Read-along: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (Week 3)

It’s week three of this Wyrd and Wonder read-along and there are some new players on the board in Kushiel’s Dart. To guide us through the ever more complex world that Carey has created we have some thought-provoking questions from this week’s host ZeeZee of ZeeZee with Books. Details for this read-along can be found in imyril’s post here (she’s also the one providing links to participants’ posts) and each week’s prompts are posted on the Goodreads group here.


And please note that there are SPOILERS throughout!


Week 3 (chapters 32-47 inclusive)

Phèdre 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 Phèdre that she’d already known that information. Do you think Delaunay was right to keep Phèdre unaware of his identity, motivations, and true intentions to prevent such slips on her assignments?

I think Melisande probably did already know what Phèdre let slip and that it may have been confirmation she was after. I feel like Delaunay was the sort of character who enjoyed keeping secrets and being deliberately cautious. There was, perhaps, an element of control in there too. He certainly underestimated Phèdre by not trusting her with his identity and motivations, and I think it’s been made pretty clear that Melisande is the only person who could have provoked such a slip. I also get the impression that it won’t happen a second time.


Delaunay, Alcuin, and the entire household are murdered. What are your thoughts on the manner in which this happens? Do you think Phèdre and Joscelin were lucky to escape, or is Phèdre as unlucky as she believes her name to be?

Holy crap! For all that her reminiscent tone had suggested she was telling her story after Delaunay’s death, I didn’t expect him to die in the story. And I didn’t expect Alcuin to die at all. (Is it wrong that I was just a little, tiny, teensy bit pleased that this put an end to Delaunay and Alcuin’s relationship?) While this was a heck of a shock, I felt far more for Phèdre’s loss than I did for Delaunay and my first thought was ‘well now I might start to understand what’s going on’!

Everything about the circumstances of these murders stinks, however. Phèdre being away from home at the time, Melisande just happening to come across her and Joscelin at the Palace … stinky! And I don’t believe Melisande didn’t mean for Delaunay to die. So, no, I don’t think Phèdre and Joscelin were lucky at all.


Is it just me, or are you also curious about this strong, compulsive attraction Phèdre 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 Phèdre, or is she simply fascinated by Phèdre being an anguissette and what Phèdre’s limits are?

Yes, I’m very curious about this. I wonder if it’s some sort of prey instinct almost, like she senses that Melisande is her equal and opposite number – a perfect dominator for her angelically-gifted submission. I don’t know, I am very naïve when it comes to BDSM and I’m still trying to understand. That Melisande is a danger to Phèdre in every way is the only thing that’s one-hundred percent clear to me.

Melisande, though, I think she’s an incredibly amoral character, so I feel she’s attracted to Phèdre because she has such different limits compared with most people. I feel like Melisande is the kind of person who always wants to test the limits of things and that that is an end in itself for her. I can’t think of any other motive for her actions.


We get to meet the Skaldi! What were your initial thoughts when Phèdre and Joscelin were handed over to them? Were you disappointed that Phèdre 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?

My initial thoughts were that everything was starting to look a bit clearer. I was maybe a little bit disappointed to discover that d’Aiglemort is aiming for the crown – I was starting to think there might be a bit more to all this than just a human power struggle – but I was also excited to finally meet another people.

I wasn’t disappointed that Phèdre didn’t try to fight, I wouldn’t have expected her to and I feel it would have been completely out of character. Instead, I thought she played it very smart. I like that she thinks like a survivor: she listens and learns, she assesses her own value through the eyes of her new owners and she watches for opportunities.


What do you think of the Skaldi and how Gunter’s people treat Phèdre and Joscelin?

It’s interesting to finally see the D’Angeline from an outside perspective and I found it thought-provoking that the Skaldi and the D’Angeline are quite different physically, particularly when it comes to hairiness and stature. This was the first time I actually started to wonder if the D’Angeline really are descended from angels. Up until now, I’ve assumed that this was just their creation myth (although Phèdre’s visions of Kushiel hinted at something more).


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

As the only two survivors of the Delaunay House Massacre and having been sold into slavery together, their finding some measure of comfort in each other seems natural. I am loving their developing relationship, but I feel like it can’t end happily if they end up falling in love with each other. Thankfully, I think they have a lot on their plates right now. I hope they’ll escape together and get back to Terre d’Ange and I hope they stick together afterwards, but I don’t want to make any predictions because I’ll either be deeply disappointed or heartbroken if I’m wrong. Right now I’m just glad they have each other.


As their enslavement under the Skaldi persists, both Phèdre and Joscelin seem to gain a greater understanding of the sacrifices their representative angels made. What do you think about the roles Phèdre and Joscelin have to play in comparison to the acts of the angels they worship?

This has been fascinating. When Phèdre felt she more fully understood what Namaah had done for love of Eluah in sleeping with strangers, I think that’s when it actually sank in properly for me that these are her beliefs. The idea of sex being a religious act is so completely alien to me that I think I’ve been turning a blind eye to it. Certainly, I’ve found Joscelin’s beliefs and behaviours easier to understand than hers.

I don’t think I can really say much more than that at the moment because it’s still sinking in.


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? How did the way he was introduced in the story affect your impression of him when he does show up?

He’s not just a rumour! I was hoping he was going to be in the story, but as I said last week, I was also really struggling to get a feel for what/who were going to be important and relevant and what/who were just background.

With the build up to meeting him I feel Carey has made him feel like a substantial threat to Terre d’Ange: stories about him are circulating, he’s uniting a strong and warlike people, and he’s a thinker. I also can’t help but think that in another author’s hands it would be Waldemar’s story front and centre and Phèdre would be a tertiary character (and a bad guy) at most. So, hurrah for Jacqueline Carey!

I’m very worried about Phèdre and Joscelin now though. I think they were lucky (after a fashion) with Gunter, and I anticipate that they won’t be so fortunate a second time. I don’t like all the mean looks the two of them are getting from Waldemar’s people …


The next post for this read-along can be found here:

Week 4 – Chapters 48 to 61 inclusive



  1. I’m so worried about Phedre and Josce too!!
    Also same here on just thinking the D’Angelines being descended from angels was just their creation myth. But at the same time, I wonder if Phedre is just being extremely biased when she compares the Skaldi to the D’Angelines. I’m just suspicious of everything lol.

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  2. Phèdre and Melisande relationship is one hell of a complicated mess, in my first read I had the impression that the feelings were one sided and that Phèdre was completely manipulated by a heartless Melisande but now, I also think that Melisande isn’t completely untouched by Phèdre. Letting Phèdre and Joscelin survive the murder of the Delaunay’s household is probably her dumbest move and I suspect she did it because she has some complicated feelings towards Phèdre.

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  3. I had forgotten the way this book has Phèdre overtly and repeatedly consider her actions in the light of her religion. …and I really like it? The cornerstones of both ‘love as thou wilt’ and ‘Naamah’s Service’ are so thoroughly revisited from so many angles as we go along (and I love how Joscelin brings a new perspective to Cassiel and his sacrifices / self-denial)

    The world-building and the story-telling are gorgeously intertwined.

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