Welcome to week 5 of the read-along of Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey. This week’s questions cover chapters 30-37, and are provided by Susan of Dab of Darkness. If you’re interested in getting involved in this or other read-alongs, feel free to check out our goodreads group.
As always, beware of major spoilers in the questions and discussion below!
1) What did you think about Imriel's men leaving him behind on the cattle raid?
I can see the reasoning behind it, so I don’t see it as any worse than staging the cattle raid in the first place. Imriel escaping was a close thing, though. It would have been bad for his reputation if Clunderry had to ransom him back.
2) Alais has done some harmless flirting in this section. What do you make of her request to postpone the wedding to Talorcan a year? Do you think one year will make a difference to either one of them?
I think she is very young to marry an older man she doesn’t know well, so I support the idea of her waiting a year. For Talorcan, I don’t see how waiting a year would impact him at all, so I appreciate that he agreed to the delay. I think that it would have seriously damaged my opinion of him if he’d refused.
As for Alais, she’s young enough that waiting a year could make a major difference for her, even if it doesn’t for him. In that time, she could train in her dream-foretelling skill and become more confident in her own abilities. She could also establish a place and identity for herself in Alba. Then she would be able to approach the marriage with much more strength than she would have had as an untrained teenage dreamer who is new to Alba. If she really wants to rule the country one day, then she’s going to need to start her marriage with strength!
3) In this section, we experienced two Alban holidays - the Day of the Dead and the Day of Misrule. What stood out to you the most? If you could only celebrate one, which would you pick?
The Day of Misrule seemed pretty fun, even if it was all for show. The nobles did not truly serve the servants, they only pantomimed doing so with pre-prepared dishes and such. I think the Day of the Dead stood out much more to me. Imriel had not spent much thought on his father before, and I think seeing his ghost provided Imriel with valuable insight about himself and his parents. If I could celebrate only one, it would certainly be the Day of the Dead. I don’t think I would be able to give up a chance to see loved ones who have gone, even though it is only briefly.
4) Throughout this section, there is plenty of talk about denying one's own nature - Imriel's talks with Morwen, the chat with the priestess, and even Dorolei and Alais noticing changes in Imriel when his bindings are redone. Getting philosophical, is denying part of your nature good or is it nearly always a bad idea?
I think it can be good or bad. There are some things that are in people’s nature that are genuinely harmful to others. For instance, Imriel’s self-absorption is also a part of his nature, and I think his efforts to be more empathetic to others are good and worthwhile. I think there is a lot of value in recognizing and eventually learning to discard or deny parts of yourself that are not useful or beneficial, just as there is value in recognizing the parts of yourself that are good.
On the other hand, the ollamh’s bindings are far from ideas self-reflection and self-improvement. I don’t think it is ever good to have a denial of parts of your nature enforced upon you by external magic. Something like that might be useful for criminals, to control violent behavior, but even then it is not a good solution. I think things might have gone much differently if Imriel and Dorelei had been given a chance to work through their feelings without supernatural meddling.
5) Could Imriel have done anything differently to prevent the tragedy of loosing his wife and unborn child? If you were in his shoes, would you have asked for mercy for the Maghuin Donn?
I don’t think there’s anything Imriel could have done. Morwen and Berlik could have chosen to not be mind controllers, stalkers, rapists and murderers. That would have helped. I think it would also have brought them to a much happier future for the Maghuin Dhonn. So far, all they seem to have accomplished is to get their people hunted down and killed by their own countrymen, instead of by the monster Imriel’s future son may or may not have become. In short, their future would have probably been a lot brighter if they hadn’t been able to see it.
On the second question, I’m pretty sure I would not have asked for mercy. Waking up to realize all that Morwen and Berlik’s team had done, I can guarantee that I would not have been thinking rationally. They claimed to speak for the Maghuin Dhonn, and I would have taken them at their word. I think that I would have eventually considered that the Maghuin Dhonn were not all guilty, though, and I would have agreed to mercy if someone else had pointed that out. I don’t think this is the kind of decision one should entrust to a seriously injured person who is likely overwhelmed with grief and rage. I have a lot of respect for Imriel’s ability to see things clearly.
—I was dreading that the love triangle was going to be resolved by Dorelei dying in childbirth, and it looks like that was not far off. In a narrative sense, I am a little annoyed that Imriel’s situation was resolved for him by an external force. I wish Imriel had just a bit more agency in this love story.
—Poor Celeste! She was such a good dog, and did not deserve to die as she did.