The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Avatar is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.
This week, I am your host. We’re covering Chapters 38-49, so be prepared for spoilers below!
1) What do you think of Phedre’s dealings with Naamah, Elua, and Kushiel in this section?
I found it very interesting that all three let their presence be known in her life in some way. Once we get into Darsanga, it’s easy to see why these deities want it scoured from the face of the Earth, but Phedre didn’t know the depth of it when she was making her decision.
I was surprised that it took both the carrot and the stick – they offered the infinite beauty of love but then also showed her what life would be like without their gifts. Now, at first, I thought this was pretty unfair – to threaten to take away the gifts that Phedre was born with and has done her best to honor. But then I thought a little bit more and perhaps they showed this possibility not as punishment, but rather as ‘this could happen if this crazy ass cult spreads and wipes out other deities, or the ability to worship them’.
2) We have met the Mahrkagir. Are we dealing with true madness? Does he still know right from wrong?
This is a tough one for me to answer. Partly, it’s because I’m not a psychologist or a long-term head injury specialist. We definitely have the two parts going on in the Mahrkagir. He survived a very traumatic event, both with the physical head injury and with the psychological damage. It really is a perfect fix to set some one down a dark path.
So, is it true madness at this point? He’s been doing these evil deeds for many years now, surrounded by people who also do evil deeds. As far as I can see, no one has told him ‘No!’ to his depraved whims, rather they’ve been encouraged. His memory is messed up and he doesn’t have any positive role models. And yet he seems to have an idea of what an evil deed is, in general, as he needs to commit them to follow or create this Three Fold Path.
So, I think, on some very basic level, he does still have an idea of right and wrong. He lacks the control to choose the action that goes against the grain. All this followers, advisers, etc. want him to continue on this evil path because they gain some kind of power from it. His touch of madness might be something we would call a lack of impulse control today. In any event, this dude has to be put down.
3) The zenana is full of interesting new characters. Who has caught your interest so far? What do you think of Phedre’s first encounters with Imriel?
The Bhodistani ladies made me a little sad but also a little stronger. They are taking as much control over the situation as they possibly can. Still, it’s a tough choice.
Fedaben… whose name I have forgotten but I will always respect – of course she is interesting. She’s got her little court and Phedre, despite all the horrible crap, is still interested in learning a new language from her. Perhaps this helps Phedre take her mind off of all the horror and sadness.
And Eric, the young Skaldi lad. He obviously survived being altered but I would hope he would let the chirugeon have a peak to check for possible infection. The zenana isn’t exactly clean.
I remember reading this the first time and somehow thought Phedre would find Imiriel and comfort him right away, if for no other reason than they are both D’Angeline. There would be a little rainbow and some hugging and bonding right away. Then the two would find some way to bring others together for some fantastical escape. Ah, I was so naive then. No, Imriel’s reaction is much more realistic given what he’s been through.
4) Phedre has her first night with the Mahrkagir. Thoughts?
In some ways, Book 3 is my favorite and in some ways I find it to be the darkest of the first books, so I can’t always dive into this book if I am in a dark place myself. We’ve seen Phedre a captive before and how she deals with various forms of rape and coercion (Skaldi, even the Illyrian pirate, and even Melisande with her La Dolorosa choice). But this is pretty messed up.
On the other hand, it seems that both Naamah and Kushiel are doing their best to enhance her gifts and make this all survivable (that brief sense of rose of attar and beating wings, and Kushiel’s dark desires).
Then there is Phedre’s own natural resistance and her ability to see beyond this moment. She will heal, at least physically, and there will be another chance to change the course of things.
I still shudder a little bit each time I read that scene where the Mahrkagir gifts Phedre the little stone dog.
5) Who do you think is having a more difficult time, Joscelin or Phedre, and why?
Another tough question. We see everything from Phedre’s eyes, so we know exactly what she’s going through and how she is holding up. We only get these little snippets of Joscelin since they were separated. I think he was very honest when he told Phedre that he has asked her to do a very hard thing and he’s trying to see his way through it, but that way involves some cruelty. It was very good of Phedre to be able to accept that.
In some ways, I think this is harder on Joscelin as he is a protector through and through and he has so very few opportunities right now to protect anyone. He has to pretend to be this baddie, but not just in word, but also in deed. Phedre on the other hand, as hard as this is, she consented ahead of time to all of it. She took on this horrendous task knowing it would suck.
I thought it interesting that the lords/ladies of Kebbel-im-Akkad in general do not deign to learn a foreign language believing it to be gauche or beneath them. This gave me a chuckle and made me think of certain relatives I have who truly do get upset when they over hear other people chatting in a foreign language they can’t understand. They believe everyone who lives in this country should be speaking English, especially when out in public. Sigh….
I always thought Josceline looked good in the Skaldic braids…. but then he wears them for Darsanga and I have to rethink that….
I found it interesting to see how folks changed their ways of interacting with Phedre once they believed they would never see her and Joscelin again.
We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S AVATAR in the subject (firstname.lastname@example.org).