Sunday, June 7, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Dart Part 5

Welcome to part 5 of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.  Our host this week is Brittany of Igret's Corner, and her questions cover chapters 37-45.  Keep in mind, therefore, that there will be spoilers up through chapter 45 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 section was pretty much a game changer for the story, and I’m really interested to see where Phèdre will go from here.

1) In this section we see Melisande betraying Delaunay and Phèdre. Did you see this coming? Why or why not? Also, what do you think Melisande's highest loyalty is to?

I speculated during discussion last week (I think in comments on someone else’s blog) that maybe Delaunay was a target in Melisande’s next scheme.  Especially through her assignation for the Longest Night, it seemed like Melisande was messing with Phèdre, and through her, Delaunay. So in a sense, I guess I saw that something was coming. 

I definitely didn’t guess that Delaunay had been one of Melisande’s targets all along, though, and I was not expecting such a murderous betrayal.  I think Melisande’s highest loyalty is to herself (consider how she betrayed Baudoin when it became clear that he was going to discard her).  I think Isidore D’Aiglemont would be wise to watch out— though after all we learn this section, I would prefer to see him fall.

2) We see Phèdre sold into slavery by Melisande and D'Aiglemort. How is slavery different than being a bond servant, how is it the same?

I guess one thing is that being a bond servant is more like indentured service mixed with child-rearing. It sort of seems like a system set up to care for children; whoever owns your bond takes care of raising you, and then you gain freedom sometime shortly after you gain majority.  The person who owns your bond also makes sure you receive the appropriate training for your future career.  Slavery, of course, is generally for life.  As a slave, there is no expectation that they will ever be free, and their owners have no obligation to care for their future. 

3) Hedwig's treatment of Phèdre is not what Phèdre expected. What does her behavior tell us about Skaldi women? 

I don’t know if it is just Hedwig or Skaldi women in general, but it was nice to see a community of women that protects one another and does not backstab out of jealousy.  In fact, the men in the stedding seemed to have a much harder time dealing with jealousy over handsome Joscelin’s appeal to the ladies.  

4) Joscelin initially hates Phèdre for not attempting to run, yet ultimately chooses to stay with her. What does this say about Joscelin and his views of Cassiel? 

I think he’s basically as we saw in the past— very devout. He is completely devoted to his oaths and his faith, and apparently Cassiel is not one to abandon a loyal companion.  I don’t think he is as capable of complicated long-term strategy as Phèdre, which is why he saw her initial response to slavery as a betrayal.  Now that he understands her goals, I don’t think he will leave her.

5) Phèdre says that Gunter’s village raid reminded her that she was with the enemy. Do you think that prior to the raid she had developed Stockholm Syndrome? What about life in the stedding made her complacent?

I remember seeing something very similar happen in the TV show Vikings.  I don’t think that Phèdre or Joscelin have developed Stockholm Syndrome, but I think that the ordinariness of life on the stedding made it easier for them to think of their captors as reasonable people.  I think it’s hard to reconcile the cognitive dissonance between Gunter the responsible stedding chief who gambles with his friends and enjoys a good song, and Gunter the murdering raider who rapes and slaughters d’Angeline people.  When all she sees each day is former-Gunter, then it’s easy to kind of forget that he is also latter-Gunter.  I don’t think she will ever not despise him, though.

6) Joscelin breaks his vows during the holmgang.  Do you think he should have or not? What do you think the repercussions will be?

Does he? I admit he has a lot of vows and I’ve probably forgotten a few, but I didn’t think he broke any.  The one that mostly came up was to not use a sword unless he intends to kill.  He did kill the guy, so there’s no problem there.  I suppose that he offered mercy, which might have been a violation, but his opponent opted for death.  I guess the whole idea of the holmgang didn’t really fit into his ‘protect and serve’ vow, but I don’t remember him saying any anything particular about not dueling…

7) We see Waldemar Selig's stedding for the first time, what are your impressions of it?

I think it’s unlikely to impress Phèdre.  She’s from Terre d’Ange, and I don’t think the Skaldi will have anything to compare in grandeur and beauty. 

Other things:

—I thought Melisande’s behavior as a patron threw up some red flags, and those were borne out in this section with her physical and sexual assault of Phèdre.  I get the feeling that one of the reasons Phèdre didn’t safeword during their last encounter was a deliberate denial of reality, since there’s no way Melisande would have stopped. Seeing her safeword ignored would have made it too undeniable to Phèdre that she was completely helpless.  I think that the illusion of some kind of control helped her find the strength to not to give up her secrets.

—Also, I commented last week that I didn’t think Phèdre really had it in her to hate people.  I believe I can now retract that statement, as now she has learned hatred quite thoroughly.  Melisande was a good teacher :(.

—It struck me as kind of funny that Gunter was so proud of giving Phèdre pleasure.  He had no idea that this really meant his performance would give very few women anything but pain.

—I had imagined the Skaldi as German, but they seem more like Norse folk/Vikings from what we’ve seen so far.  They even have Odhinn in their mythology.


  1. I was a bit shocked by the deaths in this week's section, though I probably should not have been. Or perhaps that's what Carey wanted -- to get us feeling comfortable and then pull the rug out from under us.

    It was an interesting section and it reminded me a bit of the Drago/Dany storyline in Game of Thrones.

    1. I think you're right-- she hands us this stable world with the court and the Delaunay household, and then *snap* it's gone. I was not expecting them to die at all.

      Hm, I can see that. I don't think Phedre will ever care for Gunter like Dany did for Drogo though.

  2. D'Aiglemort would indeed be wise to be wary of Melisande. But since he seems to be a willing part of her schemes, I am quite OK with him falling.

    Good point about the Skaldi men behaving badly when it came to the ladies fawning over Joscelin.

    Very good point about the daily Gunter Phedre and Joscelin see. Also, since they were sold to Gunter directly and the Skaldi had nothing to do with the death of their household, I believe that also added to the ability to forget that whole raiding bit of the Skaldi culture.

    Gunter getting sex lessons was amusing. Especially when Phedre described his act of love like hunting boar! Talk about an eye opener for the man!

    1. Yeah, the guy was paying Skaldi to murder his own countryman... I'm looking forward to seeing the fall.

      Good point about that, I guess they had only ever heard about Skaldi raiders, not experienced anything personally. In that sense, I guess Alcuin would have found it easier to remember. Poor Alcuin ;_;.

      Haha, yes. If Hedwig does end up marrying him, she'll owe Phedre a debt for her future happiness.

  3. 1. - completely agree. Melisande is completely untrustworthy - the only person who can trust her - is herself (and she'd probably doublecross herself if it was beneficial somehow!)
    3. - the Skaldi male reaction to Joscelin has been very amusing to read about - you would have expected Phedre to be on the end of some jealousy - being taken to the chieftain's bed.
    5. - I like your way of explaining 'former' and 'latter' Gunter - spot on really. I didn't think that Phedre or Josceline were falling into Stokholm syndrome - they had a plan after all and Phedre does make it quite clear that she doesn't like Gunter. She doesn't have the same smiling acceptance of him that she does for her patrons - mind you she hasn't consented to be with him and that plays a big part for her - she clearly hates having her permission or control taken away. I suppose that's another big factor in the difference between slavery/being a bond servant.
    Lynn :D

    1. #1 - ...of course she might doublecrosses herself accidentally, out of habit :D.
      #3 - Yeah, I was really surprised that Phedre avoided that. The guys seemed to settle down a little when they heard he was celibate, but I guess the holmgang was really what was needed to prove his place.
      #5 I agree. Not having a choice makes a big difference, and Gunter doesn't seem to mind it at all. All of the assignations before, Delaunay talked to her and she agreed to them.