Sunday, April 24, 2016

Read-Along: Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Cary, Part 6

Welcome to week 6 of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Justice. This week’s questions cover chapters 38 through 46, and are provided by Emily of Emma Wolf.  Beware of spoilers beyond this point! This week, we deal with more of the aftermath of last week’s tragedy.

1. At some point before she died, Dorelei made Urist promise to bring Imriel back to the City of Elua and Sidonie for fear that, if he didn’t go, he would be driven to bitterness. What do you think of this promise? Do you agree with Dorelei that Imriel would turn bitter?

I think this was an interesting promise. In a way, Dorelei was acknowledging and approving his love for Sidonie, and giving him permission to continue his life without her.  That was an extremely selfless and compassionate gesture, and it makes me miss Dorelei even more.

If she hadn’t had Urist make this promise, I can see a few things that might have happened.  Imriel might have insisted on going for vengeance before seeing Sidonie, and then only have returned to her after he felt his obligation to Dorelei was complete. I don’t think he would have turned bitter, but I can see the risk there.  Alternatively, he might have returned to Sidonie anyway, and have lost the respect of his Alban men (assuming he did this without Urist’s support).  I think there would have been a lot of guilt and self-hatred mixed into his return with Sidonie, if he hadn’t done it knowing he had Dorelei’s blessing.

2. Imriel questions whether there was no way to escape the fate of his son foreseen by the Maghuin Dhonn. What do you think?

It seems to me that the Maghuin Dhonn successfully changed the future with every action they took.  In general, they seemed to make things progressively worse, but the important thing is that they did change the future.  That means that the future is not set in stone, but can be altered by the decisions people make.  If they had approached the situation with more compassion, and had taken Imriel and Dorelei into their confidence, then the future they saw could have been avoided.  I think the real issue was that the Maghuin Dhonn needed to be allies, not adversaries, of Imriel and his family.

I also liked Imriel’s thoughts on the matter.  I had wondered why Imriel would leave the child, but I hadn’t considered that he might have been dead in Morwen’s future.  We saw him leaving the child in the vision, but not what happened afterward.  Maybe this future-Imriel believed Dorelei’s death in childbirth was the work of the Maghuin Dhonn, and he went chasing vengeance and dying in the process. Then I could see how his son might grow up alone, sad, and embittered against the Maghuin Dhonn for taking his parents from him. 

3. Urist explains the politics underlying the matter to the other Cruithne by noting that Imriel was good enough for Dorelei and Alba, good enough to father Alban heirs, but not good enough for Terre d’Ange. What do you think of his observation?

Urist is a master of spin, and thank goodness he’s on Imriel’s side! I do think he has a point, though, and hopefully that argument will also help convince Ysandre eventually.  The main purpose of that line of argument was to make supporting Imriel’s love for Sidonie a point of honor among the Albans, instead of letting it feel like a betrayal of Dorelei.

4. We see new places and new peoples. Imriel wonders about the tanner and his wife and their story and how he will never know it. Of all the minor characters we’ve met so far, are there any you wish you knew more about?

Maybe Mavros? He’s a more prominent minor character, but I think the Shahrizai family members are all pretty interesting. Also, I would say Drustan.  He’s a major presence in the entire series, but we really don’t know him very well.

5. What do you think of what’s become of the Yeshuites? Of Micah ben Ximon? Do you think the written word is more open to multiple interpretations than the spoken one, as Urist hints?

I’m glad they seem to have found their place in the cold lands, and good for Micah ben Ximon in becoming legendary.  Let’s add him to the list above of minor characters I’d like to know more about. 

Having dealt with both verbal and written communication breakdowns in modern situations, I completely disagree with Urist.  With written communication, at least it is recorded.  People can argue about interpretation, but the words are undeniable.  Verbal communication also uses words, so it has the exact same problem with multiple interpretations.  The only difference with verbal communication is that the words themselves are arguable as well.  People run into “But you said X.” “No, I didn’t. I said Y.” problems with things that were said mere days before.  If we’re talking about information passed down for generations, I think it’s nearly impossible for the words and meaning to be accurately preserved.  It might seem like oral history is more accurate for those who keep it, simply because there’s no historical record to compare with the latest version of the information.

Other Things:

--I really dislike the idea that Imriel and Sidonie have come up with, that Dorelei’s death was a punishment for their lack of courage in embracing their love.  Do they really think Elua would have an innocent woman and her unborn child mauled to death by a bear, just to teach them a lesson about love?  If so, Elua seems kind of monstrous.  I hope they just mean it in the vague sense of “nothing good ever comes from denying love,” rather than actually believing it was a divine punishment. 
--I hope it doesn’t come back to haunt Imriel later, but I support his decision to destroy Berlik’s bear coat.

--Now we have seen Dutch country!  It was fun to see Imriel trying to muddle his way through with a language he didn’t know very well.  Phedre was entirely too good at languages, so seeing this side of Imriel helps my self-esteem!

--Also, more about horses, I’m kind of amazed with Imriel.  Horseback riding takes a lot out of you, and he was sliced open by a bear.  It must help that the bear didn’t get his legs, but I believe he’s still only had a few months to recover.  Yet, he’s already able to ride for five days straight with minor problems! His bedroom performance was similarly impressive.  I guess people in their twenties bounce back fast? 


  1. "It seems to me that the Maghuin Dhonn successfully changed the future with every action they took."

    That's a good point. I wonder if it was that the future had changed or that the future became more clear. Maybe both?

    I like reading other people's interpretation of why that future came to pass (what happened to Imriel).

    Yeah, we really don't know a lot about Drustan. That's kind of odd to me, since he's kind of an important character.

    "Do they really think Elua would have an innocent woman and her unborn child mauled to death by a bear, just to teach them a lesson about love?"

    ! I kind of wondered about this also in Kushiel's Avatar. Was Kushiel really behind Imriel's abduction to punish his mother? If so, the gods of Terre d'Ange are jerkfaces. But IIRC, there, they just kind of said some things are up to chance. I think here it's like as you said--nothing good can come from denying love.

    1. I think it was the future changing. At one point, they saw a future where Morwen had Imriel's daughter, and she protected the Maghuin Dhonn, right? Then after she failed to get pregnant, the daughter vanished from the visions. I really like non-deterministic clairvoyance in stories, though, so my interpretation is biased :).

      I was thinking of bringing up the discussion of that from Kushiel's Avatar again, too, because it does seem like a similar issue. I prefer to think in both cases that it was just chance, not divinely ordered punishment. I can't imagine Imriel really believes it was divine punishment either, or I don't understand how he could still revere Elua after everything that has happened.

  2. I love your comment about the future not being set in stone. It could have been so different if there had been openness from the beginning!
    Ysandre - she's an odd fish sometimes. I know she was angry but even so she can be a little bit haughty can't she (or a lot!)
    And, yeah, it would be totally awful if Elua was behind Dorelei's death - plus her unborn child! That would be really bad.
    Lynn :D
    Sorry - a bit brief as I just tried to comment and managed to lose it all somehow!

    1. On Ysandre, I bet there's also a bit of "After I took you in and supported you, how dare you seduce my daughter!" going on there. I'm hoping she calms down and accepts the situation soon.

      Sorry your comment got lost :(!