Welcome to part 7 of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. Our host this week is once again Susan of Dab of Darkness, and her questions cover chapters 55-63. Keep in mind, therefore, that there will be spoilers up through chapter 63 in the questions and answers below! Also, remember to visit all the participants blogs to see what they have to say about this week’s section! This week’s section was a general politics overload! I think I understand the situation in Terre d’Ange a bit better now, but it was kind of overwhelming.
1) What do you think of the overall connection between the Casseline Brotherhood and the Yeshuites? Are you happy with where the shaggy pony ended up?
I honestly don’t remember the connection between the Yeshuites and the Casseline Brotherhood. I think they’re pretty different, in terms of religious belief, aren’t they? There is the connection of Elua to Christ, but I think that the Yeshuites aren't particularly into Elua and his companions?
From this section, I was mostly struck by the similarities between the Tsingano (Romani people) and Yeshuites (Jewish people) as non-assimilating cultural groups that the wider Terre d’Ange culture is prejudiced against. That hasn’t really changed all that much for real-world Terre d’Ange to present day. Actually, a common French word for the Romani people is ‘Tsiganes’, which I suspect is the origin of the word ‘Tsingano’. I am not sure whether that term is derogatory, though, so I’d recommend not using it—I just wanted to bring it up for the link to the fantasy-version word.
I think the shaggy pony will have a happy life with the family that helped Joscelin and Phèdre. He was a loyal animal and deserves some happiness! They seem to be good folk.
2) Phèdre & Hyacinthe have a happy reunion. What do you make of Joscelin's reaction? Do you miss Hyacinthe's mother?
I think Joscelin’s reaction is plain old jealousy, for the most part. Of course, he has no claim on Phèdre, and Hyacinthe is a friend, so he can’t really express it. It’s been the two of them against the world for so long, though, it must sting to see her taking comfort and help from someone he doesn’t know or like all that well.
It was really sad to see how changed Terre d’Ange was due to the fever, and that includes the loss of Hyacinthe’s mother. Does anyone have an idea what the sickness was, based on the symptoms? If it’s a real sickness, I haven’t figured it out yet.
3) Yet another happy reunion occurs with Thelesis de Mornay, the King's Poet, who gets them in to see the Dauphine, Ysandre. Do you think there was another way to seek her audience? Such an intense meeting! What stood out the most for you?
There may have been another way, but I think that was the safest way. Phèdre and Joscelin have already been intercepted by Melisande once while trying to get to Ysandre, so I don’t think they would want to take any chances. I think Ysandre believed them from the beginning. I think she was just trying very hard not to. Hearing that her kingdom was facing foreign invasion and a massive treasonous conspiracy while her father lay dying must have been a lot to take.
I guess the thing that stood out the most to me was that Ysandre did not seem all that much more prepared for the situation than Phèdre was, though she is clearly doing her best. I get the feeling she might need a confidante that is not one of her nobles in the future, and I wonder if that person might be Phèdre.
4) Phèdre makes a trip to the temple of Kushiel to make atonement. Do you agree that she had things to atone for?
No, but I do agree that she felt very guilty. I think it was mostly survivor’s guilt, and guilt over being able to endure and take physical pleasure from her experiences in the Skaldic lands. I think that the punishment was ultimately harmless and very comforting to her in her present state of mind, so I think it was worthwhile for her to seek it out.
5) After King Ganelon's death, at the hunting lodge we learn some more politics. What stood out for you? We learned more about the Picti and the prophesy. Should the fate of Terre D'Ange be resting, even partially, on the validity of a prophesy of love and union?
I’ve been coming down on the side of the read-along folk who are less interested in the Terre d’Ange politics than they are in the main characters (now considered as Phèdre, Joscelin, and to a lesser extent Hyacinthe). I admit my eyes kind of glazed over a little during the extremely long political discussion. However, it is nice to have a clearer view of the situation in Terre d’Ange and elsewhere.
Neither Hyacinthe nor his mother made the prophecy, so I’m not sure I believe it. I find it a little shocking that the fate of the nation seems to be also resting on Ysandre’s romantic notions. I’m also not sure we can guarantee that the Alban troops would be helpful against the Skaldi. Even if the channel were opened, I’m not sure how effectively they could be moved into Terre d’Ange. Not to mention, we know almost nothing about Alba, so how can Ysandre trust that this particular foreign army would be loyal to her?
6) The Casseline Prefect forbids Joscelin from serving Phèdre as protector as she travels to the Pictish lands. Joscelin had to make a hard choice: did he make the right one?
I think it’s kind of ironic that Joscelin was excommunicated from the Casseline Brotherhood for making the same choice Cassiel did. Based on his faith, I think he made the right choice. He is loyal to the doctrine he believes, even above his loyalty to the human order that ostensibly supports it. He is a perfect loyal companion, and I think he will be able to find comfort in that. He would never have forgiven himself for abandoning Phèdre.
7) Hyacinthe comes up with the plan to get them to the coast and meet with Royal Admiral Quintilius Rousse. Do you like the fake IDs? Do you think they will make it unscathed?
Well, I don’t think the IDs will really hold (we see already that the Manoj kumpania sees through it). After what happened at the end of this section, I suspect they’ll have to make some modifications to their plan. I think they’ll make it eventually, though. I want to see fantasy-UK, so I’m hoping it will work out!
8) Hyacinthe meets his grandfather, Manoj, for the first time. Happy? Sad? How do you feel about how his mother was cast out?
I’ll say happy and sad. I can understand why his mother never told him the truth— that would be a heck of a thing to tell a kid. I disagree with them for kicking out his mother and not the relative who arranged for her to be raped, though. It was a little heartwarming to see them all welcome Hyacinthe, but then his mother’s story really highlights that they could turn on him at any second. My heart aches for his decision at the end of the chapter, but I think it would have come out at some point soon anyway.
If I’m interpreting correctly, Hyacinthe basically made the same choice as Joscelin. Do you think this is going to turn into a love triangle? Does it matter that neither of the boys really have an ounce of Kushiel in them? I don’t think Phèdre would be happy with either of them, long-term, though they’re both good guys.
—I was so happy to see Phèdre’s marque completed. That was sticking in the back of my mind as an unfinished business. It was bittersweet, though, because Master Tielhard will now die without imparting his skills and knowledge to any successor.
—It was interesting to see that in such a free society, Ysandre had never encountered a follower of Naamah. Does that mean she also hasn’t studied stuff like the Trois Mille Joies? I wonder if Phèdre will teach her a bit before her marriage, assuming she makes it back safely with the groom in tow.
—Color me very shocked to see Melisande again at the Tsingano horse-trading get-together. It’s interesting that even they know not to mess with the Shahrizai family. I’m very relieved that she didn’t see Phèdre, though. I think that showdown needs to happen when Phèdre is not on a secret mission for the throne. Preferably when Melisande is being tried for treason.
—I think now we know pretty much everything about Delaunay’s past (I may be proven wrong in the future), so I think that Hyacinthe’s mother’s prophecy was more about the day than the information. She’ll regret the day she began learning Delaunay’s secrets, just because it was the day he and Alcuin were murdered and she and Joscelin were sold into slavery.