A daring escape from the prison island of La Dolorosa! Rescued from near-death at sea by pirates! Taken as hostage to a secret island! It’s been a whirlwind ride for Phèdre this week and we’re pausing on a cliffhanger to take stock.
Each week’s prompts, links to other readers’ responses and the reading schedule for this read-along can all be found on this Goodreads page here. It’s my turn to ask the questions for this segment, so let’s get going …
… but be warned, it’s SPOILERS all the way!
Week 4: Chapters 45 to 55 inclusive
What are your thoughts/feelings on Phèdre’s escape from La Dolorosa? Specifically, how do you feel about her decision to accept Melisande’s offer, Tito and Joscelin’s roles in her escape, and the vow she made to Asherat? (Along with anything else you want to add).
As soon as she heard the commotion outside, I knew Joscelin had come for her. The desperate one-man attack on a sea-wracked fortress is such a Joscelin move. I may even have rolled my eyes … just a little.
But of course, we all know there’d be no story if she remained in La Dolorosa and I was rather proud of her for freeing her fellow inmates and getting as far as she did before finding herself at the wrong end of something sharp and pointy. She’s no coward, even if she does say so herself.
For all that it was short-lived, I liked her relationship with Tito. I know, I know, the big, simple guard with a heart-of-gold is a massive cliché, but it’s one I have a soft spot for (kindness in unexpected places kills me every time), and that he helped her escape along in no small way had me glassy eyed. (Moments like this always make me think of that line “nobody thinks about the henchman’s family” from – don’t judge me – Austin Powers. That goofy movie ruined me with that line, because now I always think of the henchman’s family, and who knows, Tito’s interior life could have been so beautiful, but we’ll never know now).
(And would you rather have seen Phèdre become the *ahem* personal prisoner of Melisande than get saved by a pirate?)
Yes. Yes I would.
Pirates! A dragon! A secret island! Woo! What do you make of pirate captain Kazan Atrabiades? And how do you feel about his ‘relationship’ with Phèdre?
Did anyone else’s heart skip a beat when Phèdre saw the kríavbhog? I thought all my dreams had come true for a moment – Phèdre tames dragons with her impossible beauty and takes them home to Terre d’Ange where they eat all the traitors and burn Melisande to ash! Woo! – and even when it was revealed to be a phantom curse-dragon instead, my chest was still a bit fluttery.
Kazan though. I really don’t like his arrangement with Phèdre. He isn’t a patron, and she says herself he’s not someone she would choose for a patron. And this isn’t done in Naamah’s Service. Her consent is given because she doesn’t really have much choice and just because sex is what she does, doesn’t make this questionable agreement any easier to read. It’s all just a bit icky. I don’t dislike Kazan, he’s interesting and I hope he sticks around long enough for us to learn how this blood-curse thing works and whether he ever breaks free from it, but that still doesn’t make it any better.
Yet more of the map has been filled in this week. Do you have any thoughts to share about what Phèdre and we have learnt of Illyria and its relationship with Terre d’Ange and La Serenissima?
I found this all really interesting. I don’t know how pertinent it’s going to be to the wider plot, but I appreciated learning about the influence of Chowat on Illyrian beliefs, Terre d’Ange’s failure to help the country in the past and La Serenissima’s oppression of Illyria now. It makes for a deeper and more satisfying world, even when it’s only lightly sketched in as it is at the moment. I also liked that Phèdre didn’t know about Terre d’Ange and Illyria’s history, that she seemed surprised to discover her country is not as perfect as she sees it. I’m all for her coming to question her own country and its place amongst its neighbours.
Finally, a broader question: what are your thoughts on the various gods and religions we’ve seen? Do you think all deities are real in this world? And if they are, what are your feelings about some of the things being done in their name?
I do think all deities are real here. Otherwise Asherat wouldn’t have taken a hand in Phèdre’s survival, Phèdre wouldn’t be able to see Kazan’s curse-dragon … Phèdre’s own gods wouldn’t exist, born as they were from the blood of Yeshua ben Yosef, son of the One God, and the Magdalene’s tears. And I’m loving it. It’s a heck of a thing to have written a book in which many different religious groups share some gods or stories and those gods still work in people’s lives. Kushiel’s bronze face and wings have made a few appearances now, but Phèdre has also been touched by Asharat, in return for her vow to cleanse Asharat’s temple of the political fiddling that’s going on there.
I’m intrigued about the level of involvement these deities have – Kushiel makes brief blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visits, Asherat doesn’t express her divine wrath at her temple herself, but accepts Phèdre’s promise to sort it out – are they distant to allow for free will? How much power do they have in Phèdre’s world? Is there a price for blasphemy? Is there divine reward and punishment?
Can Asherat not act except through others? Is this true for them all? And to what purpose?