Sunday, October 25, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, Part 3

Welcome to the third week of the read-along of Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey.  This week covers chapters 26 through 37, and the questions are provided by Emily at Emma Wolf.  If you’d like to join us, have a look at our goodreads group. As always, beware of spoilers through chapter 37 below, and let’s get to the questions!

1. If I recall correctly, this is the first book (and this is the first portion of the book) that takes us outside of (what is now) Europe and into (what is now) the Arab world. What are your thoughts?

I noticed that Phedre is not comparing every place she goes to Terre d’Ange anymore, which I think it a nice development. Menekhet was an interesting place, and it is interesting to see the differences between native Menekhetan culture and the imported Hellene. It looks like Khebbel-im-Akkad is going to have very different views on Naamah's service than Terre d'Ange.  We haven’t seen too much of it yet, but I’m wondering if the different customs with regard to gender are going to hamper her ability to search for Imriel.

2. We see the Pharaoh laughing at Phedre, saying that if she had only trusted him, it would have saved them a lot of time. We saw this sort of thing play out before with Kazan and Bariquel. Do you think Phedre should be more trusting or do you think she is right to be so cautious?

I’m sure a lot of time and trouble could be saved, if one were able to tell at a glance who was trustworthy and who was not.  Unfortunately, Phedre can’t read peoples’ minds, and I think she’s reasonable to be cautious.  Not trusting people can lead to troubles, but so can trusting them when they are not trustworthy.  I think Melisande taught her the cost of trusting someone, and I think she is rightfully cautious.  She usually sorts out the trustworthy from the not, eventually.

3. More of the story of Imriel and the two other kidnapped children unfold. What do you think now? Was Imriel chosen randomly? Is this the gods punishing Melisande or D'Angelines generally?

I still think it is a conspiracy.  I’m not sure how, but it’s just all too extraordinary to be a coincidence.  Fadil Chouma would have been executed for dealing with the skotophagotis, so it must have been quite an offer—and specifically for a boy of Imriel’s description.  I’m still not sure I understand Kushiel’s involvement, but maybe the situation has more to do with bringing the right d’Angelines to the right place to carry out Kushiel’s justice.  In that case, the divine part might not have anything to do with Imriel except as a means to an end.  Perhaps it is a judgment on Khebbel-im-Akkad for their murder of the Drujani?  That would make a kind of sense with the title of the book. 

4. More on Imriel: we haven't met him yet, but we've heard a lot about him and how he acted in different situations. So far, what do you think of him?

So far, he seems like a nice, brave child.  It’s hard to say without ever seeing him, but he doesn’t seem to have inherited Melisande’s particular Kusheline personality.  I expect I’ll like him when we finally meet him.  I hope nothing terrible happens to him in the meantime, poor kid.

5. What are your thoughts on the skotophagotis? Superstition and coincidence or real power?

Given that all of the cultures we’ve seen so far had their own kind of supernatural seasoning, I expect the skotophagotis have real power.  I really don’t know quite what to make of them yet, though.


  1. Regarding trust, I feel like when I was writing the question, I was all "this is interesting. We see her not trusting Bariquel even though he'd proven himself trustworthy at least in part and we see her not trusting Kazan to her immediate detriment." But when writing the answer, I was all "well, duh. She just met him and she's accusing a sovereign monarch of a crime."

    "I noticed that Phedre is not comparing every place she goes to Terre d’Ange anymore, which I think it a nice development."

    Me too! I think she got older and wiser and that the thetalos changed her and made her more open minded. (I remember in the thetalos, she was saying something like "look where my cleverness got me." And I guess that was why I thought she might become more trusting. Though still not to a monarch she was accusing of kidnapping.) (I also think Kazan and Illyria changed her, but maybe not.)

    1. I think I agree that surviving the thetalos changed her, and also realizing how she'd misjudged Kazan.

      I know I was very pro-caution in my answer, but now that I think about it again, she did decide that the Pharoah was trustworthy pretty soon after meeting him. Maybe she is a bit more trusting than she was in the past.

  2. Yes, it iis nice that Phedre is no longer comparing every place to Terre D'Ange. I expect this is because she has so much more to compare things with, since she has done some traveling and some in-depth reading of other cultures at this point in her life.

    I like your thoughts on Imriel and Kushiel. We'll get more info over the next few sections and I'm sure there will be more discussion.

    Yep, every culture we've come across has their supernatural bit. So the skotophagotis are another one of these. As always, I find it very interesting how Carey weaves in just enough fact to go with the coincidences that you really do have to question whether or not there is something more going on, or whether it was just coincidence.

    1. That makes sense. I'm really enjoying how Phedre & Joscelin both have developed since the last novel.

      After seeing your vague coded response, too, I am even more curious to find out the truth about Imriel/Kushiel!

      I guess I just like magic, because I've generally been assuming everything's supernatural as we go :). I agree with you, though, one could certainly read the bits about Asherat in La Serenissima, for instance, as not necessarily involving supernatural influence.

  3. I like your point about Phedre no longer comparing places to Terra D'Ange - I didn't pick up on that but you're right. And, it was refreshing because she does tend to get drawn down the whole 'superiority' route. I think perhaps she's mellowed quite a bit over the past few years. A happy existence seems to have agreed with her and Joscelin.
    I also think there are two many coincides for Imriel's abduction to be random. I really hope that it doesn't have something to do with Kushiel. I would hope to think a God would use such a punishment on a child.
    Lynn :D

    1. Yeah, it seems like they've had a great decade. I think I have a clearer sense of what Kushiel intended after the next section, but I still don't like the idea of Kushiel causing an innocent child to suffer.