Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Read-along: Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, Part 1

This post begins a community read-along of Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, the third book in her Kushiel’s Legacy series!  We’re just getting started, so if you’d like to join you can check out our Goodreads group. The schedule is as follows:

Week 1: Chapters 1-13 11th October – Lisa (Over the effing rainbow)
Week 2: Chapters 14-25 – 18th October – Allie (Tethyan books)
Week 3: Chapters 26-37 – 25th October – Emily (Emma Wolf)
Week 4: Chapters 38-49 – 1st November – Susan (Dab of Darkness)
Week 5: Chapters 50-61 – 8th November – Lynn (Lynn’s books)
Week 6: Chapters 62-73 – 15th November – Emily (Emma Wolf)
Week 7: Chapters 74-82 – 22nd November – Susan (Dab of Darkness)
Week 8: Chapters 83-END – 29th November – Allie (Tethyan books)

From above, this week’s host is Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow, and her questions cover chapters 1-13. Beware of spoilers ahead through chapter 13, as well as potentially for Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Chosen! 

I’d like to pretend this post is right on time, but I’m afraid it’s quite clear that the start date was a few days ago.  As always, I finished the reading, but then my attendance at a wedding derailed my intentions to post this on Sunday.  I seem to have a habit lately of overestimating what I can do in a single day.  Anyway, I think I’ll be back on schedule from here on out.  Now, to the questions!

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?

There’s a lot of imagery going on with seers, and I’m not sure I really followed most of it.  I think the gist is that there is hope for Hyacinthe, which is very encouraging!  

In the previous book, I wondered why they couldn’t go visit him from time to time, and I guess that’s been answered.  Anyone who sets foot on the island is, maybe, obligated to take on his role?  If that’s the case, though, then why can’t they just get a group of volunteers and swap out every few years?  That way, no one would have to spend 800 years trapped on an island.  Maybe they’ll explain more later.

Also, I understand Phedre’s musing on what might have been, but I think that quite a lot more than Hyacinthe’s fate would have had to change for them to be an item.  Her and Joscelin’s bond was forged through helping each other survive through slavery and torment. I was as shocked as Phedre by Joscelin’s comment that it would have been better if he were trapped on the island.

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...?

I was wondering why Phedre would ever go to ‘aid’ Melisande, but I think she really only went to see her out of curiosity.  Phedre handled the confrontation pretty well, and I am very glad that she no longer seems to have any positive emotional ties to Melisande.  I think their connection at this point really is just that Melisande is a very pretty sociopath, and Phedre is attracted to people who can inflict pain with no empathy.

I’m not taking Melisande’s supposed desperation at face value right now.  When Phedre brought  up Barquiel L’Envers, I didn’t think that sounded right.  He’s not exactly subtle, and I think that if he’d found the boy and killed him, there would at least be rumors about it. Right now, I think it is all a ploy by Melisande, to get Phedre to play some role in her Plan Z (Plans A-Y having been foiled).  If it’s someone else, I don’t think they’ve been introduced yet.  

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?

I think they're in a pretty good place now.  They trust each other, which is very important, and they seem to work well as partners.  He’s much more understanding of her desire for pain, even though he doesn't want to hurt her.  She’s curtailed most of her assignations, too, so the compromises are not only on his part.  Right now, I’m just afraid that there's going to be some kind of love polygon introduced with Hyacinthe and Sibeal.

Other Things:

—There was a lot of recap in the first couple of chapters.  It makes sense, given how many characters there are and how much has happened in the series, but it made me feel impatient!

—I was surprised the traveling started so quickly, with a jaunt to Serenissima and a trip to see Hyacinthe!

—Now that Ysandre has daughters, maybe Imriel is not such a threat.  I still think Ysandre would take him in and treat him well.

—In the scene with Ysandre, it also sounded like Terre d'Ange has some reliable form of birth control (magical, perhaps?).  I don't remember if this was mentioned in the series before or not, but I remember wondering why there weren't many more children like Phedre in the Night Court.

—I liked the scene in Kushiel’s Temple, where Phedre confessed that she didn't want to be an anguissette anymore.  With all that she’s been through, I don’t blame her. I hope she can find peace with herself, though.

—It was great to hear how Phedre is working to reform the Night Court!


  1. I think Phedre wouldn't mind you being late to the party since you were at a wedding. ;)

    So there's the servants that go to and from the island and surely everyone once in a while they must get new stock for breeding, so why can't folks visit Hyacinthe? This is a niggling question. I like your idea of swapping people out every generation... because it would have to like that right, if it takes 10 years to master the powers? So maybe 20 years on the island. 10 to learn and 10 to train someone else. Still, I bet they would have volunteers just for the experience.

    The magical birth control hasn't been discussed before but we will get more on it in the series. I can't recall if we get more in this book or if it is the next trilogy. Basically, a woman goes to a temple (and I forget which deity's) and asks that the gates of her womb be opened. Then it works pretty normally. She may get pregnant right away or it could take years or may never happen. I so wish we had such an ability in real life!

    1. Haha, as long as Phedre wouldn't mind :D.

      Thanks for the info on the birth control (also Emma). But that brings up another question. How could Phedre's mother accidentally have a baby? Or was Phedre only unwanted after her mom saw she was flawed (I need to look that up)? Maybe divine birth control is not 100%, and Eisheth allows pregnancy if one ofs Elua's Companions really wants you to have a baby? Divine birth control sounds much simpler than pills and such, though.

  2. "If that’s the case, though, then why can’t they just get a group of volunteers and swap out every few years?"

    I kind of wonder this too. I think maybe it would be dangerous to have so many Masters of the Straits wandering around or maybe the old Master has to die before a new one can take over so it would work as shortening people's lives and making them spend the last 20 years of their lives on that island. Still, not a bad retirement plan.

    What nrlymrtl said about birth control, and it's Eisheth's temple.

    1. Ah, I didn't think of that. However, that could still work. I expect there would be many people who wouldn't mind spending their final years wielding great power on a peaceful little island. In that case, there's no need for them to live for 800 years in a weakening body, they could just send word for a replacement when they're ready to end it. Too late now for Hyacinthe, though, since in that case replacing him would kill him. I guess it's not a workable situation anymore, but maybe it's something the last Master of the Straits should have thought about.

  3. Allie, you said, "How could Phedre's mother accidentally have a baby? Or was Phedre only unwanted after her mom saw she was flawed (I need to look that up)?"

    My take is this: Phedre's parents were very foolhardy and impulsive. My guess is that Liliane bade her womb open on not much more than a lark, and at first, they did okay with Phedre-- some of the beginning of KD is about how she traveled with her parents. But when Phedre's father lost his money, they ended up selling her to Cereus.

    But my question, then, is can a woman ask Eisheth to close her womb again after it has been opened? In the case of Phedre's parents, would they have wanted to risk having more children? I don't remember that being addressed in any of the books.

    1. Yeah, I went back to re-read, and Phedre was definitely conceived deliberately. I guess it was a combination of Phedre being flawed (they had expected her to be able to foster at Jasmine house, eventually gaining them money & restoring their reputation), financial difficulty and challenge of child-rearing that led them to sell her. I think I was thrown off by how Phedre refers to herself as a "whore's unwanted get", but she was, originally at least, wanted and intended.

      That is an interesting question. I would hope so, or else opening one's womb would have pretty severe implications for intimate part of one's married life, after the intended kids are born. If the divine birth control is intended to allow people to love as they will, then surely there's a way to undo something like that when needed.

    2. I wonder if when Phedre uses the term "whore's unwanted get" she is referring to the fact that her parents sold her rather than not being wanted originally?
      Lynn :D

    3. I think so, but I mangled her intended reference with my modern mindset :D. Phedre was intentionally conceived within wedlock, so "whore's unwanted get" just seems wrong. Of course, her mother was trained in the Night Court, so technically "whore" applies, and Phedre was eventually unwanted. The truth seems crueler, that her parents wanted her until they met her.

  4. I definitely think the restrictions on visiting the island need to be laid out a bit more. I hadn't realised until starting this book that nobody could visit without incurring the curse. And his servants visit so there must be a way of getting round it somehow. I like your idea for swapping people after a number of years! Good plan.
    Lynn :D

    1. Yeah, I'm really hazy about that as well. I guess ancient curses don't come with instruction manuals :).