Read-along: Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey (week 5)

Kushiel's Chosen a Wyrd and Wonder Read Along

It’s the fifth week of the Wyrd and Wonder read-along of Kushiel’s Chosen and we’ve escaped death, faced the thelatos, visited Illyria and been smuggled back into La Serenissima with Phèdre. Now, finally, we are facing the end game, so let’s take a quick breather and restock with imyril’s prompts for this week.

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.

And, of course, this far in there are going to be massive SPOILERS!


Week 5: Chapters 56 to 70 inclusive

What did you make of Phèdre’s interventions to save Kazan – first from the kríavbhog and then from the thetalos? Do you think he deserved it?

Phèdre is an interesting mix of head and heart. I think she intervened both with the kríavbhog and the thelatos as much because she still needs Kazan’s help as because she doesn’t want him to suffer. I also wonder, with the thelatos if there wasn’t a bit of curiosity thrown in there – she is a professional nosy-parker after all.

As for whether Kazan deserved it … being cursed with exile by his own mother for accidentally killing his younger brother does seem overly harsh to me, (it’s all just a bit too dramatic, isn’t it? Wouldn’t grief counselling have been a more constructive option for everyone involved?), but then I don’t know what else was laid at his door during the thelatos. Despite myself I found myself quite liking Kazan (pirates are just so darn alluring!) and I was happy to see him reunited with his mother. For her alone, I was glad the blood-curse was lifted, whether Kazan ultimately deserved it or not.

The shadow of the supernatural lies heavy across the narrative. How/does this affect your understanding of Melisande, Marco Stregazza and their ambitions?

This is a cracking question! I’m curious to see what everyone’s answers will be to this one. For myself, I feel that Melisande, Marco Stregazza and Marie-Celeste are political rather than religious/spiritual characters, willing to use the beliefs of others to achieve their own aims. Phèdre, on the other hand, seems more attuned to the spiritual.

I feel this is why Phèdre experiences the supernatural hints and nudges, being more open to it and a fitting tool to thwart those who don’t quite respect the gods/deities as they should. Subverting the temple of Asharat to manoeuvre Marco into the Doge’s still-occupied shoes, for example, is a power move that doesn’t even acknowledge the goddess – her will has been side-stepped. Phèdre seems to redress the balance.

I don’t know if that makes sense, or just a lot of rambling. It’s all very clear in my mind, but actually really hard to put into words!

Phèdre describes La Serenissima and Kriti as ‘civilised’; she does not grant it to Illyria. Any thoughts on d’Angeline perceptions/expectations of ‘civilisation’?

This smacks of a ‘classical education’ – having been taught the languages and histories of these dominant cultures, Phèdre has been taught that they are what constitutes ‘civilisation’. She had not been taught that Illyria had sought aid from Terre d’Ange and been refused; she had not been taught that Illyria is an occupied country. Not having been taught about the country immediately gives it less weight. By all the standards she knows how to measure – political significance, military might, trade value, historical importance and impact, even linguistic and literary influence – Illyria is not civilised. Despite the fact that they have the same or similar level of technology to their geographical neighbours, a recognisable social hierarchy and government, a complex language and their own system of beliefs.

The d’Angellines could do with a shake-up – they seem to spend a lot of time patting themselves on the back for being of angelic origin and not much time at all making themselves aware of the wider world.

I can’t remember if Phèdre allowed that Alba was civilised or not? I’ve a feeling not.

Reunited! Do you think this separation will be enough to bind Joscelin and Phèdre together in future – if they survive?

Well, it had better! I’m not putting up with all that angsty squabbling over nothing again. I’d like to think that Joscelin has had some time now to think about Phèdre’s place in his heart and mind (I definitely heard “my reason for living”) and, more importantly, in his spiritual convictions. As he’s nothing if not tenacious, I’m hoping his whole I-kiss-swear-kiss-I’ll-kiss-never-kiss-leave-kiss-you is now burnt into his brain. (Do I sound unsympathetic to his religious torments? That’s because I didn’t understand them because … *drumroll* … he wouldn’t talk about it!) Jackass.

So, to answer the question, yes, I do. Because if not I’m coming for you Joscelin and none of your fancy footwork will save you from the world of pain I’m bringing with me.

*ahem* … moving on.

Any predictions for the finale? Care to guess who will live, who will die and who will flee to fight another day?

I want Marco Stregazza and Marie-Celeste dead. Which would mean Severio inherited, right? That’d be OK. Benedicte needs to die too, if it can be arranged. I have a sneaking suspicion that Melisande will somehow escape death again, however, and I don’t know how I’m going to feel about that.

I am fairly confident that Phèdre and Joscelin and friends will save Ysandre (who I’ve missed in this book – I like our young queen) and I hope that she will then put Percy to death. I am still hoping against hope that Ghislain isn’t in on this treason with his dad, but if he is then he’s got to go too.

I’d like Barquiel L’Envers (now known to all as Uncle Foxy surely?) to survive too, so that he and Phèdre can begrudgingly acknowledge that they are on the same side.

Finally, I’m expecting a Casselline to die. I haven’t forgotten the suspicion that’s been cast on Ysandre’s constant protectors and a turncoat Casselline is so absolutely a tool that Melisande would employ – I’m predicting one of the queen’s own bodyguards may be the one to attempt her assassination. Maybe. (And then, I really really want to know why!)


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

Week 6 – Chapter 71 to end



  1. *stares at predictions, restrains urge to say things*

    Fairly sure Phedre refers to Alba as barbaric several times throughout the series – there’s one in this book where she is talking about Grainne taking Eamonn’s home to bury (while also noting noble in heart and deed)

    Here’s a good quote from earlier on in KC:

    “Drustan mab Necthana was unquestionably Cruithne, whom scholars call Picti and name barbarians. I could not help but hear murmurs among the gathered nobility.

    But along the way, the D’ Angeline people threw a flurry of spring petals and shouted themselves raw in adoration, because Drustan mab Necthana had brought an army of Cruithne to our aid when the civilized folk of Caerdicca Unitas wouldn’t even muster a delegation to cross our borders.”

    There’s clearly a wealth of prejudice and stereotype to how D’Angelines use barbarians – although I think there’s also a factual recognition of how societies are organised, and shared heritage, which then gets swept up into this – but there’s also a clear recognition that barbaric and civilised aren’t how you divide the world into those who are worthy of admiration and friendship; that’s actions, and the barbarians often deliver. That’s what matters.

    And while it’s not Phedre calling them barbarians here, she’s said it enough to know she shares it – but she also shares the admiration and love of the common folk here.

    What I wished I’d touched upon in answering this question myself – and only really noticed when doing word search for barbaric – is how much Kazan makes the point that he’s not barbaric. And by much I mean three times, but still, it’s there. The Albans giveth the scantest amount of fucks possible on this issue from what I recall – but then they are an independent nation, proud of how they share none of the Tiberian heritage that makes much of Carey’s Europe. The Illyrians aren’t, and therefore it matters desperately to them, in a way I don’t think it matters to Phedre. To Phedre, it’s not quite apples and oranges and both are delicious, but it’s close; to the Illyrians, it’s worth and belonging.

    And of course there’s the minor point that Phedre barely sees Epidauro and isn’t in much of a position to comment, although I’m not sure how much weight that carries.

    And now I think I’ve written more here than i did in my original answer…

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  2. 🤣🤣 I’m all done, but I do remember expecting the worst at this point and that Uncle Foxy is still up to something sly.

    Ditto on being unsympathetic toward Jos at this point. However, I think I’m unsympathetic toward him because reading from Phe’s POV makes it easy to side with her. I’d love to read a bit from Jos’s POV.

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