Read-along: Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey (week 1)

It is time.

Time to return to Carey’s sumptuous world of Terre d’Ange for the concluding part of Phèdre’s story. Time to see how our anguissette has spent her foretold ten years of peace and what will interrupt it. Time for Phèdre to make good on her promise to free Hyacinthe from his bond to the Master of the Straits and the Three Sisters or die in the attempt. (OK, no, she didn’t promise to die in the attempt, but it’d be the decent thing to do if she can’t get him back).

All we need now is for Melisande to get involved and we’ve got ourselves a tale

 

The details for this six week read-along can be found over at There’s Always Room for One More and our ever awesome host imyril also created our beautiful read-along banner above.

 

Week 1 – Chapters 1 through 16

The world has changed since we first joined Phèdre in the City of Elua. Any thoughts on the evolutions within the society and politics of nations, Terre d’Ange or the Night Court?

I have the mother of all colds – I’m not dying or anything, but I’m feeling very sorry for myself – so I have to admit I’ve been reading in a slightly dazed state and haven’t paid as much attention as perhaps I should have. I was interested in the changes Phèdre has worked to bring about as part of the cabinet of the Guild of the Servants of Naamah and I appreciate that Queen Ysandre has made more of political relations with other nations than her predecessors, but that’s about all I’ve really picked up.

Oh, and that with the death of Manoj, King of the Tsingani, the Tsingani have a different attitude now to Hyacinthe.

I like that Carey hasn’t kept Terre d’Ange standing still, but has put thought and work into how things might have changed in the decade that has passed since we last saw Phèdre and company.

 

“It is a splendid, terrible tale … but never forget it is real people who live out such tales and bear the price of the telling.” Discuss.

OK, sure, fair point. But sheesh Phèdre, be a bit kinder, eh? You have benefited from the telling of such tales a lot of the time; you are, in fact, the teller of this one, and don’t you dare tell us you haven’t bent the story to your own design, at what cost to those about whom you speak? Hmm?.

And if the poor lad was getting some of the details wrong, there were other ways to tell him so.

 

Over a decade in, Phèdre and Joscelin’s relationship is strong and healthy and complicated – not least by Hyacinthe. Were you surprised by Joscelin’s offer after their visit to the Three Sisters? What did you make of their conversation before and after arrival at La Serenissima?

Not in the slightest bit surprised! That Joscelin is still aching to make a noble sacrifice of himself seems thoroughly in keeping with past behaviour. He’s such a daft duck – I just hope this isn’t foreshadowing some big decision he has to make later on.

The conversations either side of their trip to La Serenissima were interesting in that they showed both Phèdre and Joscelin in a more mature light – surer now of each other and their shared history. That Melisande still makes them both a little nervous seems right.

 

Do you believe Melisande? (evergreen question).

I may live to regret this, but yes, I do believe her. I can’t yet see what she has to gain by ‘losing’ her son. And while we’re on the subject, I wonder if his initial disappearance wasn’t a genuine accident that has then been taken advantage of? Melisande is so wily that I feel only an mishap could really catch her off guard. And all the obvious players with a stake in the game appear to be clueless.

Whether I continue to believe Melisande remains to be seen. I’m sure she’ll soon be plotting the downfall of anyone and everyone, whether it be to get her son back, avenge him, or just because she can.

 

What was your reaction to Phèdre’s confession at the shrine of Kushiel?

This did surprise me. Phèdre is the first to acknowledge that being chosen by Kushiel isn’t always a walk in the park, but I also got the impression she took a lot of pride in her own rarity. I have found it interesting, in the previous two books, when she has spoken about her reaction to pain almost as a betrayal of her body against her thinking self and have admired the way in which Carey has handled this fundamental aspect of Phèdre’s character. To have her confess that she wants Kushiel to be done with her, partly because her being an anguissette hurts Joscelin on an almost daily basis, was unexpected.

That Kushiel is not yet done with her is equally fascinating – she’s been through some pretty rough patches already, do I need to be worried about what’s coming?

 

How do you feel about Brother Selbert and his assessment of Melisande?

Yeeaaahhhh, I don’t agree with him, but it’s an interesting take, I guess.

 

There is much consideration of the future. Care to hazard any guesses what lies in store?

Phèdre seems particularly concerned that her path “lies in darkness” so I think Bad Things are coming, but nonetheless I’m excited to see Jebe-Barkal and, I hope, Khebbel-im-Akkad too, and I think Imriel will be found and Hyacinthe will be freed, because I can’t see Carey not delivering these two things. How they are delivered is another matter entirely. I suspect that Phèdre’s greatest test is up ahead, although I don’t know what it will look like. I’m also hoping we may finally understand Kushiel’s design a little better by the end, although I’m not clinging to that.

That’s as much as I care to guess at.

 

…how do you pronounce Cruithne?

I’ve been pronouncing it ‘Crew-ith-nee’.

 

16 comments

  1. Re Q2 – I think to an extent, that’s why she’s so sharp with him. She has a lot of survivor’s guilt in general, and at this moment where she’s been face to face with someone who paid a price for her, it’s really fresh. That’s part of why I think I’d have been far sharper with him in her shoes.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I hear that. I think they’ve all got their pride showing here. If Hughes wasn’t so proud of the company he was in, he would have maybe thought of the moment. The chevalier (I forgot which one is still alive for a moment) might have been guiding him better if he wasn’t so proud of his lover’s joy. Joscelin’s stung pride possibly blinded him to the need to intervene.

        Liked by 1 person

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