Sunday, April 10, 2016

Read-Along: Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey, Part 4

It’s time for week four of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Justice, and this week I am the host!  The questions cover chapters 23 through 29, so beware of spoilers below.  If you’re interested in getting involved in this or other group reads, check out our goodreads group.

1) Given the developments since last time, what do you think the Maghuin Donn are after with Imriel?  Could it be related to Dorelei's and Alais's dream? Were Imriel and Dorelei right to refuse their blessing?

I’m baffled by the Maghuin Donn right now.  It was an interesting reveal that the curse was solely for defending themselves from Imriel.  I don’t think he has any intention to do physical harm to the Maghuin Donn, and surely a mind-control curse wouldn’t be much help if it is just danger from the ideologies he’s bringing with him to Alba.

I’m also a little confused about the blessing of the baby.  Morwen just recently expressed a desire to have Imriel’s baby herself. Does she mean she wants to steal his and Dorelei’s child?  Was she trying to seduce him, so that his firstborn would be with the Maghuin Donn?  Given their weirdness around the idea of his children, I don’t blame Imriel and Dorelei for refusing their blessing.  It will be interesting to see what consequences that decision carries later, though.

2) Imriel and Dorelei's relationship is very honest now.  Do you think their plan is a wise one or not?  What do you think of the Alban custom of limited-term marriage?

I’m not sure this is a very good idea.  Right now, they are literally a couple that is only kept together by a baby.  Add in to the mix that Dorelei is in love with Imriel, and Imriel is in love with the idea of having a child, and there’s all kinds of emotional mess.  I can kind of see Imriel’s point that he wants his child to know he cared enough to marry its mother, but does it really mean much if he then leaves a year later?  I guess legally there’s a big difference between the child being born in or out of wedlock, but emotionally does it really matter if the dad stuck around for a year or for only a few months?

I don’t agree with the idea of limited-term marriage, but I can see how it makes sense for political marriages.  If the fact of the marriage is all that matters, then I can see that this way is better than condemning two people who don’t love each other to a lifelong marriage that is not of their choice.  In terms of love matches, though, I don’t think a trial marriage is a good idea.  A lot can happen in a year (such as having a baby), that could leave the man and the woman in very different situations at the end of it.  Also, I think people would be less willing to do the work needed to build a successful marriage if they’re only planning for the relationship to last for a year.  

3) What did you think of the Alban nuptials, with respect to the ones in Terre d'Ange?  Did anything in particular stick out as memorable?

They were much more rowdy, that’s for sure!  Lots of drinking, fighting, feasting and boasting.  One of my favorite parts was probably the evening where the men praised their partners in (usually bawdy) improvised verse.  Joscelin and Imriel’s poems for Phedre and Dorelei were really lovely, and I wonder if their eloquence comes in part from growing up in the art-rich society of Terre d’Ange.  It was also funny when Imriel woke up the next morning horrified that they might have tattooed his face with warrior marks in his sleep.  That’s a fair bit more scary than the typical college risk of people drawing on your face if you fall asleep at a party.

4) We get to see Hyacinthe again!  What are your thoughts on his plan to not pass on his knowledge?  Do you think Phedre and Joscelin are completely on board with it, and do you think this 'secret task' will affect Imriel's story?

I can see Hyacinthe’s reasoning, but I still think it’s a shame to deliberately allow knowledge and power that can be used for good purposes to be lost.  Phedre was raised believing that all knowledge is worth having, so I am wondering if she might not be as accepting of this plan as she currently seems.  Given the hints we’ve been getting so far, it seems like this plan has got to have some kind of impact on Imriel’s story, but I can’t see what it might be yet.

5) Imriel's going to start off as a Prince of Alba with a neighborly cattle raid.  What do you think about this tradition?  Is the violence and risk worth the respect and goodwill Imriel will likely get for it?

I agree with Alais that this is a silly tradition.  It’s also a pretty dangerous one.  I guess that’s not really unexpected, given that their wedding sparring matches supposedly ended in death occasionally.  Still, I can’t imagine how horrible it would be if Imriel, or one of his men, dies in a frivolous, meaningless raid.  I wouldn’t really see it as a chance to gain honor, either, since the motivation and purpose are so trivial.  I hope it will help Imriel to be accepted as a Prince of Alba, though.

Other Things:

—It was brought up by others last time that those who disobey “love as thou wilt” seem to get karmic retribution.  It seems like that might be true of Imriel and Dorelei as well.  Imriel’s under a Maghuin Donn curse that prevents him from even feeling the love he knows exists, and Dorelei’s dreams are silenced.  It’s a shame that the dream-silencing affects Alais as well.

—I find it amusing that Imriel refers to his parents in his letter to Sidonie as “P&J”.  I always thought that kind of shorthand was brought on by texting/messaging, but it seems that it is alive and well in Terre d’Ange :D!

—I am wondering what will happen when the child is born.  I think his love for Dorelei alone couldn’t have trumped his love for Sidonie, but as he said, a child changes things.  I really hope the child is born safely, with no harm to Dorelei, and that sad circumstances don’t simplify his situation.


  1. The Maghuin Donn certainly are perplexing. Clearly Imriel doesn't seem to have any ill intent towards them so I can only guess that them saying he will harm them is simply as a consequence of his being there? In some way he's going to change the shape or nature of the place maybe or bring new people - I don't know but I'm taking it that it's more the effect of his being there rather than him wishing to do them any physical damage. I'm puzzled by the blessing - maybe this has evil connotations - the only blessing that I can think of right now is sleeping beauty where the evil fairy blessed the princess to prick her finger at the age of 16 and sleep until loves first kiss woke her!
    I completely agree about the trial marriages - it almost makes me wonder whether you would even really try to make things work out if you know you have a get out clause after 12 months.
    I'm really not sure where this is all going just yet - I hope this foolish cattle raid doesn't lead to other things!
    Lynn :D

    1. That's what I was thinking (just the change caused by him being there), but in that case what possible use could the clay mannikin be? It can only control him, not the effect his presence might have on the country. I hope the Maghuin Dhonn weren't planning a trick 'blessing' like in Sleeping Beauty, but it felt a bit weird coming so soon after Morwen wanted to bear his child. Maybe it would mark the kid as Alban and not d'Angeline or something?

  2. On one side, we have Imri being upfront with everyone (even if it embarrasses him) about the Maghuin Dhon and his seed. On the other side, we have the Bear Witches being obtuse and secretive and not helpful at all in letting people understand them. I wonder if they have some taboo against speaking it straight as much of Alba has a taboo about even mentioning the Bear Witches.

    I think it would have been a little funny to have Imri wake up with temporary tattoos. It might have shown him how handsome he would be with facial markings. ;)

    Yep. Elua is definitely making frowny faces at Imri's bindings and all the reasons for them.

    I think abbreviations have been around for some time, like centuries. After all, parchment, vellum, paper, even clay tablets were limited or expensive or time consuming to make.

    1. I feel like quoting the Last Unicorn here, "But I am a cat, and no cat anywhere ever gave anyone a straight answer." Those cat-like Maghuin Dhonn! Seriously, why can't they just explain what's going on? I bet it would help prevent whatever disaster they're trying to avoid.

      Haha, that would have been funny. "It's okay, Imriel, it's just paint..."

      I suppose that's true about abbreviations. I was mostly just thinking abbreviating family members' names in casual conversation--which I bet they did back then, too, but it still feels like it's a texting thing :).