Monday, December 26, 2016

Read-Along: Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey, Weeks 3 and 4

Welcome to this long read-along post which will cover weeks three and four (delayed due to Christmas festivities).  Week three’s questions covered chapters 27-36, and questions were provided by Grace of Books Without Any Pictures.  Week four covered chapters 37-48, and questions were provided by me.  Since I’ve read both sections, the answers for both weeks will potentially have spoilers up through chapter 48.  Let’s head to the questions now!

Week 3:

1. What are your impressions of Queen Jehanne?

My perspective on her changed a lot through these sections.  Initially she seemed petty, self-centered and jealous, remarkably so for a Servant of Naamah.  I was not too thrilled with her hijacking Moirin’s appointment with Cereus House. It turned something that should have been fun and educational into something that was also emotionally confusing and stressful.

As we got to know her better through Moirin, though, I feel like at least part of my initial impression was a misunderstanding.  For instance, I had assumed she was jealous of Moirin, but actually she was concerned that Raphael was slowly killing her. Also, people had unkindly said that she would not become a mother due to concern for her perfect figure, but she was actually terrified of dying in childbirth.  She certainly has her flaws, but I like her much better now.

2. Moirin has found herself in the middle of a sticky love triangle. How do you think it will play out?

Well, I’ve read the next section now, but back then I had assumed Jehanne would keep Raphael, and a heartbroken Moirin would go with Master Lo Feng to Ch’in.  I would not have predicted how things actually ended up playing out.

3. Now that we finally get to meet Moirin's father, what do you think of him?
He seems just as great as everyone in the novel seemed to imply that he would be.  He is so full of love and kindness, and he was the calm center and confidante that Moirin needed after she got herself so tangled up with the court. I loved how he was able to brighten the day of everyone he met.  

4. The scene with the summoning of Valac seems to be a shift in tone from the rest of the series. Is the Circle in over its head? What do you think is happening here?

They’re referring to them as spirits, but I’m not really sure how they fit into the general theology of this fantasy world.  Given what Moirin sees and their habits of playing cruel tricks, I am thinking they are some kind of demon.  They don’t really seem to fit in with Terre d’Ange’s angels. I think the Circle is in over its head already, but they won’t realize it until it is too late.

5. What do you think of the descriptions so far of the Ch'in?

I like Master Lo Feng and Bao, and I hope we get to hear more of their lives.  I am hoping that when Moirin eventually goes to Ch’in, it will be an interesting country full of many different kinds of people.

Week 4:

1) The Circle of Shalomon still moves forward, despite the spirits' tricks and the drain on Moirin.  Do you think there is any deeper intent behind the gift Moirin receives, and the kindness of the spirits to her?  Do you have any thoughts on how the gift might be involved with her destiny?

I was wondering if they were being kinder to Moirin because they could tell she was summoning them through no ambition of her own.  It seemed like they were more interested in fooling people who wanted things desperately.  I’m wondering if their gift to her comes from a similar motivation, that it just tickled them to give her unasked something that the others were begging for.  I feel like it’s bound to play a role in the future, but I don’t have any guess on exactly how.

2) Moirin's gift puts her in a difficult position, where wanting to help people could eventually kill her. Do you think you would be able to refuse the healing and/or the summoning if you were in Moirin's place?

I think that I would not have gone so far along with the Circle’s summoning as Moirin did, but the healing is a more difficult question.  If it were for my father, or another close relative, I think I would give whatever it took.  For strangers, I don’t know what I would do.  I would feel very guilty about not using an ability that could save lives, but I wouldn’t want to pay my own for it, either.

3) Phanuel returns!  Do you have any new thoughts about him on his second visit?  Later, when he is ill, do you think he would have agreed for Moirin to take such a risk (including her bargain to Raphael) to heal him?

I’m answering this at the same time as last week’s question, so I don’t really have anything new.  I don’t think he would have agreed to Moirin’s risk and bargain.  He seems like the sort that would urge her to accept that it was his time to go.  I don’t think he’ll be angry with her about it, but he may be angry with Raphael.  I’m actually curious to see what Phanuel is like when he’s angry.

4) Were you surprised when Jehanne is finally the one to rescue Moirin from being bled dry?  Do you trust her motivations?  On the other side, what do you think about how Raphael and Thierry handled her being rescued from them?

I was really surprised.  I assumed her interest in Moirin was mostly jealousy, not concern for her well-being. For now, I trust her stated motivations.  I was really annoyed with how Raphael and Thierry reacted to the situation. Raphael was kind to her, but he took so much.  He probably would have eventually accidentally killed her in some summoning or healing, if things kept on the way they were.  It’s his fault she needed rescuing in the first place, so I feel he owes her and not the other way around. Thierry, at least, was just reacting initially out of hurt pride, and I appreciated that he reconciled with her relatively quickly.  He seems like he will be a good friend, especially now that all their intentions are out in the open.

5) Do you think Moirin is a good Queen's Companion?  What do you think of her influence on Jehanne, and has your perspective of Jehanne and the complicated love polygon changed?

I think she’s not quite the companion Amarante was, but she hasn’t been prepared for the role in the same way. She’s doing the best she can in the circumstances, and she seems to be helping Jehanne to become a better queen.  I hope the improvement is permanent!

I feel like I understand a little bit better now about the relationships between Daniel, Jehanne, Raphael, and Moirin.  They all (except Daniel) seem to have more issues with jealousy and possessiveness than d’Angelines in previous novels.  I find myself wondering how Jehanne and Daniel’s deal might change now that she is pregnant.  Once the legitimate pregnancy is  announced, it seems like there’s no reason for her to not see Raphael.

6) We see another Longest Night!  Did anything notable stick out to you this time?  What did you think of the court festivities with respect to the Night Court?  

Both celebrations seemed a little similar to me, though the Night Court one was clearly less inhibited.  In Phedre’s day, she said that the Night Court was in decline, so I wonder how this celebration would compare to the ones she described.  As for this Longest Night, it was very kind of King Daniel to consent to Jehanne joining the other adepts at the Night Court.  I think that scene in the twilight with Jehanne and Moirin was the most notable point.  I don’t blame Thierry for not wanting to be around for something like that!

Other Thoughts:

--I am curious about how one travels from Terre d’Ange to Ch’in in this era.  I expect we’ll see that soon, when Moirin does need to leave.

--I don’t like how much Moirin’s destiny feels like authorial guidance.  It feels a little artificial when she turns away from things she wants because her destiny told her to do something else.

--I feel like this next summoning is going to be a very bad idea.  I hope it doesn’t damage Moirin permanently.


  1. I think Valac and crew are demons as well even if the story hasn't used that term yet.

    I'm curious to see what Phanuel is like angry as well.

    That's a good point about Jehanne and having a legitimate heir. Once that's said and done, I wonder if King Daniel would object to her seeing others? Perhaps she wouldn't want another love?

    I think Lynn brough up earlier in the read along about how spirit visions after fasting and drinking mushroom tea works OK in a book, but probably doesn't hold much weight with many people in the real world. I totally agree with her and that matches up with what you say here about destiny as a plot device. It's OK for this story but I wouldn't put much weight behind it in real life. I do like that the other characters are sometimes skeptical of her destiny.

    1. Hm, I guess demons do fit in, since the Elua faith is within Christianity. It's just that no one has really mentioned them much before. I still want to know more about them!

      On Jehanne, it seemed like she was struggling to stay away from Raphael, so I'd guess she'd want to go back with him if she could. It's a shame the Eisheth plan can't be reversed when needed.

  2. I've also changed my mind about Jehanne. I initially thought her kind of childish and petty, but she is a much more nuanced character and there's more to her than initially meets the eye. I'm so glad Jehanne realized that Raphael was draining Moirin dry.