Welcome to the third week of the read-along of Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey. This week covers chapters 26 through 37, and the questions are provided by Emily at Emma Wolf. If you’d like to join us, have a look at our goodreads group. As always, beware of spoilers through chapter 37 below, and let’s get to the questions!
1. If I recall correctly, this is the first book (and this is the first portion of the book) that takes us outside of (what is now) Europe and into (what is now) the Arab world. What are your thoughts?
I noticed that Phedre is not comparing every place she goes to Terre d’Ange anymore, which I think it a nice development. Menekhet was an interesting place, and it is interesting to see the differences between native Menekhetan culture and the imported Hellene. It looks like Khebbel-im-Akkad is going to have very different views on Naamah's service than Terre d'Ange. We haven’t seen too much of it yet, but I’m wondering if the different customs with regard to gender are going to hamper her ability to search for Imriel.
2. We see the Pharaoh laughing at Phedre, saying that if she had only trusted him, it would have saved them a lot of time. We saw this sort of thing play out before with Kazan and Bariquel. Do you think Phedre should be more trusting or do you think she is right to be so cautious?
I’m sure a lot of time and trouble could be saved, if one were able to tell at a glance who was trustworthy and who was not. Unfortunately, Phedre can’t read peoples’ minds, and I think she’s reasonable to be cautious. Not trusting people can lead to troubles, but so can trusting them when they are not trustworthy. I think Melisande taught her the cost of trusting someone, and I think she is rightfully cautious. She usually sorts out the trustworthy from the not, eventually.
3. More of the story of Imriel and the two other kidnapped children unfold. What do you think now? Was Imriel chosen randomly? Is this the gods punishing Melisande or D'Angelines generally?
I still think it is a conspiracy. I’m not sure how, but it’s just all too extraordinary to be a coincidence. Fadil Chouma would have been executed for dealing with the skotophagotis, so it must have been quite an offer—and specifically for a boy of Imriel’s description. I’m still not sure I understand Kushiel’s involvement, but maybe the situation has more to do with bringing the right d’Angelines to the right place to carry out Kushiel’s justice. In that case, the divine part might not have anything to do with Imriel except as a means to an end. Perhaps it is a judgment on Khebbel-im-Akkad for their murder of the Drujani? That would make a kind of sense with the title of the book.
4. More on Imriel: we haven't met him yet, but we've heard a lot about him and how he acted in different situations. So far, what do you think of him?
So far, he seems like a nice, brave child. It’s hard to say without ever seeing him, but he doesn’t seem to have inherited Melisande’s particular Kusheline personality. I expect I’ll like him when we finally meet him. I hope nothing terrible happens to him in the meantime, poor kid.
5. What are your thoughts on the skotophagotis? Superstition and coincidence or real power?
Given that all of the cultures we’ve seen so far had their own kind of supernatural seasoning, I expect the skotophagotis have real power. I really don’t know quite what to make of them yet, though.