Sunday, March 20, 2016

Read-Along: Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey, Part 1

It’s time to kick off a community read-along of Kushiel’s Justice, the fifth book in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey!  This week’s discussion covers chapters 1-7 and Susan of Dab of Darkness has provided our discussion questions.  Beware of spoilers for these seven chapters, as well as for the previous four books.  If you’d like to join in the read-along, feel free to check out our Goodreads group and and check out SFFReadAlongs on Twitter.

1) Imriel wraps up some left over business - meeting with Bernadette de Trevalion. What do you think of the way Imriel handled the meeting? Will the peace hold? 

I think he handled it pretty well.  She seemed very surprised that he was not going to retaliate against her, but I think the peace will hold.  I think it also helped that he proved he had not been conspiring with anyone.  Bertran’s apology came far too late to preserve their friendship, but at least he did apologize.

2) Imriel first hears of the Bear People or Bear Witches from Alais and later a little more from the Alban honor guards who attend the Bard, and still a bit more from Phedre. Simply a spooky story or more to it? Does the tale remind you of any myth or legend? 

Is it ever just a spooky story in these books ;)?  It reminds me a bit of Darsanga so far, but I hope we don’t go anywhere that dark again. The story about the man-bear reminds me of the story in Brave.  I don’t know if that was in turn reflecting a true legend.

3) Mavros accompanies Imriel on their visit to Bryony House, where Imriel wins them tokens for the Longest Night. What did you think of how Imriel won the bet? Mavros shares a bit of wisdom later, pointing out that Imriel isn't really enjoying sampling all the Night Court Houses before his wedding and that it is somewhat of an injustice to Naamah. Do you think Mavros is right? 

I have to agree with Imriel that thinking about Darsanga is the ultimate anti-aphrodisiac, but also that it wasn’t really worth the win.  Imriel didn’t really seem into the Night Court party anyway, so it would have been fine (and much more pleasant for him) if he’d just lost. 

Imriel does seem to have a way of taking encounters that are meant to be happy and making them very sad.  I think it was good of Mavros to notice this, and to suggest they stop their tour of the houses.  That’s a shame, though, because I’m really curious to see the rest of them.  I also think Mavros is right about giving offense to Naamah, and it was good of Imriel to acknowledge this and make penance.   

4) In this section, Imriel visits Kushiel's Temple and then later Naamah's Temple, wishing to atone in both for various slights and actions. Which would you find more cathartic? Do you think Imriel has a deeper understanding of himself, and perhaps Phedre, now? 

I think he does, though I honestly wasn’t sure he’d make it through Kusheline penance without having a breakdown.  I feel like he really understands the importance of consent now. His time in Kushiel’s temple is not like Darsanga because it is something he chose to endure.  As for me, I am not really a fan of pain, and I don’t think it would make me feel absolved.  I think Naamah’s release-of-dove ritual is more beautiful and inspiring. 

However, while he got peace from Kushiel, I think he got a little more than he expected from Naamah.  Even the priest warned him about asking for Naamah’s blessing, and it seems like that blessing led him to love as he wanted—and to that interesting encounter with Sidonie.

5) Finally, we have the Longest Night. What stood out the most for you? If you could join Imriel's little group, what philosopher would you choose to dress as? 

Well, there was that brief meeting with Sidonie to think of!  I also thought it was nice that Imriel returned to Elua’s vigil at the end of the night.  I feel like he’s still trying to define himself, but now in a bit more of a self-forgiving and open way.

As for the philosophers, I don’t really know all that much about philosophy.  I suppose I would go as Voltaire, if he were to exist in this fantasy world!  He’s one of the great d’Angeline philosophers, and I bet he would have a nice costume.

Other Things:

On reading these chapters, I realize that Imriel still doesn’t have a good grasp of what makes up romantic love.  He seems to think that passionate, lifelong love strikes at an instant when two people’s eyes meet.  This came to my mind because he keeps mentioning how he knows he’ll never have the passionate romance he craves with his betrothed, Bredeia. He really doesn’t even know her, though. 

When he compares the situation to Joscelin and Phedre, I think about what the two of them thought of one another when they knew each other about as well as Imriel and Bredeia do now.  They certainly weren’t in love, and any suggestion that they were soulmates would probably have been met by either laughter or a cold stare from Phedre or Joscelin, respectively.  Their love was something that grew slowly over time, through many experiences. Imriel only saw the end result of all those years they spent together.  I’m not saying that he and his fiancée will necessarily fall in passionate romantic love, but I don’t think he should discount the possibility just yet.

Also, on the cover: It looks like Sidonie?  I'm not sure why, since she's not the main character.  Were they just really opposed to putting a boy on the cover?  I'm sure Imriel would make a lovely picture.  


  1. I love the cover and it's definitely Sidonie - in her Longest Night costume by the looks of things.
    Great points about the consent issue. Spot on.
    And Brave - yes, I think that might of been what I was trying to grasp but kept evading me.
    I hope that Imriel is going to give Bredeia a chance. At the moment he seems a little bit enamoured with Sidonie.
    Lynn :D

    1. Yeah, she does make a lovely cover, I was just surprised that my copies of the first two books of Imriel's trilogy feature Phedre and Sidonie!

      I am wondering if his attraction to Sidonie is going to end up being just infatuation with someone who seems unreachable. Maybe the 'forbidden' aspect was also part of what attracted him to Claudia? I do hope he gives his fiancée a chance, too.

  2. For what it's worth, Imriel is on the cover of some versions.

    I can't believe I didn't make the Brave connection.

    I was thinking Voltaire too!

    1. Yeah, I saw Lynn's cover had Imriel--I was wondering if it was a US/UK regional difference. I bet Voltaire would make an excellent person to dress as for a masquerade :).

  3. I agree - Bertran's apology was worthy but too late to save their friendship. Too bad.

    I haven't seen Brave yet so I will have to go check that out.

    I wonder if Carey was worried about giving her readings sex fatigue if she had Imriel visit all the Night Court houses. I think I would have enjoyed it but she also does a great job of using the sex and the romance to further the story and visiting all the Houses might have taken away from that.

    Those are really good points about Imri's ideas of romantic love. Een tho he's heard the ballads, poems, tales, etc., he's grown up knowing them as a pair, deeply in love.

    I also agree about the covers. Why not put Imri on the covers for this trilogy? He's a handsome and deeply interesting lad!

    1. I would recommend Brave; I thought it was a really fun movie :).

      I guess it could have started feeling a little too repetitive if he really went through all of the houses. I just find seeing the differences between the houses really interesting!

      I wonder if he ever heard any stories about Phedre/Joscelin pre-Skaldia? I guess Phedre didn't really talk much to him about that part of her life.