Read-along: Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey (week 3)

Things get dark this week. To find Imriel, Phèdre and Joscelin have crossed into Drujan and arrived at the nightmarish city of Daršanga. Here the Mahrkagir rules and the god Angra Mainyu, Lord of Darkness, holds dominion. For the moment, our D’Angeline lovers’ travels are suspended, but this is no place for rest and neither may escape the “crawling darkness” in one piece.

Details for this read-along can be found over at There’s Always Room for One More.

This week’s questions are being asked by another of my favourite people, the wonderful Lisa of Dear Geek Place, so together (holding hands and with as many torches as we can carry) let’s head on into the zenana of Daršanga.


Week 3: Chapters 35 through 51 

We meet the Mahrkagir, learn his story and … witness what Phèdre has gotten herself into. First of all, because I need to ask: are you alright? Second, do you feel like there’s any sympathy to be had for the villain of this piece?

Holy cow.

No. Am not alright. Not alright at all. I may never be alright again.

OK, * collects thoughts* … I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. And, honestly, it speaks for Carey’s writing and for how much I like you all that I am still here – this was some DNF sh*t for me. What I’m holding onto now is that Phèdre and Joscelin have done some pretty incredible things over the course of this trilogy, and surviving this hell hole will be their crowning achievement. *squeezes eyes shut, crosses fingers and hopes really hard*

For all that, I do think there’s sympathy to be had for the Mahrkagir. His story is truly terrible and it doesn’t justify anything that he’s doing, but it helps us understand how he has become what he is now. What impressed itself on me the most was Phèdre’s description of the presence of Angra Mainyu:

“It was all of these things at once; wrath, retribution, jealousy and hunger – Elua, the hunger! Demanding, unthinking, a bloodlust that could never be slaked, no, not if it devoured a thousand lives, a hundred thousand, for the fulfilment lay in the destroying and not the consuming…

And if it had been mindless, it would have been terrifying enough … but it was not. It was a presence that thought, cunning and aware.”

This god may have been courted by the Mahrkagir, but Angra Mainyu also exerts his influence over him – and mad as a hatter or not, I’m not sure how much of that any human mind could take. So, yeah, I can feel some sympathy for him, even as I’m hoping that he dies. Soon.


As this came up in chats after last week: It’s becoming apparent that maybe this story is even less about Melisande, and possibly even Imriel, than we thought … Do you still think Kushiel’s justice is intended for her, given what we’ve learned and what the Mahrkagir intends to do?

I felt sure when we started this volume that Melisande’s story was going to end here. Instead, I find that not only is Carey not telling that story, but I don’t actually care too much about what happens to her right now. I shouldn’t have been surprised that she was in contact with the Pharoah of Menekhet (I was), and I guess she’s still going to have a role to play in the background, but it does feel like that’s where she’s been moved to – she’s currently in the wings.

I do think that Imriel is going to play a larger part going forward – more on that in a moment.

Maybe I’m a little bit worried that Kushiel’s justice is meant for Phèdre for wanting to be released from Kushiel’s service? Would the angel be that petty? Or is this the price of her being free of him?

Or perhaps this is all about the rise of Angra Mainyu, who is surely an affront to everything Elua and his Companions stand for. But then, do these deities wander into each other’s business in this way? They haven’t up until now.

Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that I no longer have any idea who Kushiel is mad at or why!


We finally meet Imriel as well. What role, if any, do you think he’s going to play going forward?

Don’t think for a moment that I’ve forgotten Phèdre and Joscelin’s little chat about parenthood before this nightmare began. I feel like Imriel is going to play a big part in their lives and I hope that our heroine and her consort will between them help Imriel recover from the trauma of being kidnapped and sold into slavery.


Speaking of roles to be played, we should spare a thought for Joscelin this week. Do you think he’ll come through this any more whole than Phèdre seems likely to?

Poor Joscelin. While Phèdre has a … flexibility … to her thinking, and bags of compassion, that enable her to deal with some serious crap, our Cassiline is a little more rigid and it only ever hurts him (not that Phèdre doesn’t get hurt, of course *ahem*). After all our comments on how strong and mature their relationship is after ten years, I’m thrown into doubt again here – I don’t know that either they or their relationship will survive this test. All I’m sure of is that both of them will come out of this changed.

And I do keep thinking of that line (from Kushiel’s Dart?) about Joscelin always standing at a crossroads and having to choose… I guess that’s his burden, in the same way that Phèdre’s gift is hers.


Space here for any other thoughts/feelings!

For all that I hated so much of this week’s reading, I did really appreciate all the characters we’ve met in the zenana. Rushad, Drucilla and Kaneka are immediate favourites and I hope we’ll get to see more of them before … well, before whatever happens, happens. I don’t feel like everyone’s going to get out of this alive.

Valère L’Envers was interesting. I’m not sure that I liked her all that much, but interesting nonetheless.

And I enjoyed our time in Menekhet and Khebbel-im-Akkad, even if both have been eclipsed by Daršanga somewhat. I particularly enjoyed the building up of foreboding before we entered Drujan. It was well done, even if it didn’t prepare me in the slightest.




  1. *Hugs* This is a rough section. And there is still rough stuff ahead but there is also good stuff. *sniffles a little*
    Carey does really well with differentiating these places. Not just the usual senses but how they feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is just. So. Tense. 😆 I love that the author has been able to ratchet things up book after book without her characters ever slipping … if that makes sense!
      Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s