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

In this penultimate week’s chapters Phèdre wins people over where it counts with the tale of Hyacinthe’s fate and achieves the prize she sought. Now all she has to do is travel back across the vast continent without falling prey to the rainy season and blood-flies, divine distraction, or the machinations of monarchs.

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

And we are once again in the hands of the peerless Peat for our prompts.


Week 5: Chapters 69 through 85

Another week, another country. Tell us what you make of the isolated Saba – and since this is the last new land we travel to in the trilogy, what was your favourite?

Saba was fascinating. I know very little about the twelve tribes of Israel – as in, I know there were twelve and that some of them were lost, and that’s it – but I enjoyed how Carey worked this into her story. And I will always be just a touch smitten with places and people who have been shut off from the rest of the world for a time and then must reacquaint themselves with things beyond their walls. That the people of Saba have been hiding from their god’s wrath for so long is heart-breaking though – especially as their god appears to have forgotten them somewhat. I’ll be the first to admit that this is still the thread of the story that I understand least, however.

My favourite country? In this volume, Jebe-Barkal captured my imagination. Across the trilogy, I think La Serenissima fascinated me most.


So Phèdre is now on first name terms with God. Cool, huh?

Or – more exultantly – she’s done it! She’s completed her quest and all that remains is the back again! What were you thinking as it happened?

It is pretty cool! But all I kept thinking of was that Indiana Jones movie to do with the Ark of the Covenant, so I struggled to take this section as seriously as I should have. In fact, after Drujan I’m really not as invested in this aspect of the storyline.


“As often as not, we forge our own chains. And from those, not even Adonai Himself can free us. We must do it ourselves.”

This quote jumped out at me and I’d love to hear what you saw about forging and releasing our own chains in this book and trilogy.

I am particularly interested in this when put alongside Phèdre’s conversation with Imriel about his birth right and how his nature as a scion of Kushiel will be the other side of her own, something which “betimes it will out”. This is something they can do little about – Phèdre can’t control her response to pain just as Imriel may not be able to control an inclination towards cruelty as he grows up. Are such things only binding when a character cannot make peace with their own nature? Am I even making sense? I know this is where I should reflect intelligently upon the trilogy as a whole and the ways in which so many characters have been both ‘chained’ and ‘released’ by their desires/actions/obligations, but instead all I can really do is nod vaguely and say “ hmmm, an interesting point”.


It looks like Phèdre and Joscelin are firmly back together and all it took was a big … fish. Not a euphemism, folks! And they also appear to have acquired a foster son. Tell us your thoughts on how this all went down.

I was pleased to see Phèdre and Joscelin back on the right path and with minimum drama.

I really do like that Imriel is welcomed into this loving relationship and that, while they don’t go all out in front of him, there is no sense of their sexual relations being something he shouldn’t witness. I say this because I think we’re much more inclined to shelter children from their parents’ sexual natures (in Britain, at least … and this could well be generational too, so let’s say in my experience, just to be on the safe side – and please do tell me if it was different for you?), and I feel like that can be … problematic. Imriel both sees loving behaviour and know that he himself is loved by these two people – without one precluding the other. I don’t know if I’m making as much sense as I’d like, but I just feel like this is absolutely the way that this damaged boy will heal.

And I’m not crying, you’re crying, over the scene in which the three discuss Imriel’s adoption.


The presence of the Name of God seems to be doing a number on Phèdre’s psyche, although not in a bad way. Do you think we gain extra insight into who she is at the last here? Do you think you’d enjoy the experience yourself?

To answer the second part first, some of what Phèdre describes is par for the course – my brain is hyper-attentive to visual details to an often distracting degree, just without the ‘ooo, aren’t we amazing, look how god’s in everything’ element.

I don’t know that it gave me any further insight into Phèdre, but I liked that she was entranced by things and that her thoughts ran along fairly peaceful lines. I mean, I imagine something like the name of god would consume a person’s thoughts, but that Phèdre doesn’t get all power-crazed with it feels significant. I guess who she is was confirmed for me here. And perhaps I wasn’t taking things as seriously as I should have been, but every time Imriel or Joscelin expressed concern about her mental state I just giggled. Guys, she’s fine. She’s just lost in the glory of the world. No biggie.


We finish the section with La Serenissima on the horizon. Any thoughts or expectations on what happens next?

Well, it looks like Imriel is going to meet his mother. Oof. I hope he spits at her too. And from their conversations, Phèdre and Joscelin also expect to be in trouble with Ysandre, so I’m expecting that, although we’re so close to the end now that I can’t see it being so very bad. (??!)


As ever, tell us everything else that excited, delighted, frighted or incited you this week!

Excited by oliphaunts and camelopards! Give me all the alternative words for animals!

Delighted by Kaneka! I was unexpectedly happy to see her again, fully enfolded into her home.

Frighted (very briefly) by the Pharaoh’s collection of our D’Angeline travellers when they arrived back in Iskandria.

Incited by Hanoch ben Hadad’s continued sulking. Well, not really incited, but mildly annoyed.




  1. I also really like La Serenissima. The people of Jebe-Barkal are really interesting. I liked meeting the queen and the other royals in Meroë. I agree with you about how they handle their sexual intimacy in relation to Imriel. I think it helps him to see a healthy relationship and how they express that, especially with everything they’ve been through. But they keep the specifics between them and they have him stay in a different tent with the others. I also like how much Phèdre talks about consent and lets Imriel talk to her about his experiences when he is ready. I also thought Hanoch was a bit of chump.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t like Hanoch one little bit, but his response feels very human in a way – stubbornly obstructive, and clinging to his position long past the point of sense because it’s what he has always believed. Chained indeed…

    I’m 100% with you in finding all this a little difficult to get exercised about after Daršanga. I feel bad for Hyacinthe, but his fate has been eclipsed by Let’s Stop This Guy Destroying The World and the healing of our battered heroes. Which… I guess is a comment in itself. There are always many causes, and just because one is more urgent than another doesn’t make the other less worthy (and I love that Phèdre has never forgotten that and remains dedicated to it) although perhaps it could be just as worthy with fewer pages dedicated to it, ahem.

    Liked by 1 person

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