Sunday, August 16, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Chosen, Part 3

It’s time for week three of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Chosen, and this time I provided the discussion questions!  They cover chapters 27-36, so beware spoilers through this point in the series.  This was a very politics-laden section, mostly involving Phèdre getting settled in La Serenissima and trying to find a lead on Melisande’s whereabouts.  

1. Do you think Joscelin might have really considered using the “terminus” in the fight between the Unforgiven and the Yeshuites? How deep do you think his loyalty to the Yeshuite people goes, and why do you think he feels so driven to arm, train and protect them?

I think he was telling the truth, and he would have simply thrown.  I think it would have hurt him deeply to have to do it, but I don’t think he would have used the terminus for anything short of having to kill his companion.  

He seems to be very deeply loyal to the Yeshuite people at this point, and I don’t think I have seen enough of him to really understand why.  I know there are similarities between the Cassiline and Yeshuite faiths, and that they seem to be offering him both absolution and a role in their homeland prophecy.  However, he still seems to be more bound to Cassiel, and I’m not sure he would accept either of those things.  Maybe it is just that he sees the help he can give the Yeshuite people as something wholly good, so that it is one thing in his life that he can not feel conflicted about.   

2. What do think of the differences between the culture of La Serenissima and the City of Elua, and the differences in how they conduct their political intrigue?  Who would you favor for the next Doge?
La Serenissima is a very unique place, but I think I prefer the City of Elua.  La Serenissima is a republic, instead of a monarchy, but the leaders are only allowed to be drawn from a limited pool of nobles.  Given that, it doesn’t seem all that different from a monarchy.  The role of women seems considerably less equitable there, as well.  Not only can Phèdre not safely serve Naamah, but women can’t even inherit wealth or property.

I was a little surprised by the different style of intrigue.  It seems that in Terre d’Ange, people are very guarded, and speak to one another very carefully.  Here, while much still remains hidden, people speak quite straightforwardly and at length.  The strategy seems to be to cover their true intentions with a torrent of information.  If I had to pick anyone for Doge right now, I’d choose Ricciardo. He’s the only one that we’ve seen so far who seems to have an interest in the well-being of the people of La Serenissima.

3. What do you think of Phèdre’s plan to play along with Severio’s romancing?  Do you think he is approaching the matter with more sincerity than his parents?

This situation stresses me out.  Romance and serving Naamah really are two different things, and I hate that Phèdre is faking the former.  At the same time, I don’t see anything else she could have done, since rejecting Severio would likely have cut her off from the Stregazza family.  At the moment, I get the sense that Severio is approaching Phèdre in sincerity, and I think he is going to be hurt and humiliated at the end of it.  I am really hoping that it will be his parents who put a stop to the courting, so that he never has to find out Phèdre was never interested in him.

4. There is a lot of fortune-telling in this section, from the Oracle in the temple to the astrologer.  What do you make of the Oracle’s answer to Phèdre?  Why do you think the astrologer killed himself, and do you think he would he have been able to lead them to Melisande?

I agree with Phèdre’s companions, that it seems a fairly obvious prophecy on the face of it.  I’m not sure what it means, though.  Is Melisande actually in the City of Elua, and she wanted Phèdre to come to La Serenissima for some scheme-related reason?

I think the astrologer definitely had contact with Melisande.  It seems to be hinting that he may have lost his position due to a poisoning from her or one of her people.  I don’t really understand his suicide, though.  He hadn’t actually crossed Melisande at that point, so he needn’t have worried about her retribution.  It crossed my mind that no one saw him take his own life--maybe someone in his house forced him to drink the poison, to make sure he didn’t say anything, and then fled.  The characters seem to understand it as a way for him to take control of his own fate, but surely there are better ways to do that.  

5. Joscelin and Phèdre meet a couple who have made compromises in order to build a happy life together.  What do you think of their family, and does their example give any hope for Phèdre and Joscelin’s future?

They seem happy, but it is a little sad that they have had to make such major compromises. Phèdre seemed to see it as hopeful, but I am not sure their example will really map to Phèdre and Joscelin.  With Ricciardo and Allegra, it seems like he has mostly stopped following his own desires for the love of his family, and she has accepted that he has those desires and may still act on them from time to time.  Cast onto Phèdre and Joscelin’s relationship, that would mean Phèdre has to stop serving Naamah and Kushiel, and Joscelin has to accept that she will always want to return to it.  I can’t really see that happening, because they are both so dedicated to their own paths.

Other Things:

--La Serenissima was a name for the Republic of Venice in reality.  It surprised me that fantasy-Venice is not known for its painters!  Real-Venice has a rich history in both music and painting(Tiziano, Tintoretto, Veronese, etc…).

--La Dolorosa was a creepy place. It reminds me of Alcatraz.

--It was interesting to see how horrified Phèdre was at the sacrificing of the lamb.  It seems that Elua and his Companions were not into blood sacrifice at all.

--The Yeshuites seem to be in an even worse position in La Serenissima than in Terre d’Ange.  I am afraid of what the leaders may do when they hear the Yeshuites are training in combat.

--I think there is still some trickiness left in the current Doge.  I’m curious to see what will happen when Phèdre comes to sing for him. It seems like the invitation was designed so that he could have a chance to speak with her alone.


  1. I don't know much about Venice, and I wondered if La Dolorosa was based on anything there. You seem much more knowledgeable than me. Do you know what, if anything, La Dolorosa is based on?

    I picked up on Phedre's horror at the animal sacrifice too. I liked the respect she paid to Asherat. I complain that she's a snob, but I like how she's like a monolatrist rather than denying the existence of other gods.

    1. I don't know of a prison island, but it might be based on Poveglia? It was a quarantine island and a mental institution at different points in history, and seems to have a reputation for being haunted.

  2. I prefer the City of Elua over La Serenissima as well, specifically because women have more rights.

    Yeah, Severio may very well be headed for heartbreak.

    I think Allegra must be pretty compassionate to have stepped up to the marriage. At one point, she probably felt it was a loveless affair, but it seems the two of them have worked really hard to be respectful of each and build upon that. Perhaps Phedre and Joscelin could start there as both have stated they don't really get why the other has certain sexual appetites or not.

    La Dolorosa definitely seemed very forlorn.

    1. I was pretty pessimistic, but that actually does sound like a very good starting place for Joscelin and Phedre. If they can find a way to respect each others inclinations, then maybe they can find a way to move from there.

  3. The Severio/Phedre romance is going to be interesting to watch. He seems really sincere about it and in a way Phedre seems really taken - not with Severio but with being courted by someone - its a novelty for her after all. I hope it doesn't all end in tears though - I guess we'll see how much patience Severio really has.

    I quite like the setting in one respect but then I think the negatives outweigh the positives. The people definitely seem a little behind the times in terms of the way they treat their females whilst the men seem to be incredibly brash, shouting and fighting in the street whenever they feel like it.
    Lynn :D

    1. Yeah, I think she is enjoying being courted, but she's accepting the courting while already knowing her answer is no. I think I've just personally been in too many awkward situations of mismatched romantic expectations, which is why reading this was stressing me out. :)

      I like the passion of the culture, but I also am not really fond of the casual fighting and lack of women's rights!