Read-along: Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey (week 6)

And so finally, finally, we come to Hyacinthe and to the end of  this incredible tale.

This read-along was brought to us by two of the wonderful Wyrd and Wonder crew: imyril of There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa of Dear Geek Place.

Discussion prompts for this final round are provided by yours truly.

Let’s not hang about …

 

Week 6: Chapter 86 through to end

Our starter for ten: Let’s talk about that final meeting with Melisande. What were your feelings about Imriel’s meeting with his mother? How did you feel Phèdre handled herself? And any opinions on those rumours about a cult of Melisande?

By the time I got to the end of the book I’d forgotten that this had even happened in this last section. It felt so far away.

I did feel for Imriel though. He’s so young, and he’s been through so much that’s he’s yet to make sense of. When he asks Melisande ‘why’ my heart broke for him a little. That he recognises that he can’t yet handle her side of the story says a lot about him, I think. I also liked that he spoke to Phèdre in Jeb’ez, effectively excluding Melisande.

As for the rest, I thought Phèdre handled herself well. I was impressed with how she negotiated her terms, especially knowing how distracting she finds this scion of Kushiel, and so I was more than a bit cross when Melisande revealed that she’d seen through the whole thing. The woman annoys me no end!

And of course she’s got an effing cult! Grrr… Although this does actually make me curious as to what role she might play in Imriel’s continuing story.

 

To say Ysandre is miffed upon Phèdre’s eventual return would be an understatement. Let’s talk about that courtly face-off and our Comtesse’s punishment.

I love Ysandre. She’s a kickass monarch who frightens me more than a wee bit (in a good way). So, I was nervous on Phèdre’s behalf when she was marched into the royal presence in front of everyone. This whole confrontation had me biting at my hands – Ysandre at her most chilly and imposing while Phèdre, instead of arriving with a thousand apologies, opening with her desire to foster Imriel. The tension is brilliantly done and the history of their friendship sits under the whole exchange, so that when Ysandre’s punishment is finally delivered, it is both a blow and a relief.

*chef’s kiss*

 

Showdown with the angel Rahab! We want all your reactions, thoughts and feelings – go!

Phèdre’s bitterest winter provides a much-needed lull before the big finale.

I loved Quintilius Rousse’s return, along with Phèdre’s Boys, for this (in fact I’ve enjoyed checking in with so many characters from earlier in the trilogy), and if there was a bit too much twiddling around before Phèdre actually got on with the job at hand (smooching with Hyacinthe? Really? At a time like this?) well, that’s Servants of Namaah for you I suppose.

I was struck that despite this being a trilogy in which deities touch mortal lives and move through the world, this is our first face-to-face encounter with a divine being. And I loved the image of Rahab, manacled to the sea, when we finally met him. I was suitably impressed, too, with the moment that Phèdre’s spoke the name of god and being emptied of it. It was all very grand.

 

Thoughts on Phèdre’s feelings about Hyacinthe at the last? And while we’re on the subject of Hyacinthe – let’s discuss how he has been changed by his time on the Three Sisters and maybe speculate a little on his future.

This I was less pleased with. I understand that Hyacinthe is Phèdre’s oldest friend. I do not understand the ‘threat’ he poses to her relationship with Joscelin. In my mind these two types of love are very different and her feeling of hurt when Hyacinthe joins his fate with Sibeal seems just a touch selfish. Is it not enough that Joscelin adores you? You must have Hyacinthe as well?

I’m aware that I perhaps don’t understand Phèdre in this moment as well as I should. And that I am bringing my own dislike of love triangle-ish behaviour to the table. But I’d like to know how my fellow readers felt about this bit.

That Hyacinthe is a little more serious, and little … removed … from the world, seems appropriate considering how long he’s been on the Three Sisters as Master of the Straits. Perhaps I was naïve in thinking that when he escaped the islands he would also relinquish his powers – certainly I was surprised that he kept them. Although that makes him far more interesting than if he’d just returned to being the Prince of Travellers. And I feel like that makes him a more fitting partner for Sibeal – they’re both a little otherworldly.

For his future I hope he is able to do as he bid the isle-folk do, now they are all free of the curse:

“Live,” he repeated more gently, in his echoing tone. “Live free of this curse, fish and hunt, grow crops and herd cattle. Build boats and sail to the mainland, trade and prosper. Make music, write poems, dance. Find one another in love, lose one another in sorrow. Live.

 

Finally, a party to end all parties. Has everything been wrapped up to your satisfaction?

Yeah, I’m pretty happy. Phèdre fête was very much an indulgent pudding after everything that has happened, and I enjoyed every moment of it. While I am curious about Imriel’s story in the next trilogy, I am happy to see him here, safe and loved, with an unknown future in front of him.

I loved, too, that Phèdre gets her sticky mitts on the Master of the Straits’ library and sets about cataloguing it, while Joscelin builds himself a mews. These two really are perfection!

 

And, of course, anything else you want to squeal or scream about.

Only one thing to scream about (or at least whine pitifully), and that is the reception that Imriel gets wherever he goes. While I understand (of course I do!) his parentage and his position in line for the throne, I can’t get over that he is just a boy, with his own personality, nothing like his mother’s, and so much potential. So his mother is Terre D’Ange’s most renowned traitor, that does not mean he will be. So he is a scion of Kushiel – that does not dictate every aspect of his character. For a country that lives by the principle of ‘love as thou wilt’ this seemed too mean, and it upset me again and again every time he received a dark look or a change in tone from someone new.

Which leaves me very much on the fence about whether to read on or not. On the one hand, Peat has said encouraging things about Imriel’s trilogy that makes me think it worth reading. On the other, if I stop here, I will be left with Imriel happy, safe and frozen in time and he can’t do anything to disappoint me.

Reader problems!

 

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20 comments

  1. I’m so glad you have enjoyed this trilogy, including this final book – I was worried from the start about Avatar, knowing what it had in store for us. It’s a huge commitment in more ways than one, and I’m happy that it worked for you.

    I’m entirely alongside you in having side eye for the love triangle. Love doesn’t have to be romantic, so I’d have been far happier dropping any suggestion of a triangle and allowing love of a friend to be the motivator for rescuing Hyacinthe. I think Phèdre would go to the ends of the earth for her dearest friend, and I don’t think the romantic angle added anything except unnecessary psychodrama (besides, I don’t actually think Carey sold the threat here – nobody except Joscelin ever thought Phèdre would want to leave Joscelin, right?) All that said, having gone with it, I’m glad Carey also went with Hyacinthe not making Phèdre have to choose and taking himself out of the equation.

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  2. I love that Joscelin gets mews and more fishing while Phèdre gets a library. I love that she thinks of it at the end. The next trilogy is a tricky one. I read it and have no desire to reread it. But I think if you’re really curious about what happens to Imriel you might not be satisfied until you’ve read it. Maybe bask in this version of Imriel for a while and then try the trilogy eventually.

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  3. Well I have many, many recs for you, so Imriel can wait until you have an itch to revisit!

    Re some of your points –

    “smooching with Hyacinthe? Really? At a time like this?” – I feel like if there’s any moral to this story, it’s that smooching is very important, so always do it because you never know what’s coming next 😛

    Also re Phedre at the end and the love triangle-ish stuff…

    I kinda like it. I’m not sure I did at the time, but looking back, I do. They were meant to be each other’s first love, and kind of were. That’s a huge, huge thing that doesn’t just disappear because they found their true love, their life partner. At least not for them. I like that they acknowledged that. And I think as much as anything, the last lingering hurts and jealousies are as much for losing that version of themselves as losing the person. Them locking the door on a romance with each other – even if it was already closed – is them putting the lock on their seventeen year old dreams. Even for people who’ve done so much and been given so much, that hurts.

    So… I dunno. I get it. Would I have preferred a story where platonic love meant as much as romantic love? Maybe. But I do also like the acknowledgement that sometimes those sort of loves get mingled, and I think that’s been such a part of Phedre’s story that to me, it makes sense that at the end, we get a confused love.

    Also I don’t think Hyacinthe can relinquish his powers at this point.

    Finally, re the treatment of Imriel… the people of Terre d’Ange are verrry big on their bloodlines and hereditary traits. Which does seem a somewhat contradictory thing with Love As Thou Wilt, but there we go.

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    • Hmmm, while I still don’t like it myself, I do see your point about the Phèdre-Hyacinth thing and … feel more generously towards it because of your comments here.

      As for the importance of smooching *sigh* yeah, ok, I get it. In THIS trilogy, in THIS world, I get it. 😆

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