Read-along: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (Week 1)

I’ve been excited about this read-along since it was talked about back in May, having heard so many good things about Carey’s Kushiel books and never having read them. Now it’s here and blow it if I haven’t been disastrously busy all week, just when I really wanted to sink into this lusciously written brick of a book! So apologies for the slightly perfunctory answers this week, and fingers crossed for at least a few hours of uninterrupted reading time this weekend so I can catch up a bit.

Oh, and you can find details of the reading schedule and who’s hosting which weeks over on imyril’s site here. (Imyril is also responsible for our beautiful read-along banner above). And host’s questions/prompts are posted each week on the Goodreads group page here.

 

Week 1 (Chapters 1-16 inclusive)

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’ve got a fondness for maps in general, and a deep love for fantasy maps in particular, so I’m always happy to see a book start with a map. And I’m interested in this very European looking map with all the names changed … 

As for the list of Dramatis Personae, while it’s a little unnerving, especially at the beginning of so large a tome, I’m grateful for it. I feel like I’m still struggling to get a feel for the world we’re in here, so having a list of characters’ names and titles is a useful reference right now.

 

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?

Wow. Direct descendants of a rebellious angel? All of them beautiful in every way? The D’Angeline don’t suffer any kind of self-loathing, do they?!  

I found the story of Elua and his Companions fascinating and unusual, but also, and I’m not sure why, a little … uncomfortable. I’m suffering some sort of cognitive dissonance while I’m reading this and I haven’t worked out why exactly. Beauty and pleasure being holy things is an interesting angle, but it seems elitist, somehow. I don’t know … I’m hoping I’ll be able to put this into better words when I’ve read more. 

Is it wrong that I’m secretly hoping for us to see how outside cultures view the D’Angeline, and that those views will be more critical?  

 

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?

Let’s answer that last part of the question first: I wouldn’t patronise or belong to any of the Houses. I am not being self-deprecating when I say that I do not meet any standard of beauty, so I’d have been thrown out the window at birth (or whatever it is the D’Angelline do with their less-than-perfect children, which, of course, Phédre’s not able to tell us, being as she scraped through). I would not exist in this world. Simple as.  

The Court of Night Blooming Flowers, service to Namaah and the earning of marques all sounds so luscious and high fantasy that I am both enraptured and repelled. Thankfully, Phédre is learning to be a spy as well as an adept, and I am so here for the political world she is slowly uncovering. I like that she is writing from some indeterminate future time when she knows so much more, and that she keeps dropping little hints about the price she’s had to pay for what she’s learned. 

 

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?

As we are only seeing Delaunay through the eyes of those who love him, I am assuming he deserves their love. I don’t feel that he is necessarily a *bad* character, but I do feel that he is using Alcuin and Phédre without any real concern for what it may cost them in the long run. He appears to be playing a very long game … I’m not sure I know what the stakes are right now.  

I have many foreboding feelings about how Phédre and Alcuin’s opinions of their master might change over the course of the book. I want to believe Delaunay is a good guy, but I’m worried that he’s not (his friends calling him “the spider” doesn’t suggest good things, really). I like Hyacinthe’s suggestion that he is Edmée de Rocailles’ brother because that at least makes some sense to me, but if he is, what exactly is he trying to achieve, since all the main players in her demise appear to be dead themselves? I feel like I’m lacking (or have failed to take in) some vital information that will help me understand what is driving Delaunay, so this is all I’m prepared to say for fear of being thought a right dummy.

 

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

It made me like her more to hear her acknowledge that Hyacinthe is the only person who doesn’t want something from her. Carey writes Phédre’s youth so well sometimes that I keep expecting disasters to befall her, then she’ll say something like this and remind me that she has been raised to supply others’ needs and has been bought and sold and is a lot more canny than I keep thinking she is. Hyacinthe is also someone who came into her life, and remains in it, because of her own choices and actions. I like that more headstrong aspect of her nature.

But it also tugged at my heart a bit. She might adore Delaunay, she might by friends with Alcuin, but she only has one real friend.  

 

Last but not least, the big week one check-in: now that you have seen a Showing and witnessed Phèdre’s first assignation, are you still in?

I am still here … I’m very embarrassed, but still here.

I went into this read-along trusting imyril’s opinion of Kushiel’s Dart and the wonderfully purple prose and promise of schemes and intrigue is definitely living up to my expectations so far. I could do without the more graphic descriptions (I never need to know what people are doing with their nether regions), but I also see they have a place in the story Carey is telling. Now I know the kind of detail Carey will use for such scenes however, I may need to start reading them the way my Nana used to: with a sharp intake of breath and a quick flick forward past the offending page(s) and back onto the solid ground of story.

 

17 thoughts on “Read-along: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (Week 1)

  1. Oh I’m glad this is hitting the right note in many ways and not just overwhelming you with its explicit kink!

    Let me reassure you right now: you haven’t missed anything about Delaunay. This first week’s chapters have been so coy, or rather: Delaunay had an incredible knack for keeping his students in the dark, and I’m bemused and amazed that none of his friends accidentally let something slip – or that one of Phèdre’s marks didn’t tell her more. I guess Childric d’Essoms didn’t realise how much he’d upset Delaunay by telling Phèdre bits of his history that are presumably common knowledge at Court or he surely would have done it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so relieved I haven’t missed something key, thank you. And I’m now even more intrigued to learn about Delaunay!! 😀
      As to the kink – ha! I’m ridiculously impressed with myself for having a greater tolerance for it than I expected! 😀

      Like

  2. I just started it so I will probably catch-up and join the discussion for Week 2 but, since I’m re-reading it, I can still read all the discussion posts and that’s very interesting!
    I’m glad you are enjoying it, even with all the explicit scenes… 🤣
    The first time I read the book, I was so busy discovering the world and the characters that I missed a lot of things and it’s funny to see all the little hints after reading the whole series. My opinion of Delaunay has changed a lot and now, I see him more for what he is. He loves keeping everyone in the dark and is definitely more a spider than “just” a poet. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh I just stumbled on this while blog hopping- I’ve never read this- but it sounds fascinating! I’m always a sucker for a nice fantasy map too… sounds like a really immersive world, and characters training to be spies is always fun. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is giving me so much Kushiel FOMO haha. I’d never actually heard of these books until fairly recently, when I mentioned my love of fantasy intrigue on the old bird app and several people recommended this series. I’ll get round to reading to them one day but for now I’ll be reading it vicariously through your readalong posts 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh your thoughts made me laugh so much! 😄

    I also feel quite overwhelmed with some, if not most, aspects of the novel so far. I am also heartily glad of the Dramatis Personae now as you are throwing up names I’ve already forgotten and it’s only been a few days!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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