Monday, September 7, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Chosen, Part 6

Welcome to week 6 of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Chosen!  Our host this week is Lynn of Lynn’s Books, and her questions cover chapters 62-72.  As always, if you’d like to join us, here’s our goodreads group Beware below of spoilers through chapter 72. This is our second to last week, and everything is coming together.  This was a pretty stressful section-break, since it cuts off just before the group enacts their final plan!

1.We had a bit of a discussion about Kazan in the previous week’s questions, about his nature, double crossing, etc, and whether Phedre was right to save him.  What are your thoughts on Kazan now given these most recent additions.  Also, I think we should include his mother in that discussion - it was interesting to finally see her I thought.  And, in fact his whole homecoming.

His homecoming changed my perception of his relationship with his mother.  I had imagined her blaming Kazan for his brother’s death.  It looks like the truth was that she initially blamed Kazan while grieving, and realized too late that her blood-curse had caused her to lose both her sons.  It was good to see how deeply she regretted the curse, and that she and Kazan forgave each other.

Also, I appreciated seeing Kazan realize that he now has to worry about politics.  He came in to a hero’s welcome, but his presence put his home in danger.  I think now that he’s perhaps not going to be a pirate anymore, he’s going to need to think more about the wider impact of his actions.  It was good of him to commit to a plan that minimized the risk to his homeland. 

Lastly, I liked that he acknowledged to Phedre that their ‘bargain’ was not a bargain at all.  It seems like he learned quite a lot about himself and his actions in the cave, and it will probably help him to be a better person in the future. Also, his blood curse is gone, and his family has welcomed him home— it seems like he could have easily abandoned Phedre to her task.  I know he sees it as repaying a debt, but I think more highly of him that he is helping her through the end.

2.What did you think of the whole ‘tribute’ ship idea - is that your idea of a good plan or your worst nightmare?

Can it be both?  I think it’s both.  I think being trapped in such a tiny place would be really horrible, and I would fear that those little air holes weren’t big enough.  It got her into town alive, but what a journey.

3.Let’s just talk about the reunion with Joscelin and Phedre.  Oh my word!  More to the point the changes in both of them and how you think their relationship will now move forward.

It looks like losing each other may have made them both re-evaluate their priorities.  For instance, I remember Joscelin saying something along the lines of, “I don’t care if you have a thousand patrons!”  I still don’t think Phedre will want to give up serving Naamah and especially Kushiel, but I think she is very clear now that she loves Joscelin and does not want to hurt him.  Also, the flower-strewn tent was adorable. I respect that they made that for Joscelin and Phedre, even though that part of their reunion was probably a bit against Yeshuite custom.

4.Lastly, what do you think Phedre’s plan is - it’s in a temple, she spoke about making retribution in earlier chapters and yet her latest plan seems to have caused gasps of surprise.  What do you think we have in store.

I don’t really have a clear idea.  I know she wants to clear out the corruption in the temple of Asherat-of-the-sea. Maybe there will be some kind of oracle-like proclamation from Phedre inside the temple, using some kind of voice amplification?  They’ll also have to get to the queen right away, and I think they’ll have to use Joscelin or Phedre for that, so Ysandre will recognize them and trust them.  I believe they said Melisande will not be there, so I suppose there won’t be any dramatic unmasking.  Perhaps the pirates will fight Marco Stregazza’s people, since they’re very keen to kill some Serenissimans.  Well, those are my ideas, we’ll see how wrong I am soon :)!

Other Stuff:

—On Phedre’s vanity, it made me laugh that one of the very first things she said to Joscelin was “What did you do to your hair?”

—I like that Kazan is not trying to be possessive of Phedre.  He could have been unpleasant about meeting the guy she loves. 


  1. Yes! to so much of what you said! Phedre and Joscelin's hair made me giggle (though I didn't take it as a vanity thing)! I loved the tent (though as a Jew, I should tell you Jews at least are pretty sex-positive. Pre-martial sex is, well, it's not a-ok, but it's not forbidden. Kosher but not holy, maybe?)! Kazan and Joscelin tolerating each other!

    1. I know, it was a reasnonable comment, he had disguised it :). It was still funny! It was so nice not to have Kazan and Joscelin posturing at each other over Phedre.

  2. Also (because it was like 3am when I was writing that comment and I was trying to put a baby to sleep) I also wonder what Kazan will do. I kind of think he will continue being a pirate. I think that's his way (as well as doing his thing with the melting of the coins) of fighting for Illyria against La Serenissima. Yes, it's in his self interest monetarily, but I also think it's his way of sticking it to the man. Whatever he decides to do, piracy or something else, I think he will continue to fight against La Serenissima and their (what's the opposite of a vassal?) over Illyria.

    1. I guess it's also kind of telling that his greatest excitement about this whole situation is getting to kill Serenissimans! I could also see him continuing as a pirate, but maybe he could be a pirate in service to Illyria? I think he'll definitely go home more often after this, at least, and I agree that he'll probably try to fight for his homeland against La Serenissima in whatever he does. I actually can't find what you call the inverse of a vassal... I know what you mean, though.

  3. Ugh, also, re pre-marital Jewish sex, I just read that it's considered "sinful" in Judaism. Which is ??? since Jews don't have the same concept of sin as people of other faiths. Well, what do I know? We say "two Jews, three opinions." In the bit of reading I'm doing about this (because now I'm super interested), they are saying it's not forbidden by the torah, "sins" against people are different from "sins" against God, pre-marital sex that leads to marriage is less "sinful", and that sex within marriage is encouraged (not giving your wife an orgasm is her grounds for divorce). So, I guess there's a bit of gray area, but I can totally see how a bunch of young Yeshuites would be all about Phedre and Joscelin getting it on.

    1. Thanks for explaining some Jewish beliefs towards premarital sex! As a protestant Christian, I believe the common idea is that premarital sex is a sin against God, because it profanes your body, but sex within marriage is good and important. I had assumed there was a similar common belief in Judaism, and it's interesting to see that's not really the case.

      I'm reading a little now about the Jewish concept of "sin", and it seems pretty complex. I think I can see how it could be called a "sin" but not necessarily be considered evil.

      As for Phedre and Joscelin, the Yeshuites might also feel a little less conflicted in that gray area because they know that in the couple's culture, premarital sex is not frowned upon. Anyway, the tent was great!

    2. 1. I'm an idiot. I wrote a comment that I thought was hilarious, and (I think) I clicked "sign out" instead of publish. I was typing kind of stream of conscious and I wrote "man sticking it" about Kazan and La Serenissima, meaning attacking La Serenissiman trade ships, didn't realize how weird that sounded when I typed it, but then on rereading decide to keep it. About how in my head canon, the Ban can't give Kazan a letter of marque, but he is kind of a privateer for Illyria anyway (all the people love him because they bring him goodies and launder their money).

      2. I took some sexual symbolism in Judaism courses in college, and yeah, just interesting to me. I was trying to find out why is was forbidden (is it a "sin" against man or god?). I found that perhaps we should be doing something else, like studying Torah, and the whole business about women being unclean before a mikvah. But most of what I found was on more Orthodox sites. I would guess the Yeshuites trying to found their own country would be less Orthodox and more secular(?) in their thinking. I'm basing on this how some people (the very religious) think they shouldn't go back to Israel until the messiah comes, and how zionism was (originally) a more secular movement (fyi, "zion" is slang for "penis" in Hebrew). Given that, if you ditch the unclean angle and don't think you have to study all the time, I could see how they might think there's nothing wrong as long as you're not hurting other people.

      And, as you said, since D'Angelines are more free love and it's not the Yeshuites doing it, I can see them making stupid jokes like horny teenagers while they decorate the tent!

      In my first post, Susan wrote in the comments how she knows many Jews who have avoided reading this series because of the Yeshuites. Which is kind of strange for me. I guess people thought it was disrespectful? I mean, I thought the early parts where she's studying with the rabbi to be kind of weird and boring, but the parts with the Yeshuites in La Serenissima I enjoyed and I always thought it was...well, not disrespectful. Just normal? I just wondered why Carey was so fascinated by Jews. The books have roots in kabbalah and Jewish mythology. (Even in her next series, Agent of Hel, there is some mention of Jewish ideas and there's even a Holocaust story, was..well, I read something recently about how there has been no good Holocaust fiction because usually in fiction there is heroic activity and good triumphs and this critic said Holocaust fiction tends to trivialize it. This didn't. At least, I didn't think so. (It did use magic though))

      Anyway, I think my point is, I really, really enjoyed the discussions in this readalong. This is a smart bunch. This one had been my least favorite book in the series, but now I love it. I really enjoyed talking out ideas and opinions with people and being challenged and being wrong and changing my mind.

    3. Sorry for the late reply, life got super busy all of a sudden!

      1) I took the "sticking to the man" as being a smaller force that chooses on principle to inconvenience a more powerful political structure that is hurting his people, so I think it made sense if that's what you meant. I agree that he seems to have the support of the Ban and his people, even though they can't say it 'officially'.

      2. That is really interesting. So it seems like it's not really seen as bad, just as a waste of time? I like your argument that they might be more secular, and on the other hand maybe it's possible that they have very strong views but in a different direction than their elders? For that second I'm thinking sort of like the puritans--a group that has radical beliefs but not necessarily the same beliefs as the established community. In either case, they could easily not have a problem with pre-marital sex.

      Also, I did not know that slang... it makes a few hymns I know suddenly pretty funny.

      I'm reading this book from the outside perspective of someone whose culture is not fictionally portrayed (I live in France, but I'm not French; My husband's Italian, but I'm not.), so it is interesting to hear a perspective from the someone from the 'inside'. It didn't seem disrespectful to me either, but I know that is also something I wouldn't necessarily notice as an outsider. I haven't read the Agent of Hel books (these read-alongs are my introduction to Carey).

      I have also really been enjoying the discussions! I love how everyone has such different perspectives on the same text :).

  4. Yep. This is the section where I truly like Kazan. He was interesting and colorful before now and definitely forced Phedre to admit she had some preconceived notions. But now he is doing more thinking about those around him and how his actions affect them. His acknowledgement to Phedre and his apology for that 'bargain' did more for him (for me) than his subsequent actions of assisting Phedre.

    I loved the flower-strewn tent too, especially the part about the tiny thorns pricking Phedre, her loving it, Joscelin knowing all that, AND Joscelin not being put off by her reaction to the pain.

    Kazan could have been unpleasant about meeting Joscelin... but that might have been the last thing he did with that handsome face.

    1. I didn't mention the thorns, but that was an excellent touch. It's like he had a breakthrough, and now he understands there's nothing necessarily wrong with her liking pain!

      And yeah, if Kazan had messed with Joscelin at that point, he might have ben moving forward with a broken nose at the least :D.

  5. Yeah, the remark about Joscelin's hair - very funny!
    I was thinking exactly the same thing about Kazan's mum. I was puzzled over why she had cursed him in the first place but on reading on it's clear that it was more a knee jerk reaction and like you said - she ended up losing both her sons.
    Lynn :D

    1. Yeah, I assumed it was her decision at first, so I was feeling less charitable towards her. I can see saying something you regret while grieving, it's just unfortunate her curse had real power.