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.
—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.