Kushiel’s Dart – Part VIII

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

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, Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog is your host this week. 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.

So just an FYI for next weekend (July 4th). I will be working an event out of state and I don’t know yet what my internet access will be, so if I post late (like Mon. or Tues.), it’s because I was busy, tired, didn’t have internet access, or all of the above.

Chapters 64-73 are covered below. If you haven’t read the book, there will be spoilers for these chapters.

1.  We finally go sailing and everything seems to be going so well that we were lulled temporarily into a false sense of security!  Sailors are a superstitious bunch, throwing coins to the Lord of the Deep, for example.  What did you make of the Master of the Straits?  Any similarity to other myths or legends?

When I first read this, I thought this must be some sort of ocean deity, but other than Ariel’s dad in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Greek mythology, I didn’t have too many references. I have been land locked most of my life, so not too many ocean myths and and such in my life. Since my first read, I have read a lot more mythology mash up stories and I can better appreciate what Carey has done here. Here, the Celtic god Manannan mac Lir might be the closest. Next section we learn more.

I really love that Phedre paid their passage with a Skaldi hearth song. It was oddly fitting.

2. Hyacinthe plays a much larger role in this instalment and has come into his own, plus given a new title – ‘Waking Dreamer’.  His travels so far have been very bitter sweet and you really do feel for him.  Bearing that in mind what did you make of the strange dream that Breidaia had where she saw Hyachinthe on an island – this was skimmed over a little but did it give you pause for thought.  Do you have any ideas of what’s in store for our Waking Dreamer?

This being a reread, I know the answer. But honestly, my first time reading this I totally missed this strange dream. After all, there were both old and new prophesies or visions being tossed around a lot in this section.

I do like that Hyacinthe had such an integral role in this section. He’s been a fun character, but a side character. Last week’s and this week’s sections really fleshed him out. Also, as Phedre does, I kind of ache to Anastazia knowing that she probably saw somewhat of what was to come for Hyacinthe.

3. You have to hand it to Ysandre for choosing Phedre as Ambassador.  It seems her strange talents come in very useful indeed.  What did you make of her tactics and powers of persuasion?

Well, Phedre was using the skills she has at her disposal. She was spot on with Duc de Morbhan (spelling?), guessing his deepest desires correctly. Yet she was also cautious enough to have a priestess witness the contract. Then when it came to the twins, she had to have it pointed out to her by Graine that she now had the key to push her brother into the desired decision. So I like that she isn’t totally use to thinking of how to manipulate people, even for a  good cause.

Also, I find it totally believable. If you could experience a night of sexual bliss with a highly trained, experiences, and skilled lover that you found desirable in many ways, what would you give? After all, these folks only have limited adult entertainment, and extremely limited once you get out of Terre D’Ange.

4. We finally meet Drustan. He at first seems like an unlikely match for Ysandre and yet they both seem to have a shared vision.  Can they make it work do you think?  They have so many differences even if they do succeed in battle?

When I first read this, I really didn’t know how Carey was going to let this play out. We already have one pair of star-crossed romantically entangled yet arguing couple (Joscelin and Phedre) and to add another…. I just wasn’t sure. After all, we haven’t seen Ysandre and Drustan together yet and I think their chemistry, or lack of it, will tell the readers much more. As for their shared political dream, sure, that all sounds well and good. Plus is allows the women to hold some power in world where male rulers are the status quo.

5. Can we discuss the Dalriada and the Cruithne – do they put you in mind of any particular races?  What do you make of them??

Definitely the Celtic races. I love that the women can go off to battle and the men don’t count it as odd. I also love that the women can take what lovers they like and raise their kids with love no matter the father. I’m glad to see that their fighting techniques vary from the Terre D’Ange highly organized methods. Not every culture is going to approach battle the same way, no matter how logical.

6. I’m puzzled about Joscelin – he’s always so severe on himself, particularly after the battle and Moiread’s death.  I wonder why he blames himself so much – and I also wonder how he’s coping with watching Phedre’s actions – in particular her closeness to Hyacinthe.

Once again, Joscelin has been isolated in the Casseline Order for much of his life. He never thought he would have to deal with the pangs of jealousy or even (possibly) love. He probably thought sooner or later he would have to deal with the death of someone he was protecting, yet this was the first time that has ever happened to him. Also, I expect that had he been charged with protecting Moiread, as he is charged with protecting Phedre, he would have seen her death as Cassiel himself turning his back on him. The Casselines are a very stiff bunch and I highly suspect that failure is not tolerated.

Phedre and Joscelin have not talked much about their one night together nor what either of them wants from the other. Phedre may well feel like it isn’t her place to tempt or seduce Joscelin, trying her best in her way to respect his vows. Joscelin on the other hand has zero experience with women and matters of the heart so I expect he hasn’t worked out what he wants long term. Perhaps he is hoping his feelings will fade with time.

7. Finally, we’re working ourselves up for the grand finale – do you have any predictions as to how this will all pan out?

So we have 2 more weeks to go and plenty of stuff to fill them! The new readers are in for a treat! We have to get at least Phedre and Joscelin back to Terre D’Ange, but it would be very nice if they could take a fighting force with them. The Master of the Straights was a pill before, so I expect Rousse will be wary of him on the return trip.

Then there is finding out what all is going on in Terre D’Ange and getting everyone to Ysandre’s forces without causing a stir, or at least, losing too many fighters. Also, I very much doubt that Melisande is one to sit around and just wait for things to unfold. If she isn’t actively doing something now while Phedre and Joscelin are in Alba, then she has multiple plans ready to spring based on what happens.

Then we don’t know to whom the Duc de Morbhan is loyal. If he told Melisande, or just some of her informant network, then things could be afoot in Terre D’Ange already.

Other Tidbits

I’ve always wondered if the Master of the Straights would have granted Rousse and his ships safe passage if they had sailed directly for Alba instead of trying to avoid the Master’s territory and sneak by.

Joscelin’s fighting prowess was on full display once again. I love the way his fight scenes are described.

Phedre’s conversation with Joscelin about his temper and how good it feels to give in to it, even if he knows he will be beaten, etc. was very interesting.

I wanted to shake Drustan’s hand to pointing out to  Joscelin that he was over-stepping his bounds in his excessive self-hate concerning the death of Moiread. No one charged or asked Joscelin to protect Drustan’s family.

Whenever I read this section I am always surprised how quickly Hyacinthe falls into (the beginnings of) love with Moiread.

Participating Bloggers:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Kushiel’s Dart – Part VII

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

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, Nancy from FaeStruck Reviews was the scheduled host. Unfortunately, she couldn’t do so. So, I  am your host this week. 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.

Chapters 55-63 are covered below. If you haven’t read the book, there will be spoilers for these chapters.

1) What do you think of the over all connection between the Casseline Brotherhood and the Yeshuites? Are you happy with where the shaggy pony ended up?

Here we see how the author connects the characters to the world us readers know in one more way. There’s two themes about these books that I really appreciate – consent and respect. Phedre, and it seems most D’Angeline, try to respect non-D’Angeline deities wherever they find them. I think that respect is because the tales of their own deities are interwoven with these other religions. It’s really quite beautiful because it brings people together instead of being divisive.

I love that the brave shaggy pony got a home with two girls for company.

2) Phedre & Hyacinthe have a happy reunion. What do you make of Joscelin’s reaction? Do you miss Hyacinthe’s mother?

Joscelin is definitely having a lot of emotions. I think he and Phedre haven’t really talked about whether or not they, indeed, have an intimate relationship. Now that he sees her with Hyacinthe, he may feel that it isn’t his place to step in and come between things. Also, at this point in the story, he is still part of the Casseline Brotherhood.

I do miss Hyacinthe’s mom. I think she would have had wisdom to share with Phedre about all the crap she just went through.

3) Yet another happy reunion occurs with Thelesis de Mornay, the King’s Poet, who gets them in to see the Dauphine, Ysandre.  Do you think there was another way to seek her audience? Such an intense meeting! What stood out the most for you?

Every time I read this book, I always think they are going to use the super secret through the mirror back door path that Phedre took note of when she accidentally spied on Delaunay and Ysandre. But that obviously doesn’t happen.

Two moments really hit me on this one: 1) When Ysandre finally realizes that they are telling the truth (after the guard verifies that they were seeking an audience those few months ago) and realizes in the same moment that she has to deal with treason and invasion. 2) When Phedre refused the pardon as it would reveal to the baddies that the now-Queen has some info that she didn’t before. Huge sacrifice by Phedre and Joscelin.

4) Phedre makes a trip to the temple of Kushiel to make atonement. Do you agree that she had things to atone for?

First, I love that the priest in Joscelin pointed out this simple truth to Phedre. She accepts Elua and Namaah and pays them homage. But she has been struggling against Kushiel these many months, feeling wretched over the gifts he has given her (such as being able to take pleasure in Gunter’s and Selig’s beds).

So I don’t know if atonement is the right word, as it always strikes me as pretty grave. But I guess you can do atonement for small slights, especially when a god is involved. Either way, Phedre felt better afterwards and I think she is more accepting of herself, the deities’gifts in her life, and her larger role.

5) After King Ganelon’s death, at the hunting lodge we learn some more politics. What stood out for you? We learned more about the Picti and the prophesy. Should the fate of Terre D’Ange be resting, even partially, on the validity of a prophesy of love and union?

Concerning the politics, I think Barquel L’Envers just might be tough enough to take a troop up into the Skaldi mountains in the heart of winter and find Gunter’s stedding to ask him what he thinks of his ex-slaves. ;)

The young lady in me desperately wants to believe in true love, sight unseen, and the union of two lands, despite the Master of the Straights. But the first time I read this, I thought there was no way that was going to happen. I thought Phedre might succeed in bringing some Pictish force back with her, but then Ysandre’s betrothed would be cruel or uninterested or foppish to would die.

6) The Casseline Prefect forbids Joscelin from serving Phedre as protector as she travels to the Pictish lands. Joscelin had to make a hard choice: did he make the right one?

Such a tough thing! Now, since I wasn’t raised in the Casseline Brotherhood, or any other strict order or religion, I automatically feel that Joscelin did make the right choice. It so cannot be healthy to be raised to have such a narrow view of the world, a narrow view of what is right or wrong. On the other hand, without the Casseline Brotherhood, we wouldn’t have Joscelin in all his fighting glory. Plus, that is pretty much the only life he has known since he entered the order at age 10. It must have been with a heavy heart that he made Cassiel’s Choice.

7) Hyacinthe comes up with the plan to get them to the coast and meet with Royal Admiral Quintilius Rousse. Do you like the fake IDs? Do you think they will make it unscathed?

I really like the idea of Joscelin as a Mendicant (spelling?) telling stories in his multicolored cloak. I forget if we get to hear how a Mendicant came by Casseline arms. By the way, it was very nice of Ysandre to get Joscelin’s family arms back to him.

Traveling that great a distance, the 3 of them together, and leaving off where we know Melisande is in the crowd…. No, I expect that getting to Rousse will be fraught with danger and one or all will have to lose something.

8) Hyacinthe meets his grandfather, Manoj, for the first time. Happy? Sad? How do you feel about how his mother was cast out?

What a mix of feelings! Hyacinthe learns that his mother was telling the truth about birthright all this time. He believed her, but to see it true must be a little bit of a shock. Then to learn how his mother lost her honor and became the outcast – AND learn that his grandfather had not known the full truth of it either! Argh! It really makes me want to slap folks – mostly those who uphold this idea that women become somehow less by having, let alone enjoying, sex. If Hyacinthe’s mom was still alive, I would want her set high in the kumpania, perhaps even equal to Manoj (if the patriarchal society could stomach it). But she’s dead. So I am not sure this wrong can be made right even with Hyacinthe being welcomed into the kumpania.

Other Tidbits

It was so very nice of Ysandre to arrange for Phedre to have her marque completed. I was sad to hear that the tattooist’s apprentice died in the plague.

So not to pick on Hyacinthe and the dromonde, but any human lying incapacitated, weak and enfeebled, for 3 days without food & water will most likely die. Probably didn’t need the dromonde to guess that.

It was very cool of Ysandre to share her father’s journal with Phedre. It shows a great measure of trust.

Participating Bloggers:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Kushiel’s Dart – Part VI

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

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, Grace at Books Without Any Pictures is your host. Head on over there & 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.

Chapters 46-54 are covered below. If you haven’t read the book, there will be spoilers for these chapters.

1) One of the questions from last week dealt with initial impressions of Waldemar Selig’s steading.  Now that we’ve finally met him, what are your thoughts about him?  Do you think he suspects that Phedre knows anything, and will he continue to play a role in the story?

Waldemar Selig is a man who can walk with one boot in his native homeland and one wandering. He understands his people and yet has some understanding of the bigger world and deep hunger to explore it. I also think he is a bit ruthless and willing to sacrifice what he must to obtain his goal. Phedre may entertain him in bed and look pretty kneeling in the corner, but I don’t doubt that he would hesitate to kill her if he felt she was a threat.

I don’t think he suspects her of knowing anything specific, not unless Melisande has somehow cautioned him about her wit and training. He was definitely peeved when she escaped (as witnessed by all the men he spared to fetch her back or kill her), and that alone with the basic info he knows she witnessed (like all the Thanes in one place for a war meeting) would be enough to wish her dead.

Since this is a reread for me I will say that Waldemar’s machinations are not over.

2) What did you think of the visit to Lodur?  Do you think it will impact how Phedre thinks of herself?

Lodur is an interesting shaman or healer. I loved his little bit in this book, especially his story about his eye and how the gods can’t be bribed! Ha!

In such a short amount of time he gives Phedre much to think about. Along with his little insight into the gods and bribery, he also called her a weapon of the gods due to her Kushiel’s Dart. I  don’t think anyone other than Delaunay perhaps has thought of Phedre as a weapon or as a dangerous person. In a later conversation with Joscelin, she says she should show Melisande which throws truer – Kushiel’s Dart of Kushiel’s scion. Definitely the Dart.

Then Lodur gives her wicked grin practically asks for a kiss, and then chuckles at Phedre’s blush. I did enjoy the old man and I hope he survives the forthcoming battles/war.

3) Phedre and Joscelin have both gone through some harrowing experiences in the past few chapters.  How do you think it will change them going forward?

The one that stood out for me was Phedre nearly being raped while heading to Gunter’s camp to say her farewells. This wasn’t a private session in Gunter’s or Waldermar’s bedchamber. No, it was bare bottom’s up in the middle of the camp! Phedre does a really good job of imparting to the reader that in Terre D’Ange rape is not just illegal but sacrilege. That takes consent to a whole new level. I expect Phedre will add more caution to her life in the future.

Then of course Joscelin wades in to save her where Knut (or Harald?) and Waldemar have already done so and gets his head knocked senseless. Once again he ends up in chains, locked in a tiny hut. He bemoans the fact that he killed once again. And again, Phedre has to shame him into seeing the reality of the situation. I loved her line about writing his Prefect and telling him that the gods were better served by a whore of the Night Court. And she was right. Joscelin is really having to reassess everything he has been taught about right and wrong.

4) If you were in Phedre or Joscelin’s place, would you have acted the same way in crafting your mastermind escape plan?  What are your thoughts on how it worked out?

Of course, I would have wanted a bit more time. But Phedre and Joscelin felt they didn’t have it. I really liked how the author reflected this in Phedre’s lack of getting a tent.

If I were masterminding an escape, I would wait until I could find some poisonous plants. In the meantime, I would work my way around to having kitchen duty a few times a week, so that when I do have my poisonous plants I could, with little trouble, administer my brew to the whole bunch at once. Even if it just made half the warriors ill, I would have a better chance of escape.

Alas, Phedre and Joscelin may not have had until spring. Waldemar was already looking a little slant-eyed at Phedre after Lodur’s comments about her being a weapon. Joscelin was in trouble with no real sign he would be out of it any time soon. So I think they did the best with what they had.

5) We’re finally getting to observe a budding romance between Phedre and Joscelin.  How do you see this playing out?  What do you think of it?

This being a reread, I know where this goes. So let me just say that Phedre and Joscelin are one of my favorite hero couples exactly because they are so complicated, individually and together.

That scene, in the cave of Elua, was breath taking.

Other Tidbits

Waldemar and his Troi Milles Joies. I really like how the author leaves much up to the readers imaginations here. Phedre doesn’t really describe any of the positions or acts, other than a little with the Rutting Stag, but I like how she makes comments along the lines of everything except those acts a Skaldi man deems unmanly. Of course, I m very curious as to what those acts would be!

Joscelin had to kill a White Brother, unprovoked. Essentially murder. I felt for him, but I also noted the need. Same with Phedre when she had to kill Harald, though I did feel a bit more for her since she was never trained in the how (mentally, emotionally, or physically) of killing.

Did anyone else ache for the lost horses during Phedre’s and Joscelin’s flight?

Participating Bloggers:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Kushiel’s Dart – Part V

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

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, Igret’s Corner is your host. Head on over there & 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.

Chapters 37-45 are covered below. If you haven’t read the book, there will be spoilers for these chapters.

1) In this section we see Melisande betraying Delaunay and Phedre. Did you see this coming? Why or why not? Also, what do you think Melisande’s highest loyalty is to?

I remember being thoroughly surprised by this betrayal the first time I read this. I knew Melisande was dangerous, but I could also see she had some deep fondness for Delaunay. During that first reading, I thought that if she were to ever betray Delaunay, it would be giving up one of his secrets from his past, maybe publicly humiliating him, or taking something from him that he valued (like Phedre). So when he and Alcuin end up dead, I was in shock, right alongside Phedre and Joscelin.

After several readings, that scene still is like a punch to the gut.

At the time, I couldn’t tell if her loyalty was to whoever/whatever could give her  power or perhaps money, which is a form of in dependency.

2) We see Phedre sold into slavery by Melisande and D’Anglemort. How is slavery different than being a bond servant, how is it the same?

This is a really good question and I think Jacqueline Carey does a really good job of showing us the differences and similarities.

Slave: Property to be cared for, or not, sold, or not, fed, or not, killed, or not. There may or may not be a way out of slavery that is recognized by the society.

Bond Servant: Essentially under a really long contract here certain behaviors and actions are not allowed unless there is mutual consent. You can work off your mark and earn true freedom with a place in society.

We see with both Phedre and Joscelin that they maintain their pride in their work whether at Delaunay’s or Gunter’s stedding. The theme of consent is strong throughout this entire series. And here for the first time, Phedre has to lie with a man without her consent. Even though her body responds with an orgasm, and she is not physically hurt by the encounter, she still has to work through the psychological side to being raped. I think she did quite well. Also, since she has this larger problem (staying alive and escaping somehow), I think  that helped to come to terms with the situation quickly.

3) Hedwig’s treatment of Phedre is not what Phedre expected. What does her behavior tell us about Skaldi women?

I really like Hedwig. She doesn’t sugar-coat the facts, but she does give Phedre what kindness her station and culture allow. Once Phedre goes to Wldemar’s  All-Thing, she notices that not all Skaldi women run as tight a ship as Hedwig.

And I wish Hedwig had slapped Elsa a lot sooner! Alas, even Hedwig can’t control all the idiots in her stedding.

4) Joscelin initially hates Phedre for not attempting to run, yet ultimately chooses to stay with her. What does this say about Joscelin and his views of Cassiel?

Even when Phedre begs Joscelin to escape (with her help) he refuses, stating that Cassiel did not care for kings and countries, but for Elua himself. So, he stays. I would give Joscelin a 50/50 chance of making it to the Skaldi/Terre D’Ange border, for certainly Gunter would send some of his men after him, on horseback as a point of pride. While it would still be a sound decision for Joscelin to make the attempt, we would have less excitement as the reader.

5) Phedre says that Guntersville raid reminded her that she was with the enemy. Do you think that prior to the raid she had developed Stockholm syndrome? What about life in the stedding made her complacent?

Perhaps. I am not sure it is an exact fit as Phedre’s abductor was Melisande, and perhaps D’Anglemort. Then she was sold to the Skaldi, and specifically Gunter. I am sure there is a psychological term somewhere for bonding with, or becoming sympathetic with, your owner.

First, I think she became complacent because she has been raised to serve, and they asked her to serve. This was a comfortable role to take on. Even though she never consented to be Gunter’s bedwarmer, that too is a known role to her. Plus, no one did her physical harm and the ladies treated her with respect and care. Add to that, Phedre and Joscelin want to be seen as a zero threat and a zero flight risk. So, they  need to adapt and blend in as slaves as much as possible for their plans of escape to ever work.

6) Joscelin brakes his vows during the holmgang.  Do you think he should have or not? What do you think the repercussions will be?

I thinks it’s a grey area on whether or not he broke his vow. As Phedre points out, if he didn’t do this thing, then he wouldn’t be alive to keep Phedre safe. Knowing Joscelin, I doubt he will believe that 100% and will probably kick himself the rest of his life over it.

I think Joscelin was maneuvered into a confrontation by Dumb Ass Skaldi (what was his name again?) and then Gunter saw the opportunity for three things: 1) Entertainment for the stedding; 2) To see what Joscelin is capable of; and 3) To possibly get rid of an obnoxious warrior. With all that in mind, I don’t think Joscelin would have done much differently. I am totally fine with his choice.

Joscelin, like Phedre, was raised in strict service. But in Joscelin’s case, he was raised by an order and kept isolated from the larger society. Phedre was raised in a big, bustling city, with several cultures and viewpoints. So Joscelin is having major growing pains as he tries to hold onto these rather strict life rules, ones he could easily practice among the order in isolation,  and apply them to the real world. I expect to see more of Joscelin’s boundaries pushed.

7) We see Waldemar Selig’s stedding for the first time, what are your impressions of it?

Waldemar can sure gather the flock in! I noticed Gunter was a bit sad to be assigned one of the smaller meeting houses for the All Thing. I like that there are bathing houses! Hooray! It makes it easier to picture the sex scenes if I know everyone is clean. ;)

So we also see that some of the other Skaldic ladies aren’t as nice towards Phedre as Hedwig and her ladies have been. Perhaps Joscelin will come across the same behavior with other Skaldic men.

Other Tidbits

Phedre describing, after the fact, her torture at the hands of Melisande makes me want to smack something. Also, it shows that Phedre isn’t just fluff.

After her first bedding by Gunter, she returns to the main hall and the fireplace and has a good sob over Delaunay’s and Alcuin’s death. I found this  scene very poignant especially since she refuses to say in Skaldi why she is crying. I am sure the Skaldi had several ideas as to why she was so upset.

When Joscelin got in Gunter’s face when Gunter was about to head out to the raid and he wanted a kiss from Phedre, I was so tense! But Joscelin handled it well with a quiet word, and asking instead of demanding. This book taught me how those two things can work to get you what you need/want way more than a loud bluster or a  stomping foot, and maintain cordial relations.

Gunter actually asked for sex lessons! I thought that was a very nice touch.

Participating Bloggers:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Kushiel’s Dart – Part IV

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

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.

Other Tidbits

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.

Participating Bloggers:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Kushiel’s Dart – Part III

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

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, Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow is your host. Pop over there and 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.

Sorry I am a little late posting today. I had commitments yesterday all day and was dead tired when I got home.

Chapters 19-26 are covered below. If you haven’t read the book, there will be spoilers for these chapters.

1)  We get a lot of political intrigue to wade through this week, plus a couple of pretty big dramatic revelations, not least of which was the twist of fate for Prince Baudoin and his mother. What did you make of the trial, and what became of these two?

Yep, plenty of intrigue! Honestly, it wasn’t until my 3rd or 4th read that I understood most of the politics. Still, there are some big things I recall from my first read – like Melisande borrowing Phedre for a night as a goodbye present to Baudoin. Obviously, there is something going on behind the scenes there.

So at the end of the trial, Baudoin and his mother, the Lioness of Azalle, have been sentenced to death. Meanwhile the husband and daughter have been exiled. This really made me think of that poem that has been referenced several times – the Exile’s Lament? First, I grew up moving around the country and when I first read this the longest I have ever stayed in one place was 6 years. So I didn’t really get it. Now that I have been in one place, a most beloved place, for over a decade, I have an idea of what it would be like to exiled from a home that has seeped into your bones and blood.

2)  On a rather different, much more personal note for the House of Delaunay was the drama that unfolded surrounding Alcuin (poor Guy!). What do you think might become of Alcuin now that he appears to be out of the game?

Ah! He risked so much for just a piece of the puzzle. Since I have read this many times, I know where this goes. However this book left such an impression with me the first time I read it. I remember thinking that he would probably sit through a long tattooing session and have his marque completed. Since he is so scholarly and has a knack for genealogy and languages, he could go one to be be a scholar in Delaunay’s household. Perhaps he could strike out on his own in the future serving as a translator at the palace.

3)  As we’d suspected last week, Phedre’s refusal to use her signale gets her into some trouble with d’Essoms – but it also gets her the result that Anafiel had hoped for… Do you think she’ll be more careful from here or will this only make that addictive slope more slippery for her?

A bit of both. She has learned not to underestimate how far a patron will go. But she has also learned that she can and will heal from such a thing. Right now Phedre is young and a little cocky. She can read people well, but not totally. I think that is one of the most important things she learned here – not to be cocky.

4)  Speaking of Phedre and trouble, what do you make of the ‘relationship’ building between her and Melisande?

Sexy!

OK, it will be more than that but I love the mix of brains and sex appeal and political intrigue surrounding Melisande. Even Delaunay doesn’t know what her game is. Phedre doesn’t seem particularly interested in Melisande’s politics though. ;)

Other Tidbits

3 whole days to choose your method of execution! Ugh! I think I would pick something and then want it done and to not have to wait 3 days.

While the Lioness and Baudoin Trevalion were traitors to the crown, I liked how the country was allowed to quietly mourn the fall of House Trevalion.

So glad Phedre and Alcuin got horse riding lessons, and not just because it was practical. Horses are fun in and of themselves.

I like how Phedre reflects back about how young she was then and how some of her actions were petty, like her treatment towards Guy. Sigh…. I really liked Guy.

Participating Bloggers:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Kushiel’s Dart – Part II

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

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, Allie from Tethyan Books is your host. Pop over there and 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.

Chapters 9-18 are covered below. If you haven’t read the book, there will be spoilers for these chapters.

1) In these chapters, Phèdre finally gets to have her own dedication ceremony.  Were you surprised by what they did with the dove? Also, do you think it is fair to ask people to make a life decision about serving Naamah at such a young age?

The first time I read this book, I was a little worried for the dove. After all, animal sacrifice has been around for a long time and is not unheard of in epic fantasy fiction. So I was quite pleased when it was more of a catch and release situation.

Many cultures and religions require children to make such a life long decision at an early age. As an example, consider the Catholic religion and how early a child can have their dedication ceremony. Most folks who go through such a ceremony still turn out to be OK people.

With that said, I still think it is unfair to ask a kid or teen to make such a sincere, life-long dedication (to the Catholic church, or Naamah, or some other religion/philosophy) at such a young age. After all, few of us know much about life at such an age, even if we believed differently then. For this book, the dedication ceremony is supported by the culture and religion and is not out of place.

2) Sex ed is definitely different in Terre d’Ange.  Do you think the Showing was useful for the teenagers? Do you think, at their age, you would have appreciated something like the book-learning they received in the art?

I love the sex ed in this book. I really wish our society, or at least my parents, had been as open minded and educated when I was a teenager. I especially like the Showing as it shows sex to be an act of joy, beauty, love, and respect. Honesty, I got most of my sex ed as a teen from the Benny Hill show(which my parents found quite amusing and now I wonder why), which is none of those things.

I definitely would have appreciated 2 years of book learning on the subject. Sex ed in the US public school systems is mostly pictures of diseased genitals and abstinence as the only form of birth control. There was no instruction on the mechanics of the act, and definitely no conversation on what a beautiful, joyful thing it can be.

Luckily, today’s kids have a plethora of sex ed available, like Laci Green.

3) Hyacinthe has some neat theories about Delauney’s past.  What is your favorite theory?

Well, with Delaunay, I always lean towards the romantic theories. He strikes me as a man who loves deeply, even if he has to hide those feelings. In this book and later in the series, we learn a bit more about Delaunay’s past. But for Delaunay’s back story, you may have to check out the anthology Unfettered in which a short story by Jacqueline Carey is included.

4) Phèdre seems to be making a name for herself as an anguissette, known for never giving the signale. Do you think she would ever actually choose to use the signale, even if she were in real danger? Do you think her inability to do so might get her into trouble?

When I first read this book, I had never heard of a signale, or safe word. So I totally expected her to use it on her first assignation. However, she didn’t, nor did she use it with the pincer fanatic, nor with the riding crop lady. This speaks to Phedre’s stubbornness. Later in the book, we learn that which yields is not weak.

5) Do you think Alcuin is enjoying his career as much as Phèdre, or do you think he has a different focus? Do you think their differing appeals and tastes will drive them apart?

Ah. Alcuin! In many ways, even though he is slightly older than Phedre, he is so much younger in the ways of love. As Phedre noted, he did not grow up in one of the Houses and so was ignorant of so much that Phedre took for granted. Also, I think he feels he has a great debt towards Delaunay for rescuing him as a boy. At first, I don’t think he enjoyed the assignations as much. However, his sex ed instructor Cecile did borrow him for a night and introduce him to an experienced lady that left him dreamy eyed and dopey for a day or two.

Phedre is super special, being Kushiel’s chosen. She is almost always going to be in a class of her own when it comes to bedroom play. So I don’t think this will drive Alcuin and Phedre apart. After all, Alcuin and much of Terre D’Ange are totally accepting of her sexual preferences.

Other Tidbits

The old marquiste always gives me a laugh! How can he do quality work with Phedre squirming on the tattoo table?

It does not surprise me that Phedre abhors cleaning. ;)

The first few encounters with Melisandre still give me shivers – such beauty and intelligence rolled together!

Just because I am curious, where is everyone from? I believe we have quite the international crowd for this read along. I hale from the sticks of northern New Mexico, USA.

Participating Bloggers:

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness