blame him for taking the only way out that he saw. It was unfortunate that it ended in tragedy for Guy.

Q4) Phedre has a new bodyguard – a Casseline Brother, Joscelin Verreuil. What do you think his life was like before this posting? Are you surprised that Anafiel didn’t dismiss him after the confrontation with Childric d’Essoms?

I really wanted to know more about Casseline Brothers and what all that’s about. All Phedre really gives us is a brief aside, that tells us that they have contempt for her profession. Most of the other things we learn about them have been little bits and pieces from Joscelin. I do hope we learn more because I think this has potential for interesting conflict.

Q5) We finally meet Barquiel L’Envers. How dangerous do you think this man is? What do you make of his history with Anafiel?

Again this was a situation that confused me, because I don’t understand the background. I’m hoping that a lot of this will be clarified as I continue reading. Actually I feel like a great deal of my confusion is due to the fact that I don’t understand what Delaunay’s goal ultimately is. I don’t understand where he’s coming from or what he wants.

Q6) How did you feel about Phedre granting Childric another assignation? Was she right that she owed him a debt?

I think a lot of the time, I don’t follow Phedre’s logic. This is one example. I understand that from a religious perspective, Phedre is betraying her service to Namaah by going into the assignation with an ulterior motive. But isn’t that true of all of her assignations? I don’t understand why she felt the need to repay Childric rather than any of her other patrons.

Q7) Alcuin has completed his marque and displays it to Anafiel. How do you feel about the shift in their relationship? Phedre’s response to it?

I was little surprised by the shift in their relationship because I saw Delaunay as a father figure. It was surprising to see it shift to romantic/sexual with Alcuin. I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that Delaunay also in a position power over Alcuin. You can argue that’s no longer the case, now that Alcuin has made he marque, but he grew up with Delaunay having significant power over his life. That doesn’t just go away overnight.

I was also a bit puzzled by Phedre’s reaction. She doesn’t seem to have any kind of romantic/sexual attraction to either Alcuin (who seems more like a brother) or Delaunay (who seems more like a father). So why would it bother her if they’re together? Is it just the fact that there’s something between them that doesn’t include her? She’s often jealous of the attention that Alcuin gets….

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…

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…