Sunday, October 16, 2016

Read-Along: Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey, Part 2

Welcome to week two of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Mercy, book three of Imriel’s Trilogy and book six of Kushiel’s Legacy.  This week, I am the host, and the questions cover chapters 11 through 22.  If you’re interested in this and future read-alongs, check out our goodreads group.  As always, beware of spoilers below!

1) Imriel visits a few of the Houses with Astegal.  If you were to visit Carey's Terre d'Ange, would there be a particular house you'd be interested to see?

Imriel’s actions made it clear in this section that it could be fun to visit the Night Court even without the expectation of sex happening.  That made me think of what houses I would most want to see, just because I think they would be interesting places to pass an evening. I would find Bryony incredibly stressful, so it would be a definite no.  I think Eglantine would be a lot of fun, with all the creative arts on display.  Also, we haven’t seen too much of them, but I bet the people at Orchis (“Joy in laughter”) would be great company.  If I wanted to participate more fully, I’d probably go for Balm.

2) The Carthaginians scheme was some of the most blatant magic that I think we've seen in the series.  Given that there is a whole country of people who are not fooled, do you think they really expected to get away with it cleanly in the long-term?  Do you think they have an alternative plan?

I feel like the magic in this series is generally a lot more mystical and understated, and when it is more blatant it generally is only revealed to a small number of people.  I was therefore really surprised that this was an undeniable magic spell that affected the entire population of the City of Elua.  I was also a little disappointed, both because amnesia is such a common plot device and because this sets yet another external magical barrier to Imriel and Sidonie’s love.  I am finding that I like romance more when the conflicts are internal to the relationship, such as the differences in ideology between Phedre and Joscelin. On the other hand, what a nightmare!  After seeing just a fragment of what Imriel said and did while he was delirious, I can’t imagine the guilt he must feel.  It’s really good of Phedre and Joscelin to be able to not take any of that personally.

As for the Carthaginians, I am wondering whether they don’t expect for this particular trick to last indefinitely.  It seems like the most likely outcome would be civil war in Terre d’Ange, as people who were outside the capital rebel against Queen Ysandre’s bizarre choices.  Even Drustan is likely to turn against Ysandre, because his mind will heal as soon as he goes home.  If Terre d’Ange sends support for Carthage in Aragonia, the troops and leaders should be restored to their right minds in time to turn on Carthage.  Maybe the goal of the Carthaginians was just to eliminate Terre d’Ange as a political and military force, and they chose marrying Sidonie as the method most likely to bring about the kind of outrage that could cause a civil war?

3) Barquiel l'Envers goes from a petty antagonist to one of Imriel's only allies.  Does this change your opinion of him?  Do you think this adventure will alter his perception of Imriel?

I was surprised by this turn of events!  So far, it has been influencing my opinion of Barquiel.  I guess we now have confirmation that Barquiel genuinely thought Imriel was a manipulative liar taking advantage of Sidonie.  He seemed so surprised to realize that Imriel really did love her.  I think that saving Terre d’Ange together is bound to bring them closer together, even if they’ll never really be friends.

4) We finally see Melisande again!  What do you think of what she has become?  Do you think she still deserves execution for her crimes?
It seems she has turned into a surprisingly good person, despite being a sociopath.  She made one comment about her growing realization of her own heartlessness, and I wondered if she used to think that everyone was like her.  Perhaps she grew up thinking that no one had a conscience, but people just all quietly agreed to abide by a certain set of convoluted rules for some reason.  She must have then seen herself not as doing anything monstrous, but just being the only one who realized that the rules were breakable.  I feel a little more sympathetic to her than I used to, but I still think she needs to face the consequences for her crimes.  

5) What do you think will be Imriel's key to change out of the form and mind of Leander?  Do you think you would be willing to undergo such a transformation?  

I realize the first part is maybe not something that folks re-reading can answer, but I was wondering what he will choose.  Sidonie’s safeword? A kiss from Sunjata (they wouldn’t even have to tell him the reason for the required kiss)?  I am very curious to see!  As for the second, the transformation sounds horrifying to me.  I would never want to do something that would change my self that way.  If it was the only way to save the person I loved, though, I guess I would have to do it.

Other Things:

--I had a moment of anachronistic confusion about the needle.  I assumed it was a syringe with some kind of drug.  It wasn’t until Imriel was talking with Jeanne that I realized there were no syringes in this time period, and it was actually a magical needle.

--I like that Imriel has respect for people he has slept with in the past (such as Jeanne).  I think that’s a perk of a less sexist society.

--I hope things don’t turn out too badly for Cythera.  They made the point that if the spell is undone, it will be obvious where Imriel got the help from.

--I also hope Barquiel is in a position to look for the stone.  He was going to try to reason with Ysandre, and the spell is going to make her angry and aggressive.  He is not the most level-headed person, either… I really hope he isn’t in jail by the time Imriel’s letter arrives.   

--I wonder how much of Melisande’s habit of buying and freeing slaves is influenced by her horror at what happened to Imriel.


  1. Interesting thoughts about Melisande--the good sociopath. I think some of her thoughts on slavery (freeing them personally and getting Solon to change the laws) are influenced by Imriel's experiences, but (because I'm cynical) I think some might be because she sees personal benefit from it--if she frees them, they will be loyal to her.

    "I would find Bryony incredibly stressful, so it would be a definite no."

    I never really got Bryony and the whole money as an aphrodisiac thing.

    1. I bet you're right. It's still nice that she's choosing to do things for her own benefit that also help others, though!

  2. I like your comments on the magical elements in this book. It is much more upfront and has immediate and definite effects on people.

    Yes! Melisande is such an interesting person. I loved her comments about her own lack of morals, etc. And yet she works hard to provide a safe environment for these kids, and give them training so they have viable skills when they leave the nest.

    Yep, a needle coated in the sweat of a mad man, the slime of a frog, and bathed in the light of the full moon. I've always been tempted to try it, but I don't really know anyone clinically insane.

    Absolutely! I so love this society Carey created in regards to how sex is treated - with respect.

    1. I don't think I'd want to try the needle, even if I could get the ingredients--if it worked it would not be pleasant!