Kushiel’s Avatar Part VII

Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

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, Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow is our host. We’re covering Chapters 74-82, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Yevuneh and the other women agree to help Phedre continue on her quest, and though it doesn’t go smoothly, she succeeds in finding the Broken Tablets and the Name of God! What did you think of how this part of the story played out?

First, I really liked that the women of Saba decided to assist Phedre & crew despite their fears. They were assisting Phedre to find the island and petition the priests there for the privilege of looking upon the Broken Tablets. It’s not any one person handing the Name of God over to Phedre and I think the men missed this important distinction.

Second, I really like how Phedre gave Imriel the true choice of whether or not to join them on this part of the quest. Then I really liked how they allowed him to take a turn at rowing. They give him responsibilities and treat him as an equal in many regards – and he responds by showing his maturity.

Lastly, the scene where Phedre offers her life in exchange for Imri’s and then the priest’s appearance and then the whole gazing upon the Broken Tablets part – it was amazing. When I first read this book, I wondered how much of this secret wonder Carey would include in the story because in the past she has sometimes given us only so much and then demurred with a ‘the rest I can’t tell you because I swore an oath to keep the secret’ type thing. I was very glad that she gave us every crumb.

2. When the dust settles, Imriel’s position on where he feels he belongs is all the more firm – he wants to be with Phedre and Joscelin, and not with House Courcel. Do you have any thoughts on how things will go for them when they return home?

Well, no matter who he lives with, he will always be a Courcel. Phedre is right in that he will have to make peace with that sooner or later. But I think it is fine that he has figured out where his heart (and true home) lie – with Phedre and Joscelin.  And he will always be a Shahrizai too. That heritage can’t be wiped away either and he will have to learn to make peace with that as well.

3. Among other important changes to their way of life, the possibility of trade between Saba and other nations has opened up in the aftermath of what Phedre has done. This leads her to speculate that the intentions of the gods go far beyond what she was aware. What do you think of that bigger-picture theory? What might it mean for the world in general?

For this story, I love all the connectedness. Phedre’s actions are influenced by 1001 things, some she knows about and many she does not. And it is the same for all the characters. If Phedre had not rescued Imriel, she might not ever have known what it is to love a child in a motherly way, and in turn Imriel would not have been on the Broken Tablet island to scream so loud a priest would come check on the matter. The people of Saba are in for the benefits of this as well with the opening of trade.

In real life though, I’m a believer in coincidence. Yes, things influence us, but no matter what we do there will be affects on others. Not everything, and perhaps nothing, is directed by some higher being. Just my personal belief there.

4. We’re heading toward the finale, and hopefully to a resolution regarding Hyacinthe’s fate… Do you have any thoughts about what might happen when Phedre gets back to him?

Well, when I first read this tale, I had no doubt that Phedre would rescue Hyacinthe. But I had no idea how momentous it would be.

Also, Phedre must sooner or later present Imriel to Queen Ysandre.

Once all that settles out, Phedre will have 101 friends and acquaintances that want the inside scoop. Favrielle will want to know how folks dress in Jebe Barkal. Thelesis will want to hear all of Shoanete’s stories. Nicola will want to let Phedre cry on her shoulder over Darsanga. So, yeah, even after we all leave the story, Phedre and Joscelin and Imriel will still have stuff to do.

Other Tidbts:

Joscelin makes damaged ear men look good! In a lion’s mane!

I think Phedre was very gentle with Hanach after they had all returned from the island. Hanach was feeling a confusion of emotions, I am sure.

I love that Phedre is now so in love with the world, literally.

I am glad that Imriel finally unburdened some of his Darsanga memories to Phedre.

How many of you are interested in doing a read along of the second trilogy? It has Imriel as the main character.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

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 (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

The Feylands by Peter Meredith

MeredithTheFeylandsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Fred Wolinksy

Publisher: Peter Meredith (2015)

Length: 10 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Hidden Lands

Author’s Page

Ella is boring but beautiful. In her 30s, she works, has a circle of friends, talks with her parents regularly, and flosses. Her life is dull. But then one night, a mysterious man tells her she is something more. Soon she is swept up into a magical land where she faces both dangers and beauties she never thought possible.

This story started off intriguing. I liked that the main heroine was an adult, and well into adulthood. She has already lived a chunk of life so she has a frame of reference for right and wrong, bad and good situations. Once she meets Gada (who we learn very late in the book is called Eireden but you’re told this in the description of the book so I don’t feel bad mentioning it here), Ella’s world starts to unfurl. She has questions for her parents and she is saddened by the answers.

Then the two travel to the Feylands where Ella meets many fantastical beings. She befriends a little fairy who she calls Wipwip. Furan the dwarf is on a quest to find a very rare flower and Ella will do her best to help him. Later on she meets some elf warriors such as Aurok and Generi. There’s also evil beings (most of which are nameless) such as ogres, goblins, and seven evil horse riders. Overall, it had a very Tolkienesque feel to it. While this made it easy to slip into the story, it also made it predictable.

There are very few female characters. For the longest time, it is just Ella and of course every man adores her in some way. Some fuss is made about her virginity early on. Wipwip is female, but not treated as such. Generi is also female, and a warrior scout. I very much liked her character… until she ended up in a love triangle. That was a bit cliched. There’s a few more but largely, only Ella is plot important and she spends most of her time being carried by one male character or another from scene to scene. She does eventually step up a bit and has to do a little slaying, but it is putting down those nameless, evil beings that are already laying out on the ground.

The romance is strong in this story but it also felt predictable. At first, I thought it was sweet. Ella finally has some stirrings for a man and he seems like a worthy catch. But then it becomes this long, drawn out affair. Eventually we get that love triangle, and then a quadrangle, which I felt was just too many angles without any satisfaction. I suppose it was to be dramatic and perhaps tragic, but I yawned through much of the romance. In the beginning, the romance added to the plot, then it became a distraction from the plot, and sadly, it finally became the plot.

Gada/Eireden is our tragic hero. Perhaps half way through the book, we learn that ‘Gada’ is not his name but rather a caste designation. Eireden did something in the past that greatly dishonored himself so he was demoted by society to the lowest of lows, the Gada. Much was made about honor and this lowest caste and I just couldn’t get into it. The whole thing seemed overdone, over dramatic to me.

We keep being told that there is this horrible evil lead by a powerful demon. However, there are only a few fight scenes. There isn’t much military planning or coordinating going on. Essentially, we have this massive horde of nameless evil for the good guys to slaughter… and we got to spend time on Ella’s love life or Gada’s irked pride. I wanted to know more about this powerful demon and his motivations. I wanted bad guys with names and personal vendettas. Basically, I wanted more depth to what I had hoped would be the central plot of the story.

I really wanted to get into this book. It’s narrated by a personal favorite narrator, I listened to the audio clip and liked it, and I read other reviews and liked what I saw. I typically quite enjoy epic fantasy. I went into this novel fully expecting to be entertained. Sadly, this book was not the book for me.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the narrator at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a great job with this cast of characters. His voice for Ella was quite believable and he had a nice, firm, strong voice for Eireden. I liked that he employed several accents for the various types of beings. His accent for Furan was great and his child-like voice for the little fairy Wipwip was spot on.

What I Liked: Ella is a mature character; a variety of beings involved in the plot; Generi and her scout skills; Furan and his flower quest; lovely cover art; excellent narration. 

What I Disliked: The romance became the plot instead of enhancing the plot; it was predictable; very few female characters; the book was boring to me.

Thinblade by David A. Wells

WellsThinbladeWhere I Got It: Bought an Audible copy

Narrator: Derek Perkins

Publisher: Podium Publishing (2014)

Length: 18 hours 13 minutes

Series: Book 1 Sovereign of the Seven Isles

Author’s Page

Upon the unexpected death of his brother,  Alexander becomes the heir to an unlooked for birthright. He is heir to a throne, but before he can claim that right, he must first recover one of the ancient Thinblades. Friends and allies assist Alexander upon his quest even as a myriad of evil doers work to thwart him.

The story started off strong with Alexander and his siblings seeing to protecting livestock from local predators. When an assassin’s arrow takes his brother, Alexander then gets told the family secret: they are the line of succession to an ancient throne. It’s a pretty heady thing to dump on a person who is just coming into adulthood. The action starts up early on in the story as Alexander, his sister Abigail, and their tutor and healer Luki flee the family estate.

The action weaves in and out of quieter moments. There’s weapons training, battle planning, a bit of romance, and some magic learning. At first, it was a pretty good mix, holding my attention without giving me battle fatigue. However, once Alexander dives into learning magic, there are chunks of the story that slow way down and get a bit tedious. I wanted to fast forward through most of these sections. Having one or two to show the reader how much effort the main character is putting into it is cool; having several, nearly back to back, was over kill.

At first, there’s only one female character (Abigail) but she’s right there with her brother riding and fighting. She’s good with a bow. She’s well written. Later, we get a few more female characters. Isabel is the daughter of a lord whose lands neighbor Alexander’s family. She’s also good with a bow and has a magical connection with a small hawk, which she uses as a kind of scout. Sometimes she is well written, and sometimes she falls into cliches. Alexander treats her with a kind of respect even as he very quickly falls in love with her. I felt the romance was forced, like the author felt he had to check that box off in order to have a complete epic fantasy. One of the cliches involves a kidnapped female who ends up weeping on her savior’s shoulder once she is rescued. Sigh…. I would have kidnapped Alexander and forced him to carry the firewood and water skins.

The world  building is pretty standard for epic fantasy. I liked it and it worked for the story, but nothing special stood out about it. I enjoyed the quest in general, even if things got bogged down here and there. The Thinblade is a near myth even among the learned and wise. Indeed, it will take someone special to find one of these remarkable blades, and even more special to wield it with results.

Luki was one of my favorite characters. He had more than one role in the story and I liked this multi-dimensionality. Throughout the tale, he plays the cook, the teacher, the healer, or the alchemist. He’s a wealth of knowledge and also the confident to Alexander and Abigail. He also has a sense of humor.

Where this book shines is with the antagonists. Oddly, I found them more interesting than Alexander. Prince Faine of the Rishi has arisen and he means to conquer all of the seven isles. He’s been in this kind of suspended animation for hundreds or thousands of years and he’s not fully sane. This makes him unpredictable not just to the good guys, but also to his own baddie team. Then there is Patel. This dude scares me for several reasons. He’s dedicated, a true believer in where he has chosen to put his loyalty. He’s very, very skilled at what he does. Because he has such a sense of dedication and loyalty, he may turn out to be one of those characters that will sacrifice all to accomplish their commander’s goal even if he knows it is wrong. Yeah. He’s that kind of baddie. The sections with this characters were some of my favorites.

Narration: Derek Perkins did a nice job. Most of the book is told through Alexander’s eyes and Perkins had a nice young man’s voice for him. I liked his rougher voice for Patel and his somewhat mischievous voice for Luki. His crazy Faine voice was a little chilling! His lady voices were OK, perhaps needing a little more femininity. 

What I Liked: It was an easy story to fall into; the ladies are sometimes well written, having useful skills and common sense; the Thinblade is a neat mystery lost in time; the antagonists truly shine; Luki!

What I Disliked: Sometimes the minutiae of the magic learning is too much; sometimes the ladies turn into silly, cliched things; the romance felt like a check-the-box thing and not real.

What Others Think:

Stories Are Everywhere

Rushby’s Rants and Reviews


Kushiel’s Avatar Part VI

Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

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, Emily at Emma Wolf is our host. We’re covering Chapters 62-73, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. We see yet another attempt on Imriel’s life. Any new thoughts?

Once again, I think it is the lingering influence of the Valere L’Enver. I expect she thinks she is doing what is best for Terre D’Ange, and she may even being doing it with her Barquiel’s blessing. So far, so few people know that Imriel was taken, then Phedre & Joscelin tracked him down, and that they now have him. I can’t see Amaury Trente sanctioning an attempt on his life.

2. Imriel pulls the old switch-a-roo and ends up with Joscelin, Phedre, and Kaneka on their way to Iskandria. Phedre decides to press on rather than turn back. What do you think of her course of action? What do you think of Imriel’s trick? Some seem to be reminded a bit too much of Melisande’s escape from Troyes-le-Mont. What do you think? What do you think of Imriel’s rationale that he is in Hyacinthe’s debt?

I think Phedre is right to press on. She expressed it elegantly in that she doesn’t know if she will have the heart to leave Terre D’Ange for an extended trip once she returns to it. Also, I expect she is well aware that her decisions in this matter affect Joscelin – so to haul them both home, drop off Imri, only to leave again? I expect Joscelin is just as ready as she is to be home, and be home for years to come. So, yeah, they have to press on right now, otherwise they might not ever get it done.

While I see the point of how folks can (and will) draw the connection, I also shrug my shoulders and say, ‘What kid hasn’t tried a ruse like this?’ Hopefully, the majority of those that hear about it will think the same thing.

I think the characters lose sight of the fact that Hyacinthe made his choice openly, as an informed adult. That’s not to say it doesn’t suck. And yes, the entire realms of Alba and Terre D’Ange owe Hyacinthe a debt. But does Imri owe him more than any other D’Angeline? Hmmm…. Maybe for the Tsingano trust, but I have to wonder if Phedre might have found another way to cultivate that understanding and trust even if Hyacinthe had never been part of her life. She is a gregarious sort.

3. Phedre meets with Pharaoh again…and threatens to tell Ysandre that Pharaoh has been in touch or in league with Melisande should something happen to her or Imriel. What do you think of her move?

Phedre is wise to cover her ass in all her dealings right now. It isn’t just her safety, but also the safety of Imriel. Phedre has fallen in love with the child and will protect him, even if that means pissing off one ruler after another with these bold moves.

Plus, I think the Pharaoh needed this little wake up call. He rules supreme in his vast lands, but if he wants trade with Terre D’Ange, then he needs to at least appear to be courteous in such matters.

4. Kaneka finds some healing with Wali, and Phedre finds her way back from the darkness of Darsanga. Thoughts?

These were both lovely scenes. I like that Kaneka found some very loud, exuberant fun with Wali and how respectful and hopeful he was before they got it on. I also like that Kaneka didn’t feel like she had to stay with the first man who gave her pleasure after Darsanga. She’s free to choose.

The love scene between Joscelin and Phedre after the catching of the big fish is one of the top 10 love scenes in the history of epic fantasy. That scene had it all – tenderness, love, healing, connection, sexiness, smoldering heat, grace. We’ve had a lot of sex scenes in this series for which I am grateful, but if I had to pick one above all, I believe it would be this one.

5. Phedre et al. journey down the Nahar, through the desert and into Jebe Barkal and Saba. What do you think of these new places and the new characters we meet?

I love the wildlife! Everyone is excited at the various animals and how strange they are compared to tame Europe. I did feel a touch sorry for the charging rhino, but I also felt excited for Joscelin. He was able to hold his own when he was very unsure if he could.

When Phedre first describes Kaneka’s village and the rough huts, we seen just a touch of her old D’Angeline conceitedness. She at first judged them crude but then found them perfectly suitable for the climate and terrain. So I really like how this trip is continuing to expand her ideas of what is suitable.

I love that she compared Kaneka’s grandmother to Thelesis Demournay, the Queen’s Poet. Great story tellers are found in all cultures.

6. Phedre meets with the elders of Saba and is disappointed. Then she meets with some of the women. What do you think? Will they help her when the others didn’t?

The people of Saba have been greatly isolated, and it appears that they have made active choices to keep it that way. First, there is some very ancient grudges with neighboring kingdoms that the people of Saba don’t seem willing to let go of. Then they seem quite worried that their one god will be greatly displeased with them, again, and fear drawing attention to themselves – so they are frozen. They can’t help. Really, all these things speak to limiting themselves when others, the entire world actually, is quite willing to let them move on. Oddly, it seems that these self-imposed limitations define the culture and people of Saba. I think they might not know what to do with themselves without these definitions.

And then we have some that feel Elua, etc. are abominations and heresies. I expect we all know people in real life who feel their religion or spiritual believes are the only way and any other way is heresy. So, I am glad Carey didn’t ignore this aspect to the religious discussions, but I am also glad she didn’t  linger over it.

Other Tidbts:


Kaneka swims like a heroine! I loved this scene of saving Imriel on the river. Phedre doesn’t get to do too much great physical feats very often, but here she grabbed that wet horse by the halter and swung up bare back and rode for hell to get to Imri quick. These ladies were magnificent in this scene.

I like that Phedre and Imriel can talk about some of the dark stuff from Darsanga. Like their little conversation about how Imriel would like Phedre and Joscelin to be like Kaneka and Wali.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

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 (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Kushiel’s Avatar Part V

Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

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, Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog is our host. We’re covering Chapters 50-61, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. There was so much action this week, let’s just take a minute to discuss that – particularly Phedre’s plan for escape.  I realise this isn’t particularly a question but I just found these chapters so edge of the seat that I think we need to take a moment to discuss them and gather all our thoughts.  What stood out for you?  What surprised you?

I really like that Carey doesn’t down play Phedre’s fear – the fear of getting caught, the fear of not being able to follow through, the fear of actually killing someone and that someone being perhaps mentally incompetent and in love (of a sort).

The women of the zenana going a bits nuts with the blood lust made me think of the French Revolution and the starving women who attacked the royal residence (I think it was Versailles).

We knew there would be deaths but still I was saddened to see Erich and Drusilla pay the dearest toll.

Joscelin was magnificent, as always.

2. We’ve already had a debate on Imriel’s abduction and who was responsible and why.  What are your thoughts now on the Gods and their motivations?

I think Phedre explained it well, when she and Imriel had their long chat up on the crag at the end of Chapter 61. Phedre and Joscelin would not have ventured into Darsanga for anything less than Imriel, and the gods of Terre D’Ange needed Phedre and Joscelin there to have a shot at stopping the Mahrkagir and his cronies. Even gods can falter, as Phedre said. So, perhaps it could have been done differently, but this is the way is went down.

And Imriel is right too – it’s not fair.

3. How do you feel about Imriel and also who do you think is trying to assassinate him?  Also, his reaction to his own family history – do you think that Melisande would ever have stood a chance to bend him to her will or not?

I think Phedre has guessed correctly – the L’Envers are behind this first (and hopefully only) assassination attempt.

I think if Imriel had been raised to 16 or 18 as a shepherd at the sanctuary, then he could have learned about his heritage in bits and pieces. He would have eventually been told more about the Skaldi war, about the main players, about politics. Things would have been carefully fed to him. So, yeah, if this horrible thing hadn’t happened, I think Melisande would have had a shot, because she could control form a distance how and what Imri was told.

4. Phedre and Joscelin – they’ve been through a lot and ultimately it’s taken a toll.  Do you think this is something that they can get past particularly now that Joscelin has been injured – how do you think he will cope with that?

So far, both Phedre and Joscelin need space and time to become comfortable with their own bodies once again. And they are each respecting that and not snapping at each other. Joscelin told Phedre that what she took on was a noble deed and had to be done even though it was so difficult. So, he is seeing the sacrifice she made instead of seeing her as a wanton whore. He’s come a long, long way. I think they will be OK, eventually.

As for Joscelin’s injury, I think it will make him more sympathetic to others with long-term or permanent injuries. As with so many folks who are never ill and rarely injured, once they suffer something that does impede them (perhaps permanently), they become more understanding towards others.

5. It looks like Phedre’s cause to help Hyacinthe will be restored.  It looks, at least, like she will have unexpected help along the way. What are your predictions in that respect?

Ah, well this is reread for me. Still, I recall thinking that there was no way Phedre would get Imriel to leave her. After all, who does he trust, really, other than her and Joscelin? Maybe Kaneka? But she’s also going with Phedre, at least part way. Perhaps Drusilla if she still lived. And with the assassination attempt, do you really think Phedre and Joscelin would be OK with sending Imriel off? Hmm… yeah.

So, we’ve been through some really intense moments in this book so far. Now, we are in for more adventure, and some intense moments, but nothing as dark as what we have already experienced.

Other Tidbts:

I like that Erich knows Phedre from the stories the Skaldi tell. That would be something to hear the songs and tales of the Skaldi concerning the failed attempt to invade and hold Terre D’Ange.

The ‘good’ priests are still a little high and mighty judgmental. I don’t like how they treated Phedre after all was revealed. I can understand their dislike prior to the over throw, but afterwards they were still so prissy.

I am glad that the Akkaddian eunuchs will be given relevant and honorable jobs. They deserve it.

I also like that the Lugal is granting all the survivors sizable dowries. They come from all these different cultures and I am not sure all will be welcomed back because they are not longer ‘pure’. The dowries should go a long way to smooth such judgments away.

I really like that Phedre and Joscelin are treating Imriel with respect and truth, instead of coddling him and trying to smother him in half truths and soothing lies. They still made some mistakes, but they are truly trying.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

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 (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Kushiel’s Avatar Part IV

Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

Claudie snoozing with a very good book.

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.
Other Tidbts:

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.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

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 (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

The Grim Company by Luke Scull

Elderly Stout wanting to sleep on this book.

Elderly Stout wanting to sleep on this book.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from the library.

Narrator: Gerard Doyle

Publisher: Recorded Books (2013)

Length: 15 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Grim Company

Author’s Page

Set in a dystopianized fantasy world, a set of heroes comes forth to fight evil, or at least, to save their own skins. Young Davarus Cole boldly steps forward, believing with every molecule that he is a true hero. Meanwhile, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf, two highlanders on the run from a powerful sorcerer who took over their home village, are dragged into the mix. Plenty of powerful entities battle for total domination.

I heard a lot of good things about this book and went into it truly expecting to like it. Unfortunately, it fell way short. I almost gave up on it but because I had heard such great things about it, I didn’t want to give up on it. Sad to say, the ending did not justify my time spent on it.

The set up looked very promising. I liked that the main characters were pretty eclectic in age. That is good point in favor of this book –  no age discrimination here! Brodar and Jerek are past their prime yet still vital to the plot. They have their own histories and reasons for continuing on. The author doesn’t skimp in describing their aging bodies – they have trouble peeing and issues with hemorrhoids. But beyond that I never really bonded with them.

Then there is Davarus Cole, a young wanna be hero and member of the Shards, a secret organization that works to overthrow the evil Salazar. At first, I found him quite silly and full of himself. Yet, despite all the crap that gets thrown at him in this book, he perseveres in believing in himself. I grew a bit found of him by the end.

The ladies are few and far between in this book, unless you count all the nameless prostitutes and the few rape victims. Sasha, a member of the Shards, takes a long time to come into her abilities. We’re told early on that she can handle herself, but for most of the book she is a sex object that is carried by the men from one scene to the next. Eventually, she gets to use her crossbow and show us her skills and determination. There are some evil powerful ladies, most of whom remain vague for most of the book. There is a ton of jokes made by the male characters about violence towards women. If this was balanced out by more competent female characters, it would not have bothered me. However, this is not a balanced book in this regard.

The adventure plot is a bit predictable and I kept waiting for something more to be thrown in. I guess the most interesting bits were the characters’ pasts –  Brodar’s clash with the evil sorcerer from his village that sent him fleeing; Davarus’s upbringing that created his believe that he was indeed a true hero. While these things had influence on the plot, they were not the main gristle of the book. The world building wasn’t all that unique, though it has potential to be built upon. I found myself somewhat bored with this book and just waiting for one of two things to happen: The story to get super good and prove all my doubts wrong; or for it to end.

The Narration: Gerard Doyle did a really good job with this book. He had several accents and ages to portray, along with the few ladies who had more than one line. He made them all distinct and I never had to guess who was talking.

What I Liked: Lots of potential for this book; there is no age discrimination; interesting back stories; Cole proves a worthy character.

What I Disliked: This book fell way short of expectations; definitely not balanced where the genders are concerned; I didn’t become attached to most of the characters; the world building and plot were pretty predictable.

What Others Think:

Lynn’s Book Blog

On Starships and Dragonwings

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Book Review


The Wertzone

Bastard Books

The Ranting Dragon

Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews

Fantasy Review Barn

52 Book Reviews