Sunday, October 18, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, Part 2

Welcome to the second week of the read-along of the third book of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy trilogy, Kushiel's Avatar.  I'm the host this week, and our questions will cover chapters 14-25.If you're interested in joining us, or in future read-alongs, feel free to check out our goodreads group page!

Now, it's time for the discussion questions. Beware, there may be spoilers of Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and the first 25 chapters of Kushiel's Avatar ahead!

1. Phedre has been incredibly efficient in finding out what has happened to Imriel. Do you think it really is as simple as a random act of cruelty? Is it a punishment from Kushiel, and if so, why were the other two children involved? 

I was pretty surprised that Phedre managed to more or less solve the mystery of missing Imriel so quickly, especially since it had been three months since he was taken.  It makes me think less of the skill of Melisande's minions.  I'm not sure I'm convinced that the act was truly random, though.  I think it was random cruelty on the part of the kidnappers, but I wonder if Fadil Chouma knew about Imriel.  It's a bit suspicious the he bought only Imriel from the slavers, after suggesting he would by d'Angeline children.  I may be seeing conspiracies where there are none, but I still think this might be a subtle game rather than random chance.

Phedre seems to think Kushiel is involved, but it bothers me to think that Kushiel is the sort of judge who would punish one person by hurting someone else.  I really don't like the idea of punishing children for the sins of their parents, and I'm also confused as to what the crofter family could have possibly done to 'deserve' such a horrible thing to happen.  If Kushiel is involved, I hope it is only in cruelly shaping Imriel's future, not in ruining a child's life in retribution for the acts of his mother.

2. A lot of justice is meted out (or not) to different people. Do you think the priests deserve forgiveness for hiding Imriel? Do you agree with the harsh methods in Amilcar toward the slavers?

I'm kind of on the fence about forgiveness for the priests.  Whatever Ysandre said, I'm sure they might have had other ideas about what would happen to that innocent baby of Melisande's in the d'Angeline court.  They also seemed to be doing their best to raise him as a decent boy, which could have ruined Melisande's plans.  They're guilty of lying to their queen, but I don't think they have done anything evil.

For the slavers, there's no doubt about their guilt, and I think they deserve to die for their crimes.  Child slavery is horrible, and anyone who would choose to take part in it shouldn't have a place in society.  On the other hand, I also don't think there should be any place for torture in society.  In this case, it seems to have gotten them the answers they wanted, but I don't believe the ends justify the means.  There must have been a better way to get the information to find Imriel.

3. Do you think it's worth it for Phedre to go to Serenissima to get information from Melisande, or would it be better for her to travel with the royal entourage and find her own guide?

Honestly, no.  I think she should just send a letter and go with the group Ysandre's sending.  Melisande would give her a guide's name, but then Phedre is going to be dependent on a guide Melisande picked out.  I think she has enough information now to find a guide on her own.

4. It occurs to me that Joscelin improved the public attitude towards the Cassilines, though he was cast out, and the Prince of Travellers may be having a similar effect for his own people. In what ways do you think the Tsingani and the prejudice against them might change as a result of recent events? Do you think Hyacinthe will ever be allowed to go back to them, and if so, should he?

It seems like the story of the Prince of Travellers becoming the Master of the Straits is becoming popular, and it might lend a romantic cast to people's perception of the Tsingani.  I'm not sure whether this will be a positive or a negative thing for them.  Of course, it might also help reduce prejudice against them that the extremely popular and fashionable Phedre keeps speaking out in their defense.

Also, the Tsingani culture seem to be changing a little internally as a result of the death of Manoj.  They're more welcoming to Didikani, so it seems like they might be moving towards being a little less isolated from the dominant culture of Terre d'Ange.  If Hyacinthe ever gets free of the island, he might find himself welcomed back again, despite the Dromonde.  I don't know if he would trust the welcome, though, seeing how quickly it was revoked last time.

Other things:

--There's still a lot of recap throughout this section.  It makes me realize just how packed the last two books were with people and events!

--The token Phedre gave Nicola was an interesting touch.  I'm glad Joscelin is dealing with it well.

--I hope that after these events, the people near Verreuil would go to Joscelin's family for help in this kind of a situation.  I'd like to think that even if Phedre hadn't been involved, they would have searched for the kidnapped children.

--I know Phedre is all set for switching to the save-Hyacinthe quest, but I really doubt that's the last she's going to be involved in the Imriel situation.  What a coincidence, both the Imriel-searchers and Phedre are heading to Iskandria :D.


  1. "It makes me think less of the skill of Melisande's minions."

    Ha ha. That's a good point. But it was partly luck (in learning about the missing girl) and partly her relationship with the Tsingani that helped her find Imriel's trail. As much as I've complained that Phedre is a snob, she seems to be more egalitarian when it comes to D'Angelines. I wonder if Melisande's henchmen thought it worthwhile to talk to commoners.

    "On the other hand, I also don't think there should be any place for torture in society. In this case, it seems to have gotten them the answers they wanted, but I don't believe the ends justify the means. There must have been a better way to get the information to find Imriel."

    I agree completely. (And in real life, torture doesn't really work.)

    1. (Also, re Phedre's snobbery, she is more accepting when it comes to Tsingano.)

    2. That is a good point. Melisande is very focused on people of means, so her minions are probably of a similar attitude. Phedre being less snobby than most d'Angelines paid off :D.

  2. Yeah, I have never been a big fan of some deity punishing children for the sins of the parents. Though I often see how kids suffer because of the sins of the parents and I guess that idea would work here - Melisande wanted too many things and didn't put Imriel's utmost safety on the top of the list.

    I'm not too sure how else they would have gotten the info. Perhaps if the authorities lied convincingly about letting them live, maybe even paying them for the info, and then killing them after they got the info they wanted... but that's a gamble too. It takes time to verify such info and I would think that child slaves would be pretty good liars.

    I think the lords of Verreuil would also have searched for the missing children had they known. And I bet Luc returning with these two kids will make the Verreuil family more approachable as a whole.

    Hooray! Iskandria!

    1. Yeah, if you take Kushiel out of it, he is suffering because of the choices of his parents. I don't know whether he would have been safer in the court, though, since there probably were some nobles who would want to kill him on principle (and we've seen that assassinations do happen).

      Aside from moral objections, the thing with torture is that it's been shown to be a bad method of obtaining accurate information (there is a really horrifying declassified report on its use in the CIA from the US Senate). I think the gist is that victims generally say whatever they think might make the pain stop. In this case--if it were reality--it's extremely likely that they would have made stuff up anytime they didn't know an answer, or possibly even fabricated an entire story to make things simpler. Phedre would most likely have been left with a big pile of unhelpful mostly-false information, so torture wouldn't have been any more useful than just talking to them.

      I'm looking forward to seeing Iskandria!