Sunday, August 23, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Chosen, Part 4

It’s time for week four of the read-along of Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey!  This week’s questions are from Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow, and they cover chapters 37-49.  Quite a lot happened this week, after last week’s politicking, so I think we’ll have a lot to discuss!  

Also, if you’re wondering, life has been extremely and unexpectedly busy these past few weeks, which is why there haven’t been any new book reviews lately.  It’s been pretty much all I could handle to keep up with the read-along.  I’ve just about finished writing the next one, though, so there will be more book reviews coming along very soon!

1. Last week we talked a bit about who might succeed Cesare Stregazza as Doge. This week we learn that he might not be out of the game just yet, after all. What are your thoughts on his discussion and agreement with Phédre?

I suspected he was not as out of the game as his relatives assumed.  I’m afraid a lot of his discussion with Phedre was nullified by things we learn later, but I hope she can honor her agreement with him before his death.  I was surprised that he had such a low opinion of Ricciardo.  The guy seemed nicer than Marco to me.  Perhaps he is just the better actor of the two.  

Suborning the priestess of Asherat-at-the-sea seems like a very awkward way to try to force Cesare out of his seat.  If it was done by the d’Angelines, maybe it makes more sense, because they might not have much of an understanding of the religion of the area.  Regardless, it seems like it would have made more sense for his enemies to just poison him at the opportune moment. He’s in poor health, so his death would probably not be questioned.  Perhaps the prophecy was arranged by his kinsmen, knowing that he would interpret it correctly as a corruption of their religion and a death threat.  In that case, they are requesting he step down (perhaps because they don’t want to murder a kinsman) or face assassination.

2. Melisande resurfaces - and right where I did NOT expect to find her! What about you? And what do you think of her latest ambitious designs? When she and Phédre speak again after her capture, Phédre calls her mad; Melisande hints at "playing a god's game". Is this ambition or is it in fact madness?

I did not expect that at all!  Benedicte’s wife is supposedly Etaine de Tourai.  She must have existed, or it would have drawn suspicion.  She’s explained as:

“Etaine de Tourais, she is called; a noble-born D’Angeline refugee from the Camaeline hills.  Husband, father, even her brother, all killed in the first wave of Selig’s invasion.  Her family had a quit-claim on House Courcel.  Somewhat to do with her father taking arms at Benedicte’s side in some ancient battle against the Skaldi” (p. 115-116)

I suspect that Etaine was killed in the invasion along with her family, and Benedicte helped Melisande impersonate her in letters and rumors.  

As for her ambitions, I suppose she’s hedging her bets with Imriel, but I didn’t really think she was the sort who would be satisfied by having a baby well-placed in succession.  I’m guessing that’s just her ‘if all else fails’ plan.  I think her need for support outside her homeland is a bit of a weakness.  In the first book, she needed the Skaldi, and in this book, she needs La Serenissima (though arguably her allies in La Serenissima are D’Angeline).  She does not seem to me to have the understanding of non-D’Angeline cultures that would help her succeed in these multi-nation schemes.

I don’t think she’s insane.  I think at least some of her references to “playing a god’s game” are her flirting with blasphemy in her treatment of Phedre, who is Kushiel’s chosen.  Otherwise, she’s probably talking about violating the precepts of Elua in other ways.

3. Things fall apart for Phédre and Joscelin after so much pent-up angst - but our Cassiline isn't done with her yet, thank goodness! Phédre's escape from La Dolorosa, and Joscelin's attempted rescue, is some of the most nail-biting drama we've seen yet in this story. Do you think Joscelin will manage to find her, or will he play it smarter and go to Ysandre instead?

I suppose he left because he did not feel needed, and also because he felt violated after Phedre pressured him into sex against his will.  The first part was proved wrong almost immediately, and I’m glad he came to rescue her!  As for the second part, I think that will be a difficult thing for them to overcome, especially since I don’t get the sense Phedre has really accepted that she is in the wrong. I would hope Joscelin would go to Ysandre.  However, I suspect that his Cassiline nature will prevail, and he will keep trying to find Phedre.

4. New character alert! What are your initial impressions of Kazan and Glaukos? How much trouble is Phédre in this time?

They don’t seem like horrible people so far.  They took her in and are helping heal her.  I think that she just doesn’t understand that there are a lot of constraints on what a pirate ship can and can’t do on a moment’s notice.  For instance, they can’t just drop what they’re doing and sail to Marsilikos or La Serenissima.  They need provisions, not all ports are safe for them, etc.  Once they get to the right place, Phedre can ransom herself.  She can always make more money later.

Other things:

--La Dolorosa was actually more terrifying after we knew more about it.  I was actually glad that Phedre was planning to accept Melisande’s deal.  I did not want to read about Phedre enduring what would have come in that place.

--I hope Ti-Philippe is okay! It seems that he was not with Joscelin, so I wonder what else he could be doing.

--It has been so long since a major character died, I had been lulled into a false sense of security.  Rest in peace, Remy and Fortun :’(.

--I feel that Melisande is underestimating Phedre.  From their conversations, it seems like Melisande still sees her as that (relatively) innocent, inexperienced teenage girl who was working for Delaunay.  Phedre may have changed her view a little through their conversations, but I’m hoping she still underestimates her enough for Phedre to be able to take advantage of it.

--I did not guess that Percy was being blackmailed.  He did not seem disloyal to Ysandre in the last part of the previous book or in the first of this one.  If it came out that he was involved in Lyonette’s treason, though, Ysandre would probably execute him.  I can see that he really has no choice if he wants to preserve his own life.   


  1. I like your reasoning about Melisande. She is playing a God's game messing with Kushiel's Chosen - I hadn't thought of that. I never saw her having a baby to be honest - but like you said - I suppose she has her plan B lined up.
    I was side to see Remy and Fortun depart - and like you, I hadn't expected that at all.
    And I hadn't figured Percy to be disloyal. I suppose he feels he has no choice but even so!
    Lynn :D

    1. I really don't see Melisande as a motherly type, so that surprised me too. I guess since she now knows Percy's situation is from blackmail, maybe Phedre or Ysandre can offer him a way out?

    2. And in that second sentence, "she" is Phedre. I just re-read that and it sounds like I'm still talking about Melisande...

  2. I'm a bit ashamed to say I've never thought much about the real Etaine. Thanks for drawing my attention to her. It's interesting to think about,

    1. I was pretty sure we'd been given her identity earlier, so I looked it up out of curiosity. At least in that case, it seems like Melisande probably used the tragedy instead of creating it. Well, except that she's still indirectly responsible for Etaine's family's death, since they were killed in the Skaldi invasion.

  3. I think the lengths Melisande has gone to here are more indications of the "deep game" she plays, that's been remarked upon before. She's done things we didn't expect her to do, but in hindsight, is that really so surprising? ;)

    1. That's true. She would be a pretty disappointing schemer antagonist if the audience could predict her every move!

  4. I like your idea concerning suborning the priestess as a way to subtly ask Cesare to step down, instead of assassinating him.

    Totally agree with you on Melisande and her lack of understanding of foreign nations.

    It's such a tangled mess between Phedre & Joscelin - they're both in the wrong for the right reasons (trying their best to serve their gods or precepts or training). Joscelin is practically drowning in his guilt, using it as a shield so he doesn't have to deal with things. Meanwhile, Phedre has very little guilt (she seems to reserve it for big things like deaths and permanent exile to small islands).

    Phedre is being a little bit of an idiot insisting the pirates take her here or there. They have their own agenda and their own folks to look after.

    Yeah! when I first read this book I did not see the Percy de Somerville connection to Troyes le Mont. But Phedre does a good job of laying out the facts and connecting the dots and oh shit! Ysandre is in true danger!

    1. Yeah, I still can't see a path for how Joscelin & Phedre could make it as a couple. Now, they have even more of a mess between them, though they clearly still care about each other.

      It will be interesting to see where the pirate ship goes!