Hello everyone! Welcome to the read along of Jacqueline Carey‘s Kushiel’s Dart. You can find the schedule HERE. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join in. We also have a Goodreads group for SF/F read alongs. Folks are always welcome to join us.
This week, I am your host. Leave a link to your post in the comments so we can all visit you. Folks are also most welcome to answer any and all questions in the comments and join in the conversation.
Nancy from FaeStruck was the planned host, but this week was the last week of school for the semester for her and things were crazy. She has awesomely volunteered to host Week 7 in June.
Chapters 27-36 are covered below. If you haven’t read the book, there will be spoilers for these chapters.
1) Alcuin finally talked with Delaunay about being uncomfortable serving Naamah. He spent 3 days in the sanctuary of Naamah and came out with a lighter heart. What do you think occurred there?
I have pondered this since the first time I read the book. How does one make amends with a deity? We know that Naamah is compassionate, but her way is also a sensual and sexual way. So perhaps Alcuin had to find a way to enjoy sex in some form with a care free heart once again. Or at least start on that path to finding it.
That, or flower arrangement. Elua is big on flowers and I suspect Naamah was too. I can totally see Alcuin taking time to reflect as he learns the art of making floral crowns and other such decorations.
2) We are introduced to the new protector of the Delaunay household, Joscelin Verreuil. What were your first impressions? Would you find it harder to pay homage to: Naamah or Kushiel or Cassiel?
When I first read this book, I found Joscelin such a stick in the mud, a prude. And it was a bit of a shock since we have been surrounded by all these sexually empowered characters. I really wondered how a prude would fair in such a setting where his views were abnormal and sexual exploration and enjoyment was the norm (instead of the reverse with everyone wanting to keep sex a big no-no and mystery and that one person who is adventurous being branded a hussy or male whore).
And for the life of me, despite 2 years of French language studies, I couldn’t figure out how to say his name until I listened to the audiobook. It’s ‘ver-righ’.
Now if you had asked me at 15, I would have said I would like to serve Cassiel. I know, I was a late bloomer when it came to sex, but perfectly willing to work on a farm or take part in arms training. Then, after finding a knowledgeable and patient partner who introduced me to the pleasures of the orgasm at 19, I would say Naamah. Now in my late 30s, I might be tempted to give Kushiel a go… except there seems to be hot pokers and flechettes involved!
3) Phedre visits Childric D’Essoms two more times; once to beg a boon for Delaunay and again because she feels she owes him a debt. Do you think she was right to go on either of these occasions?
I’ve always been a bit on the fence about Phedre’s relationship with D’Essoms. He’s a brute in the bedchamber and I wonder if he ever gets laid outside of a written contract. Does he have a softer side? yet, Phedre is an adult and even young adult are welcomed, even encouraged, to make mistakes.
I very rarely have any criticism on Jacqueline Carey’s works, but here I do have to say that the clever Delaunay could probably have figured out another way to either get a message to D’Essoms or to L’Enver. Phedre did not have to be sent. But it serves a small plot point and adds drama to the mix.
Personally, I don’t think she went the last time because she owed D’Esssoms so much as she was 1) bored and 2) a little heart broken that Delaunay and Alcuin had hooked up. D’Essoms took it as an apology, but I think Phedre would have sought out such a distraction in any case.
4) We meet the Duc Barquiel L’Enver, who has spent much time in Akkad. What do you think lies in the past between him and Delaunay? What do you think of his methods to dealing with Vitale Bouvarre?
Ah, the murky past. So we learned a little more in this section, especially when Phedre digs out his poetry and gives it a quick read. Delaunay had at least one promise to Roland who died in the battle against the Skaldi. As many times as I have read this book, I still struggle to recall the details of Delaunay’s past, especially all these little promises he made folks, or rather, Roland made folks and Delaunay tries to uphold.
I am totally with Barquiel on how to deal with traitorous folks like Bouvarre. He may not have known that he carried poisoned sweets to Barquiel’s sister, but he certainly knew he was trying to kill Alcuin and his man Guy.
5) At the palace, after a meeting with Clavel, Phedre sneaks off. In the hall, she overhears Isidore d’Aiglemort talking about the Glory Seekers along the Skaldi border. Then she finds herself hiding under some furniture when she witnesses a secret meeting between Delaunay and Ysandre de la Courcel. What do you make of this latest political intrigue?
In the space of 100 breaths, Phedre finds herself in the right places at the right times to overhear some now-small things that will matter later. While I am caught up in the story, I don’t notice how convenient this is for our plot line. It is only upon reflection that it occurs to me.
This is current politics and has more bearing on the story and I recall well where each leads so I won’t say much. I was glad to see that Phedre’s heart was racing in fear upon stumbling into D’Aiglemort and hearing what she did. Even she knows in the moment that she could be in danger.
And Ysandre brings up another age-old promise made by Delaunay. Hmm… I am sure that kept Phedre up at night pondering it.
6) Melisande Shahrizai points out to Phedre that she both despises and loves each of her patrons, if only a little. Do you think this is true for Phedre? For most human relationships?
I think for Phedre, definitely. She has the capacity to love many folks, truly, and not just physically. And I think if you truly love someone, then you see them as they really are, which means that on occasion you will be aware of those things about them that you dislike, perhaps even despise. The love lets you gloss over that.
Later in the series, we see quite a bit on ‘love as thou wilt’ and not everyone has Phedre’s capacity for love.
7) Phedre is contracted for the Longest Night by Melisande to be shown off to the Duc de Morhban. What stood out for you the most this night? Now that Phedre can complete her mark, what do you think she will do?
When I first read this scene when I was like 23 or perhaps 24, I was shocked all over the place. First, we have the nearly nude public outfit. So shocking! But very classy with the diamonds. Then we had the soft velvet collar and lead! Holy shit! Is this public humiliation totally sexualized and objectified? Still, she didn’t have to crawl around on all fours and she didn’t have to enter the contract in the first place and she does have that safe word so she can bow out any time she wants.
Then we got to the flechettes. WTF!?! I know they were explained like 200 pages back. Still, I had never encountered them in play before. Damn! But then she has her most momentous orgasm ever, Melisande unties her, and they fall into bed and lovemaking until the small hours of the morning. So it was all good.
There are some beautiful costumes out there, and daring ladies dressed in them, that are based on this scene btw. I believe Ms. Carey has links on her website to many of them.
Phedre with a completed marque with no obligation to Delaunay… Well, I think she will probably have a night’s dalliance with Hyacinthe, and perhaps a few others. Perhaps she will visit each of the Nigh Blooming houses just once. But then I think the political intrigue would call to her intellect and she would want to serve Delaunay to keep from boredom.
I loved how Joscelin came to fetch Phedre from the bar, only to be baited by clowns and bystanders. Then to have Phedre step into the middle and essentially rescue him from his constraints was very amusing.
The image of Alcuin and Phedre, haired entwined together, has been one of my favorites for some time. Having Delaunay walk in and find them thus ‘entwined’ always amuses me with every reading.
In this section Delaunay and Alcuin hook up. When I first read that, I had all sorts of mixed feelings and I am surprised to say that I still have a few tiny mixed feelings. Delaunay is Alcuin’s rescuer, his mentor, and the one who holds his marque in service. He’s an authority figure, and I always have mixed feelings about folks getting together when one party has so much more power over the other, even if they are very good people. On the other hand, they don’t enter into a relationship until after Alcuin’s marque is made. So, there is some balancing. And despite all my tiny little conflicted emotions over the right or wrong of it, I am still happy for them. It simply is.