Welcome all to the eighth week of the read-along of Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey! This is the penultimate week, and many things are starting to be resolved. This week’s questions cover chapters 57-65, and are provided by me. Feel free to check out our goodreads group if you're interested in joining future read-alongs.
Please beware of major spoilers lurking below!
1. Imriel actually gave up the quest for justice before he found Berlik, and would have left empty-handed if the man had not come to him. Does knowing that their eventual encounter was of Berlik's choosing change the way you think about how it finally ended? How do you think this will affect Imriel, moving forward?
I really appreciated how the culmination of the quest was handled. The same end result would have been achieved if Imriel had killed Berlik in Alba, but it would have had completely different meaning for both Imriel and Berlik.
On Imriel’s side, the difficulties he encountered in his pursuit of Berlik stripped him of all support and help, until there was only his will left. He spent many days in the company of only his own thoughts, and eventually decided to stop hunting for Berlik. When Berlik finally came to him, Imriel followed, but more out of obligation to see the task through than out of passion for vengeance. To me, it is meaningful that he carried out the execution without the rage he must have felt after Dorelei’s death. In the end, Imriel didn’t want to take a life, and he only did so in service to justice, at the request of the condemned.
On Berlik’s side, I think it was good that he had time to consider the state of his soul. I liked that he found comfort in Yeshua, even though he did not convert. I feel like he did find redemption, though it was through offering his own life to pay for his actions. When he finally met Imriel, he was at peace and ready to accept the consequences of his actions.
As for how it will affect Imriel moving forward, I think the way this ended will go a long way towards helping him be at peace with himself. I don’t think Imriel is a murderer at heart (he has killed before, but only in defense), and I think killing Berlik in rage would have harmed him more than he might have expected. This way, I think he can eventually accept that justice was done, and that he has honored Dorelei’s memory.
2. I was definitely not expecting to see Maslin in the Vralian wilderness! What do you think of his motivations? Do you think it's still possible for them to build the friendship Imriel wanted so dearly many years ago?
I was very surprised that Maslin, of all people, would travel through the wilderness searching for Imriel! It sounded like his initial plan to come to Vralia was a hastily-made promise to Sidonie, but that he also had a lot of time alone with his thoughts on the way. I don’t completely understand what drove him forward past the point when he realized that he did not truly love Sidonie, but only the idea of her. Maybe it was just that he was already in Vralia by then, so it was too late to turn back?
I was so excited to see he and Imriel starting to finally become friends! Maslin’s envy made sense, but I think traveling with Imriel and seeing the real pain behind the poet’s songs helped him to put things in perspective. I really hope they can continue to be allies from here on out.
3. Imriel feels very strongly about going back through the places where he was dishonest or where he caused pain (Miroslas, Tarkov, the Vralian capital). Do you think these stops were necessary? Do you think he was right to not go to the pilgrim family that took Berlik in?
I don’t think anyone would have blamed Imriel if he hadn’t visited these places, but I respect his decision to do so. I saw the whole journey back as a chosen penance for Imriel. He had just served justice, and he wanted to make sure that he did not avoid it for his own actions. I’m not sure what I think about the pilgrims. They’re also never going to know what happened to Berlik, but then they were only briefly involved in his life. They may be happier not knowing.
Also, what a happy surprise at Tarkov! It was really nice to see Phedre and Joscelin again, and they definitely helped to smooth things over. I wondered, when Imriel mentioned bringing the head to Alba and Phedre burst into tears, if she was remembering Eamonn and Grainne. She had plenty else to cry about (Dorelei, Imriel being hurt and in danger), but it seemed that particular comment struck her unexpectedly deeply.
4. We have another myth in the making: the dark angel and the light angel, battling for Berlik's soul. Clearly this isn't literally true, since Maslin knew nothing about Berlik. Do you think it carries any metaphorical truth with respect to Berlik's struggle with his guilt?
I am not really sure if I think this has any metaphorical truth. Berlik’s two choices were to accept Yeshua’s grace and continue his life, or to offer his own life to pay for his crimes. I’m not sure which of the two options would be light and which would be dark. It makes sense that the stories that build up around these things have such a black/white view, but I appreciate that the situation itself is so much more complicated.
5. It looks like Tadeuz Vral will have another Yeshuite advisor now, in the Rebbe from Miroslas. Do you think this will impact the path of Vralia in the future? Do you think Imriel's deceit will affect Vralia's relationships with Alba and Terre d'Ange?
The war was completely in the background, but it sounded like a pretty terrible thing. Micah’s Yeshuite country is now placing populations in siege and converting them by force. I hope that the Rebbe will be a more peaceful and non-violent influence on Tadeuz Vral, moving forward.
I was pretty surprised that Tadeuz was so unforgiving of Imriel. I guess I thought that avenging his murdered wife and son would have been a mitigating factor in the deceit. I can see this poisoning Tadeuz’s view of Alba and Terre d’Ange, but I think trade is too important for him to refuse to deal with them in the future. I think it might strain the relationships between the countries, though.
Finally, in honor of US Mother’s Day, a nice quote about motherhood:
“Did you expect me to invoke the aid of the Master of the Straits and threaten to bring heaven’s wrath down on Vralia if Prince Tadeuz had sought retribution against Imriel?” Phedre asked mildly.
“I thought it was possible.” His voice was grave. “You have named the young man your son. I do not discount the ferocity of a mother’s love.”
“Ah, well.” She favored him with another sweet, disarming smile. “I would have negotiated first.” ~p.594