Sunday, May 17, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Dart Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.  I am actually hosting the questions this week, and they cover chapters 9-18.  Keep in mind, therefore, that there will be spoilers up through chapter 18 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:

Allie (me) at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing RainbowLynn at Lynn’s Book BlogGrace at Books Without Any PicturesLauren at Violin in a VoidCeline at Nyx Book ReviewsJenn at Morrison GirlIgret at Igret’s CornerMichael at Nashville Book WormKheya at Not Food PornEmma at EmmaMaree.comNancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & MoreKelly at Orange Pekoe ReviewsSusan at Dab of Darkness

1) In these chapters, Phèdre finally gets to have her own dedication ceremony.  Were you surprised by what they did with the dove? Also, do you think it is fair to ask people to make a life decision about serving Naamah at such a young age?  

I imagined that they were going to sacrifice the dove, so I was really happy to see that it was more of a symbol, with the dove flying up to freedom.  Thinking on what Phèdre is dedicating her life to, it would not have made sense to kill the dove.  I think it’s just what I have grown to anticipate from these kinds of scenes.  

I don’t really think it is fair to treat Phèdre’s adolescent decision as one that is completely un-coerced, even though I think her guardians have made it as free a decision as they can.  Phèdre has been educated a little by the Night Court about what to expect, but she has also been a little bit indoctrinated by them.  Also, she knows that this is the path Delaunay has planned for her, so there is additional pressure even though he doesn’t intend to actively apply it. Furthermore, given her inexperience and age, I don’t think she could truly understand what she is agreeing to in the long run.  For instance, younger-adolescent Phèdre would have happily gone to Valerian House, but just a few years later she realizes that she would have regretted that decision.

2) Sex ed is definitely different in Terre d’Ange.  Do you think the Showing was useful for the teenagers? Do you think, at their age, you would have appreciated something like the book-learning they received in the art?

I’m pretty sure that most teenagers would probably enjoy that kind of a Showing, but I don’t know if I would say it was useful in their case.  If it was to learn the mechanics, the two principle actors’ hair seemed to have covered most of that up.  Also, it featured one possible pairing which doesn’t seem to be Alcuin’s most common, so far.  Maybe it was more intended to get them excited about the future? In that case, I think it served it’s purpose!  The classes, on the other hand, sound very useful.  In a society where everyone is just expected to magically know what to do (like modern-day society), I think it would be very cool to have some kind of formal theoretical training.

3) Hyacinthe has some neat theories about Delaunay’s past.  What is your favorite theory? 

I’m falling down as a reader in puzzling this out.  It’s probably partially because I still have to keep reminding myself all of the courtiers names right now, and also because I read these first two sections sleepily on airplanes.  I think my favorite theory so far is that Delaunay was the King’s first betrothed’s lover, and that he is trying to bring her killers to justice.  There also seems to be a bit of a Count of Monte Cristo thing going on, since it seems like Anafiel Delaunay has a different previous name, and this is known to some of his closer friends. 

4) Phèdre seems to be making a name for herself as an anguissette, known for never giving the signale. Do you think she would ever actually choose to use the signale, even if she were in real danger? Do you think her inability to do so might get her into trouble?

This seemed like a danger sign to me.  She gets so caught up in the moment that it doesn’t seem to me like she would ever use her signale.  That puts all the responsibility for not seriously injuring her on the patron, and we know that some of the patrons hate Delaunay, at least.  Also, I think that having that kind of a reputation might attract patrons who want to do more and more extreme things, which would make it more likely that she would need to protect herself. I hope nothing terrible happens to her. 

5) Do you think Alcuin is enjoying his career as much as Phèdre, or do you think he has a different focus? Do you think their differing appeals and tastes will drive them apart?  

I thought Alcuin seemed less excited than Phèdre about the actual assignments, especially about his first one.  I am wondering how much his decision to follow this path of service was due to personal desire, and how much was to please Delaunay.  If he really doesn’t enjoy this life, then it seems like that might start to grate a little between him and Phèdre.  I think we’ve also seen a little distance already between Delaunay and Phèdre, due to the fact that he doesn’t really understand her tastes.  I’m wondering if that’s going to cause any problems between Phèdre and Alcuin as well.

Other Thoughts:  

—To keep up my comments on real-world Terre d’Ange, from what I can gather, I am not all that close to the Skaldic raiding. I think my little village (near the French-Swiss border) is pretty safe.

—It seems like la Confédération Helvétique has collapsed in this fictional world? Is this a clue as to the corresponding real-world time period?

—I’m wondering what’s going to happen between Kushiel’s Line and Kushiel’s Dart!  Future-Phèdre is seeming to say it’s something serious.


  1. So I didn't put this in my post because it is a tiny bit spoilerish, but the book later on deals with changing one's mind about a life dedicated to Naamah, and the series later on deals with other characters who decide how to handle a youthful dedication that no longer holds as strongly. I think you will be pleased to see how those scenarios fall out.

    I've read this book 7 or 8 times and I think it was finally on #3 or #4 that I fully grasped the politics of things, because we not only have the current politics, but the politics of Delaunay's past. There are a ton of side characters at this point so don't feel bad for not grasping everything all at once.

    You bring up a good point in Q4. Phedre is stubborn and, while she is gaining experience quickly and has 2+ years of training, she herself might not know her own limits nor the extremes of some of her clients.

    I think Phedre's Terre D'Ange may correspond to 1600s Europe, but I am not entirely sure. We have horse drawn carriages, plumbed baths at the bath houses, banking, but I don't recall any firearms in the first 2 trilogies. It's a great question that I believe fans have been debating off and on for a while.

    1. Ah, that sounds interesting. I will look forward to those developments!

      Thanks for making me feel better about not having all the politics worked out :).

      I'm was guessing that Switzerland doesn't exist at the moment because of an offhand comment about the Skaldic people meeting in the 'former Helvetican holdings'. That might imply ~1800, but the absence of guns does make it seem earlier... I will keep an eye out for more clues!

    2. And I forgot to leave my link earlier:

  2. Glad you're safe from Skaldic raiders. I really, really hope nothing terrible happens to Phedre as well!

    1. Yep, I only get Skaldic physicists around these parts. Very different :D.

  3. My wish was that there would be more negotiation between Phedre and her patrons, even if it was during the contract-drafting phase, about hard limits. For someone in Phedre's position, it's hard to judge how far a patron would actually go versus how much is him/her building up anticipation/tension. I don't know that she'd know if she was truly in danger.

    I do like the book's focus on consent, despite that. There's an emphasis on making sure that Phedre's choice is free, and that she has a signale should she choose to use it. I don't think that someone in Phedre's position (indentured, owes a debt, no social status) in most other societies would be given a choice whether to accept that kind of life, but here, there's always another way, and she doesn't have to choose to serve Naamah unless she truly wants to.

    1. That is a very good point, given that they seem to take it as given that Phèdre is down for basically all of kink on the submissive/masochist side. Maybe she is, but it seems like they should have discussed it a bit?

      And that is true, while I am not a fan of Phèdre having to make that kind of decision so young, and under the influences and expectations of all her mentors and guardians, it was as free a decision as possible.

  4. I'm also a bit concerned about Phedre's lack of using the safe word. I feel like this may come back and cause her physical and emotional harm later in the novel.

    And I like the point about teaching the young adults some things before they begin to put those skills into practice.

    This is Nashville Book Worm posting here. For some reason, blogger won't let me prove I'm not a robot! :)

    1. Sorry the commenting isn't working! I really don't know what to do about that, but at least I will remember who you are :).

      I'm definitely getting the impression the safe word issue is going to come up later.

  5. No.1 - agreed - this is a great question because it had me a little in turmoil. Part of me really dislikes that both Phedre and Alcuin are in this position and part of me sees that it's their way of life and they certainly don't seem to dislike the idea at all. Although I wouldn't say Alcuin was happy with his choices so far - he seems to desperate to please Delauney.
    3. - Phedre needs to learn some boundaries, she seems to become totally absorbed and her patrons are fascinated that she's such a natural - but you kind of think that one of them is going to want to break her at some point.
    4. I'm going with the romantic theory.
    5 - I feel sorry for Alcuin at the moment - I wouldn't say he's quite as suited to this role so far as Phedre seems to be.
    Lynn :D

    1. 3 - Yeah, I get that sense. And if she's 'unbreakable' in the sense that she enjoys everything, she's still not invincible. She could get hurt badly if she doesn't know when to say stop.

  6. It seems you and I are in agreement on most of these points. I'm wondering if the book is just overlooking Phedre's forced indoctrination, or if it will examine that later. I don't think she's ever really had a choice put before her that wasn't already made. When you are told at a young age that you have to do this certain thing to please your God, how can you later refuse? It's not really a choice at that point.

    I'm also having a hard time following all these names. Phedre, Alcuin, Delaunay, and to a lesser extent Hyacinth, are the only characters I really care about. All these backstories and political machinations are just flying over my head.

    My write-up for this section is on my blog:

    Thanks for hosting!

    1. I'm really hoping that's going to be addressed later, too. On top of being raised to it, she hasn't really ever been free, so how could she make a free choice?

      I think I'm finally starting to get a little bit more of a grasp of the politics (I'm in the 30's chapters, now), but yeah, I only really care about Phedre, Alcuin, and Delaunay.