Welcome to week six of the read-along of Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey! I have provided the questions this week, and they cover chapters 63 through 75. If you’re interested in this or future read-alongs, please check out our goodreads group. From here on out, beware of spoilers!
1. The Euskerri paid a brutal price for their sovereignty. What do you think about how this played out? Did anything stick out in your mind?
The real-world Euskerri (the Basques) are still a part of Spain, so I think it’s interesting that Carey has them separating from the larger country in this fantasy version. The way it seemed in the novel, it looks like the Euskerri have paid a proportionally heavier price than Aragon in the defense against Carthage. I wonder how many lives would have been saved if Aragon had granted their independence earlier, so that they would have coordinated as allies in the fight against Carthage from the beginning.
2. How do you feel about the way things ended for Astegal? Was it just? If not, what would you have preferred to see happen?
I am not really sure how to answer this question, so I hope other people have interesting views. I think in this case it would be difficult to separate justice from vengeance, especially for Sidonie and Imriel. In general, I am opposed to capital punishment, due to the risk of executing innocent people. In this fictional case, there is no doubt of Astegal’s guilt, or that he is responsible for many deaths. I also think the only just reason for execution is to prevent future harm to society from repeat violent offenders. I’m not sure if Astegal falls into this category, though Bodeshmun definitely did. Astegal is a captured general, so he is not going to be able to repeat his crimes. I’m not sure what I would have preferred to happen. To note, real-world Aragon does not practice capital punishment in modern day.
3. Do you have any theories on why Imriel's charm is able to protect Sidonie?
I was actually pretty surprised this worked. Maybe most of the spell is in the croonie stone? If not, I think it could be that Elua is extremely angry at what has happened, and is willing to pull some strings to help out.
4. What do you think about Alais's change of heart regarding political power and her new plans for her future?
I’m glad she’s no longer trying to end matrilineal succession in Alba. Also, I respect her for refusing to a marriage that she does not want. I think a future as an ollamh may bring her closer to happiness. We saw in the previous book that she loved Alba deeply, even if she didn’t have any particular feelings for Talorcan. I think she has found a way to follow the command to “love as thou wilt”.
5. The spell twists the personalities of people we knew, sometimes in disturbing ways. Do you see the seeds of who they are now in their true selves? Given their currently twisted view of reality, do you think anyone is acting against their own principles?
I found it really disturbing that Ysandre was willing to murder her own people to end the civil war. I think this could be a dark mirror of her stubbornness and her intense drive to preserve her rule. I feel like Phedre and Joscelin’s actions are a dark reflection of their love and worry for Imriel. This was a really nasty spell, and I hope they’re able to end it soon. If they remember all they have said and done, I wonder if Ysandre will abdicate the throne to Sidonie. I think the seeds of Ysandre’s actions are in her real personality, but I think she will be horrified to realize what she has done and what she was willing to do.
--It looks like the alliance with Barquiel may have just changed into something permanent! I never thought it would be possible for Imriel would earn his respect.
--Sidonie is an amazing actress right now. That must be such a strain though, especially since she is in constant physical pain that she can’t show. I don’t think this situation can last for long.
--I’m impressed with Kratos. He seems to have a knack for this kind of undercover work, and he’s good at thinking on his feet.
--Am I the only one thinking that Imriel and Sidonie could use her bindings as a hot-cold method to find the gemstone? (Pain… now less pain… now more pain, it’s that way!)