Sunday, November 8, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, Part 5

Welcome to week 5 of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Avatar.  We’re just past the halfway point now, and things are starting to look up!  This was an extremely intense section of reading this week, and it was really hard to stop reading each day after breakfast (yes, I do most of my reading these days during breakfast).  The questions this week were provided by Lynn of Lynn’s Books, and they cover chapters 50-61.  Thus, beware of spoilers through chapter 61 below!

1.There was so much action this week, let’s just take a minute to discuss that - particularly Phedre’s plan for escape.  I realise this isn’t particularly a question but I just found these chapters so edge of the seat that I think we need to take a moment to discuss them and gather all our thoughts.  What stood out for you?  What surprised you?

I was so happy to see things moving in a productive direction!  Last week’s reading seemed to mostly involve people suffering while they tried to find their footing in this new place. The main thing that stood out for me was how many people were involved, and how trustworthy they were.  It really shows you that, given any other viable option, many of the people involved in Darsanga would eagerly reject it.

The other thing that stood out for me was Joscelin’s fight with Tahmuras. Carey has managed to make me care so much for Joscelin’s well-being, and also had fully convinced me that he was going to die.  I mean, there was all the talk about how he and Phedre might or might not recover from this, the earlier hints that she might have ended up with Hyacinthe, her own comment that this was a fight she didn’t want to watch…  it seemed like it might be leading to his tragic death.  Add to that the general tendency for characters to unexpectedly be killed in this series, and I was actually terrified that this was going to be his last fight.  I am so glad I was wrong, and I hope he stays alive for the rest of the story.

2. We’ve already had a debate on Imriel’s abduction and who was responsible and why.  What are your thoughts now on the Gods and their motivations?

I guess Kushiel wanted to judge the Mahrkagir and his followers, in the end.  He chose Imriel as bait to bring Phedre and Joscelin there.  I guess it makes sense because technically Imriel is one of Kushiel’s people.  I still don’t like the idea of hurting a child like that to bring justice to someone else, but I do agree that they had to be stopped.

3. How do you feel about Imriel and also who do you think is trying to assassinate him?  Also, his reaction to his own family history - do you think that Melisande would ever have stood a chance to bend him to her will or not?

I really like Imriel. Since he’s stopped spitting at Phedre and started talking to her, I feel like we’ve learned a lot more about his personality.  I honestly don’t think Melisande had much chance to bend him to her will, and she’ll have even less of a chance now that he thinks so highly of Phedre and Joscelin.  I’m going to have to agree with Phedre that the l’Envers were behind in the assassination attempt, since Phedre’s usually really good at reading people about stuff like that.  In that case, I guess it’s the usual ‘to protect the crown and our family’ stuff.  

I feel like there might be a little bit of foreshadowing that Phedre and Joscelin will adopt Imriel.  I’ve been wondering if maybe Phedre will ask that as her boon from Ysandre.  I’m not sure what will happen, now that Phedre is all set to head to out in search of the name of God, though.

4. Phedre and Joscelin - they’ve been through a lot and ultimately it’s taken a toll.  Do you think this is something that they can get past particularly now that Joscelin has been injured - how do you think he will cope with that?

I think not being physically able is not something Joscelin was really prepared for.  Honestly, he’d have to cope with it eventually, since he’s not going to be a master swordsman/dagger wielder all his life.  I think he’ll recover, physically.  Right now, it looks like they’ll be able to get past this as a couple as well.  I think it will be harder for them to get over their ordeal individually.  

5. It looks like Phedre’s cause to help Hyacinthe will be restored.  It looks, at least, like she will have unexpected help along the way. What are your predictions in that respect.  

I’m not sure where this story is going to leave Imriel.  He was clearly important to the first half of the novel, and it seems really odd for him to now just head off to the d’Angeline court while Phedre and Joscelin go with their new guide.  I just feel like he has to be involved in some way.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I do think the woman from the zenana is trustworthy.

Other Things:

—I was so glad Phedre’s plan with the Mahrkagir went off without a hitch.  I respect that it was painful for her to kill someone who loved her, but I am also glad she accepted that it had to happen.

—Also, how terrifying is the idea that someone could both claim to love you and be okay with killing you? I am so glad that Phedre had no illusions about how far his ‘love’ stretched.

—I was so sad when the physician died.  I was afraid that was going to happen when it was mentioned that she had a gut wound.  She gave so much of herself to help others, but was never able to go home.

—It was really impressive that Phedre is known outside of Terre d’Ange in stories!

—I really don’t have much respect for the Ahura Mazda priests.  Phedre stood up for what was right when they did nothing, and now they look at her with disgust?

—I’m so happy things worked out for the others that escaped from Darsanga, both the eunuchs and the women.  I hope they are able to find some peace.


  1. Oh my goodness - I'm so glad I never thought about Joscelin dying in that fight! It just never occurred to me tbh and I was already on the edge of my seat. But now you've said it, Carey can be quite ruthless - oh no, now it's on my mind I'll be tense every time he gets involved in a fight!
    What a good idea about Phedre and Josceline adopting Imriel and it being Phedre's boon - I never would have thought of that but I think it's such a good idea. And, it will feel kind of odd if Imriel doesn't play some part in the rest of the novel.
    Lynn :D

    1. I really, really hope Joscelin survives this story, and he, Phedre and Imriel become a happy family! I've read the next section now, so I know what happens with Imriel, but yes. I think losing Imriel at this point would make the story feel disjointed.

  2. "Also, how terrifying is the idea that someone could both claim to love you and be okay with killing you?"

    Yeah. You make me think that perhaps this book is a metaphor for domestic violence.

    I'm not sure why, but the way you talk about the fight between Joscelin and Tahmuras made me think of the fight between Joscelin and David de Rocaille, the differences between them. One fight Phedre wished she could watch and one she didn't want to.

    1. I hadn't thought of domestic violence, I think I was stuck thinking of real-life cults. That is an interesting way to look at it.

      Also, one made Joscelin a romanticized hero, and the other permanently damaged him. I think they were both very important events in his life.

  3. When I first read these books years ago, I too was worried that Phedre or Joscelin might not make it out of Darsanga... tho since Phedre is telling the story I was way more worried about Joscelin. I mean, if Phedre died, Joscelin would pine for life and maybe die young because of it. But if Joscelin died, Phedre would mourn, but she would also continue on, her heart being so big as to have room for others.

    Whenever I read that section about the Mahrkagir's love for Phedre and how he is willing to sacrifice her, I think of that saying, 'You hurt the ones you love the most.' Oddly enough, this was first told to me by a man who I later found out was very abusive to his wife, like knife to the throat in threat kind of abuse.

    I wasn't too pleased with the Ahura Mazda priests either. I know they have been through a lot too, and they had these certain ideas about Phedre for months before they knew the truth... and yet, so little gratitude. Also, I don't know what their mindset towards women in general was before all this sorrow and horror. Perhaps they come from a culture where women are to be veiled and chaste to be respected.