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).

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).

Kushiel's Avatar Part III

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 26-37, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. If I recall correctly, this is the first book (and this is the first portion of the book) that takes us outside of (what is now) Europe and into (what is now) the Arab world. What are your thoughts?

I  love how Phedre sees the adventure in it all. She notes how different the weather is and also things like how the saddles are different. Also, I love the food. Always the food! I  should do a Kushiel’s Legacy meal based on the foods mentioned in these three books.

2. We see the Pharaoh laughing at Phedre, saying that if she had only trusted him, it would have saved them a lot of time. We saw this sort of thing play out before with Kazan and Barquiel. Do you think Phedre should be more trusting or do you think she is right to be so cautious?

Caution, always. She has learned the hard way that being too trusting can lead to dire circumstances (Melisande and the deaths of Anafiel and Alcuin come to mind). So, yes, it took her more time and effort to come to the root of it, but I think she was right to be cautious. Pharaoh has a lot of power and doesn’t have to work behind the scenes or in shadows to wipe out some annoying bug of a Terre D’Ange. There in his land and he has mighty powers of state.

3. More of the story of Imriel and the two other kidnapped children unfold. What do you think now? Was Imriel chosen randomly? Is this the gods punishing Melisande or D’Angelines generally?

I think Imriel got the short end of the straw on this one. He’s going to need years of therapy when all is said and done. And yes, I still think Imriel was chosen randomly by all the humans involved.

As for that last question… well, I know how this book ends. Perhaps Kushiel needs a mighty tool to punish a great evil and unfortunately, in order to get that mighty tool in place to do this great deed, sacrifices had to be made. I think that’s vague enough.

4. More on Imriel: we haven’t met him yet, but we’ve heard a lot about him and how he acted in different situations. So far, what do you think of him?

Obviously, he isn’t one to go quietly. He gave the slavers in Amilcar some grief before they sold him on. Then he stabbed Fadil Chouma in the leg. I think he has a lot of spirit but also some sense as he hasn’t created enough of a stir to be killed outright yet.

5. What are your thoughts on the skotophagotis? Superstition and coincidence or real power?

I think they have a touch of real power, or at least knowledge (like how to make flash powders or such) and the rest is superstition and ill intent. They do make an excellent wicked living myth for Phedre to untangle and also match wits against for this section of the book.

Other Tidbts:

Phedre’s thoughts on the socially required veils and dress codes was interesting. At first, I thought she would balk at it but common sense won out. Being able to travel with less note and no fuss makes the most sense right now.

I felt a bit for Fadil’s scarred wife. Well, I hope she was one of those ladies who coddled Imriel and then I can feel good about feeling bad for her scars.

I like how Phedre convinced the Pharaoh to give up his communications with Melisande (at least for now). Melisande still deserves some thwarting.

OK, now maybe this is just me, but it still freaks me out a little each time I read the scenes where Joscelin threatens Nesmut with physical violence. It’s so not Joscelin and yet I know he wouldn’t actually cut Nesmut up, but Nesmut doesn’t know that, and I get why Joscelin did that… and yet I still want to shake Joscelin  for putting blades to a kid’s throat! Anyone else conflicted over that?

Phedre once again uses the L’Enver pass phrase – By the Burning Bridge – and I have to wonder why the L’enver family hasn’t changed it in the 10 years. Perhaps Ysandre or Nicola would just have told Phedre the new pass phrase so there was no real reason to change it…

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 II

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, Allie at Tethyan Books is our host. We’re covering Chapters 14-25, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1.  Phedre has been incredibly efficient in finding out what has happened to Imriel.  Do you think it really is as simple as a random act of cruelty?  Is it a punishment from Kushiel, and if so, why were the other two children involved?

I believe bad shit happens to people (both good and bad) all the time. So, yes, I think Imriel was randomly targeted because he was out, alone, guarding goats and no one would miss him for a day.

Now, that’s not to say that Kushiel hasn’t stepped in and made this an excruciating ordeal for Melisande. It did take over 3 months for Phedre to find the trail. If Melisande truly loves her boy, then she has been in a bit of a turmoil ever since she learned of his disappearance.

With the other 2 children, we don’t really know much about their parents and we certainly don’t know if they have made any transgressions against man, kingdom, or the deities. Plus, they have been found and will be returned shortly. So if Kushiel had a hand in that as well, I can only assume the trangressions of their parents were far smaller than Melisande’s.

2.  A lot of justice is meted out (or not) to different people.  Do you think the priests deserve forgiveness for hiding Imriel?  Do you agree with the harsh methods in Amilcar toward the slavers?

No, I don’t believe the priests (who knew) deserve total forgiveness. While I can see their logic, I think they were also hiding behind it. In this set of circumstance, with Imriel’s hiding location now known and whatever plans Melisande had for when he turned 16 probably foiled (for now), the priests haven’t really done any harm. But what if Imriel reached his majority at the sanctuary, was told his true identity, and Melisande set her plans in motion and the land was once again bathed in blood, this time from a civil war? Would those priests be so innocent then? I think not. So, I think Ysandre will have to take some measures, even if she does it quietly.

Yes, I agree with the harsh methods used to extract info from the slavers. Child slavery, which usually leads to child molestation and rape, deserves a heavy hand when justice is being meted out. I would like to think that I would find it hard to watch, but I won’t ever know for sure unless I find myself in a situation similar to Phedre’s.

3.  Do you think it’s worth it for Phedre to go to Serenissima to get information from Melisande, or would it be better for her to travel with the royal entourage and find her own guide?

Tough question! So I totally get that Phedre wants Melisande to hear the bad news from her own lips because a written letter won’t convey the sympathy and who else is at all sympathetic to Melisande? And knowing Melisande, there’s always that possibility that she has yet one more bit of info that she hasn’t divulged and Phedre stands the best chance of getting that from her.

On the other hand, Phedre is pretty darn smart and has plenty to go on right now in order to find the Lost Tribe and perhaps the key to setting Hyacinthe free. So, I think it must be her sympathy driving her to Serenissima.

4.  It occurs to me that Joscelin improved the public attitude towards the Cassilines, though he was cast out, and the Prince of Travellers may be having a similar effect for his own people.  In what ways do you think the Tsingani and the prejudice against them might change as a result of recent events?  Do you think Hyacinthe will ever be allowed to go back to them, and if so, should he?

I don’t think the common folk are truly aware that the Master of the Straights is Tsingani (or diddikan – half breed). And, truly, that was just a recent shifting of power on the island. I think those that do know the sacrifice that Hyacinthe has made have already adjusted their attitudes like 10 years ago. So, it’s more those people (like Phedre) speaking up for the Tsingani that is changing the attitudes of the common folk. Even Luke, Joscelin’s brother, was having some heartburn over his words and actions towards the Tsingani that came with word of the slave traders. Now Luke needs to be one of those that stands up for equal rights and respect under Terre D’Ange law instead of verbally siding with the prejudiced.

I think the Tsingani clans have already acknowledged Hyacinthe as their own. But then, they were some of the few that bothered to learn Hyacinthe’s story and spread it 10 years ago. Maybe not all, but enough, especially other half breeds like Emile. I don’t think Hyacinthe will easily fit in anywhere after this experience, whether Phedre frees him from the island or not. Though I expect he would be welcomed almost anywhere.

Other Tidbts:

Lilianne and her animal charges at the sanctuary – that was a nice touch. I bet the priests keep her separate from the yearly culling though.

It was nice to see Phedre with Nicola again. The lover’s token is a nice touch. I also liked that Joscelin was totally cool with giving the ladies an hour to themselves.

I liked that Phedre asked Sibeal to drop Hyacinthe a line on their return trip in the fall. It took her a lot to be direct with Sibeal about possible feelings towards Hyacinthe. I also had a small chuckle because I think Phedre was feeling a twinge of jealousy and hopefully this makes her more understanding towards Joscelin when he shows jealousy over her own affairs.

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 I

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 1-13, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. The book begins with the ending of Phedre’s “ten years of peace”, and with a journey to visit Hyacinthe on his island. It’s a less than optimistic beginning, but the seer Sibeal seems to believe better… What did you make of these opening scenes?

It was a great mix of Phedre, Joscelin, and their household having had 10 years to mature and be happy and healthy; brief reminders of things from the past 2 books; and portends of what this book may hold. I think that if you took a long break in between books, this beginning would pull you back into the story quite nicely.

I always seem to forget how much dreams play a role in this series and it looks like they will be playing a more significant role in this book. We open with Phedre’s dream of Hyacinthe and her foreboding feelings, followed by being summoned to the queen’s presence with news about an unusual storm out at the Three Sisters. Then Sibeal’s true dream later on when they meet. I always find dream portends one of those things that can be manipulated to mean anything you need them to. So, I tend to breeze through such scenes and get to the actions that count. While Carey uses this plot device, she does so as seasoning instead of as the whole main course, so I tend to pay more attention to the dreams in this series than in others.

2. Before long Phedre and Joscelin are revisiting Melisande Shahrizai as well, and she’s got yet another surprise for our heroes… Do you have any suspicions yet about who could have taken Imriel, and why? How about any thoughts regarding what Melisande could be up to now…?

Of course, I initially suspected Barquiel way back when I first read this book, but we see right off how everyone suspects him first an foremost and he’s ruled out even in this first section. Melisande made a lot of enemies and many of those enemies were also traitors to the crown. So I turned my eye towards the Stregazzas and the Trevalions.

Melisande always has multiple plans in place. I’m sure she wants her son found, even if that means he will be placed under the crown’s protection until he reaches his majority. But I bet she is already laying plans to whisk him away from the palace once he is found. I don’t think this is a false plea for help.

3. Taking a step back from the higher drama, what are your thoughts regarding the romantic developments that seem to have taken place for Phedre and Joscelin over the years? They seem to be in a better place… Do you think it will still last?

Phedre and Joscelin are solid. They have seen pretty hard times – even bonded during hard time – and created some of those hard times for themselves. Basically, they know what it is to be without the other’s love and they know it sucks. Add to that, they have had 10 good years to deepen their love and they now have that wealth of love and good memories to draw upon should any shit come between them. They are my favorite romantic heroic duo in epic fantasy of all time.

Other Tidbts:

I wonder if Sibeal is truly in love with Hyacinthe or did she see that love in a dream and decided it would one day be real and therefore has fallen in love because of that dream?

Ysandre’s daughters are the cutest! And I think Alise needs some light arms training when she gets older.

I really like how Phedre denied Melisande’s request for help at first and the Melisande had to offer something of great value in exchange for it.

Phedre has been instigating changes in Terre D’Ange, specifically on how indentured servitude works among the Court of Night Blooming Flowers – loved this!

The little tale of how a  man wished for immortality and was eventually turned into a cricket makes my fine little hairs stand up, especially when I hear crickets at night.

OK, I know it isn’t the most awesome fight we have seen Joscelin engage in, but it was still pretty damn cool when he accepted Barquiel’s challenge and they had at it.

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 Chosen Part VII

Tofu kitty with a very good book.
Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Chosen 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 your host. We’re covering Chapters 73-END, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) Earlier in the book, Phedre promised to rid the temple of Asherat of corruption. Here we see her speaking for the goddess. Is this what you had in mind? Is Phedre channeling the goddess or using her own words? Was her act a sign from the goddess, as Cesare Stregazza said, or merely a trick, as Marie-Celeste said? 

Way back when I first read this book, I thought Phedre and crew would round up and confront those priestesses that were phonies, and  perhaps hand them over to some higher force. Obviously, that isn’t what happened nor was there time for such things, the way things fell out.

I think Phedre intended to speak on the goddess’s behalf, all in good intentions. But then as she  started to speak, Asherat used her to voice her complaints. I do believe Asherat had a hand in how things got rolling and that it wasn’t a simple trick. Though I would not have blamed Phedre if she had used a simple trick to reveal the corrupt priestesses, unmask Melisande, and save Ysandre.

2) Ysandre offers (or demands) to take Imriel into her own household to spare him the “taint” of being a traitor’s son. What do you think of this? Would an Imriel raised by Ysandre be welcomed by the people as the heir to the throne? Or would the people remember Melisande’s treachery when they see her son?

I think Ysandre has noble intentions but I don’t think they are practical in this case. Melisande has committed treachery against the crown and country not once, but twice now. Enough people know of her deceit, especially those who have contact with the throne, that it could not be easily set aside.

No, I don’t think the people of Terre D’Ange would welcome Imriel as heir to the throne. I think too many folks would try to use Imriel for their own ends – politics never sleep! Also, even well-meaning folks might wonder if Imriel would harbor any resentment on his mother’s behalf. So we better hope that Ysandre and Drustan have a baby or two!

3) What do you think of Melisande taking sanctuary in the temple to Asherat and the Doge allowing it? Is it blasphemous? Ysandre asks Phedre what she can expect from Melisande, and Phedre cannot answer. What do you expect from Melisande?

Every place we have seen Phedre travel, we have seen how she takes care not to insult the deities of that land. Melisande was taken into the sanctuary in good faith before all was revealed. So, no, I don’t think it is blasphemous. But I was sorely maddened that they didn’t haul her ass out of there anyway!

The Doge just regained his place in the political hierarchy so I can see why he doesn’t want to oppose the Temple of Asherat on this one. Plus, it was really up to the temple to rule on it.

OK, when I first read this series, I really didn’t know what to expect from Melisande next. Her husband is dead and she is safe so long as she stays within the temple’s bounds. So… I wondered what the rules were. Could she remarry and see her husband within the temple? Essentially, could she ally herself with another political power through marriage and child bearing? But she’s already tried this once and it didn’t get her what she wanted. So perhaps a longer game involving her son, Imriel. But that would have to be a long-game for sure. I guess she could take her time to develop a spy network.

4) After seeing his fellow Cassiline Brother attempt to assassinate their charge in La Serenissima, Brys no Rinforte is badly shaken and is unable to accompany Ysandre through the Royal Army and into the City of Elua. What do you make of this? Phedre called it “defection,” which, according to dictionary.com, has two meanings: 1) desertion from allegiance, loyalty, duty, or the like. Apostasy; and 2) failure, lack, loss. What do you think of Phedre’s description? Phedre also tells us that Ysandre dismissed the Cassilines from her service. What share of the blame does Brys deserve for Ysandre’s decision? What do you think of the irony that Cassiline Brothers have become more popular among D’angelines?

I think Brys was genuinely shaken by the events in La Serenissima, especially since he wasn’t the one to put the traitor down. I don’t think he feared losing his life to the Royal Army; rather he truly feared having to watch his charge die. So, he froze and couldn’t move forward. Also, it was beautifully climatic to watch Ysandre ride into that army and turn the tide on her own.

Defection was a harsh yet fitting term for Brys’s lack of action. If he is not in trouble with  the Cassiline order for his failure to act, then I think they are hypocrites (because Joscelin held to his vow despite all the crazy crap he and Phedre got into prior to him being kicked out of the order).

I expect Ysandre was contemplating dismissing the Cassilines from her immediate service ever since the showdown at Asherat’s temple. They are still human and can be corrupted, or have personal agendas of their own. The fiasco at the temple made that perfectly clear. Perhaps she had already made up her mind to do so once the City of Elua was her’s again. This would have given her remaining Cassiline the chance to finish out the La Serenissiman Progressus with honor. Alas, he was not able to go the last mile.

Ha! Yes, it is so very human for anything newsworthy to become popular with some segment of the population. In this case, I think it is more Joscelin’s magnificent efforts to keep Ysandre safe that spurred the nobility to hire Cassiline bodyguards. I think folks are secretly hoping to find a ‘Joscelin’ among them.

5) The Rebbe Nahum ben Isaac said “you Children of Elua are too quick to forget how the love you invoke may cut like a blade.” What do you think? Is Elua a gentle, loving god or is the rebbe right?

The Rebbe is right. Who among us haven’t fallen in love, at least a little, with someone because they are beautiful to look upon? If they turn out to be clever or kind or mysterious AND they show even  a little reciprocal  interest, it can be quite the deadly combination.

A few years ago, I read an article that speculated that humans were genetically wired to appreciate beauty and youth more, as a kind of ‘must protect and care for’ type of thing. If you look at how humans have selectively bred certain animals for thousands of years – horses, dogs – we keep looking for delicate strength and aesthetically pleasing aspects. Grown horses are more coltish in  appearance and we swoon over them, etc. Anyway, I can’t talk to the accuracy of that article, but  I found it rather thought provoking. Here we have the D’Angelines. Often the men get comments about being boys because they have no facial hair. They women are typically  delicate and beautiful. So, yeah, definitely want to feed them and keep them safe.

Other Tidbts:

I really did feel sorry for the acolyte who survived Phedre’s forced entrance to the temple. He just lost his comrades and friends – and everyone else is going out for a celebratory drink!

Phedre commented that the fight between Joscelin and the Cassiline traitor was both the most deadliest and most beautiful thing she had ever seen – and yet she had to be strong enough to look away and hunt down Melisande.

Even though I have read this book several times, I have always found the confrontation between Melisande and Phedre in the temple during Joselin’s fight to be a bit silly. Phedre didn’t have to kill Melisande – just incapacitate her. Surely after all the dire circumstances Phedre has lived through, she could have seen that?

The Black Shields! While I appreciated that they were a little torn at leaving the border, I am very glad they did so and I do believe it goes a long way in atoning for their prior misstep.

I really enjoyed Phedre’s homecoming and the fete in her honor. I always feel I should read those beautiful party scenes at midnight on wintry night.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
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 CHOSEN in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com). We’re currently planning the read along for Book 3, Kushiel’s Avatar. Contact me if interested in joining in!