Kushiel’s Dart Readalong, Week 1


Kushiel’s Dart by NarrenkapAnimo on DeviantArt

Hi everyone, and welcome to the first week of the Kushiel’s Dart readalong!  This week’s discussion covers chapters 1-8.  This week’s questions were written by Susan at Dab of Darkness.

During the readalong, I’m going to try to feature a different piece of Kushiel’s Dart fan art each week.  Excuse any messiness in formatting there; I’m trying to do the right thing with copyright, and as far as I understand, that means using DeviantArt’s built-in sharing features, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to center those…

Here we have the earliest days of Phedre’s life, and we have the story of Elua and his followers. Did you note any similarities between Phedre’s beginning and Elua’s stories? Do you enjoy having these stories upfront or would you rather have had the stories shuffled in later with an adult Phedre looking back?

The parallels between Phedre’s story (and the stories of all of the books in the series, actually) and the story of Elua were quite striking.  The first time I read the Kushiel series, I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to the lore about the fallen angels and their travels, because it felt like too much of an infodump.  I was pulled into Phedre’s own story, and wanted to get on with it.  This time around, I appreciate the stories much more.  I think it makes sense to include the stories as a part of Phedre’s childhood, because I think that she makes sense of her own experiences of being abandoned and having to make her own way in the world by reflecting on the stories of Elua.  If we were hearing an adult Phedre explaining it, I don’t think it would have been nearly as compelling.

Hyacinthe has become Phedre’s one true friend. Do you think she is the same for him? The dromonde, or fortune telling, fascinates Phedre. Do you have a fortune telling story?

I imagine that Hyacinth considers Phedre to be a special friend because she sees him for who he is and not his race.  She doesn’t have the same cultural baggage that others in his neighborhood might, because her time in the Night Court has sheltered her from it, and it wouldn’t even cross her mind to treat him differently because of it.  Instead, she’s drawn to his adventurousness, his kindness, his tenacity, which I expect would mean a lot to him.  At the same time, at this point in the story, Hyacinthe seems to be developing his own network of underground contacts and messengers, which leads me to believe that he has more of a social life than Phedre.  Whether he considers those people to be close enough to confide in is a different story.

And fortune telling is always fun, although a bit suspect.  A few years ago I was at a Beatles-themed music festival, and I decided to have my fortune told.  The fortune teller told me that she saw a car in my future, and that perhaps I would buy a new car in the upcoming months.  Several years later, I still do not own a car–as a young person living in an urban area with relatively decent public transportation, having one would be much more trouble than it’s worth.

The Midwinter Masque on the Longest Night is a long held tradition in Terre D’Ange. What stood out for you? Have you been to such a fete?

When I read the book for the first time, my biggest takeaway was seeing Phedre’s first introduction to the politics of Terre D’Ange.  Before this, she’s been relatively naive, which is understandable given both her age and position.  But here, we see some of the tensions that exist in Terre D’Ange finally intersecting with the entirely separate politics of the Night Court.

This is also really the first time you get to see people from all of the houses in one place and get a feeling for what differentiates them from one another, and that stood out to me much more in my second reading of the book.  It intrigued me that the title of Dowayne isn’t tied to gender.  I originally envisioned them as old matriarchs, but service to Namaah is much more inclusive, and in Terre D’Ange, you can’t make the assumption that sex workers are women.  I was also amused by Phedre crushing on the sadists from Mandrake House.

Me at the masquerade, circa 2012.
Me at the masquerade, circa 2012.

My mental picture of what the masquerade looks like comes largely from my experience volunteering at a fancy masquerade ball in DC.  After setting up and working for an hour or two, we were able to trade off and participate in the revelries.  A big part of the fun for me was seeing everyone’s gowns and costumes–they were so creative, and quite beautiful.  And the wine flowed, creating an atmosphere of joy and revelry.  I attended this for several years in a row, and it was always a great time.

Anafiel Delaunay has many secrets. How do you think those secrets will shape Alcuin and Phedre?

Anafiel Delaunay motto is “All knowledge is worth having.”  I’d add a corollary.  “All knowledge has a price.

Delaunay has a saying; All knowledge is worth having. Do you believe this is so?

See my answer to the previous question.  Knowledge can be dangerous, especially in the wrong hands.  Is it worth the price?  It depends.  There’s a difference between a scholarly motivation of seeking knowledge for its own sake, and between using that knowledge to try to shape your nation’s politics from behind the scenes.  The latter is much more likely to get you into trouble.  And alluring though knowledge can be, sometimes it’s better to wait.  Case in point: spoilers, where knowing what’s going to happen next can ruin the fun.

Thank you all for reading along!

Comments make me happy! Please feel free to leave a reply.

11 comments

  1. That’s awesome you are doing the fan art thing.

    That’s very true that Phedre doesn’t have the baggage concerning the Tsigani (spelling?) that others throughout the city have. I am sure this is probably a fresh experience for Hyacinthe in friendship.

    My sister and her husband moved from a rural state (New Mexico where I live) to a big city (Seattle) and took their car with them. But once they got use to all the public transport, they sold off the car, which made total sense.

    So true! The first time I read this I had never heard of a male prostitute. So here we have the Dowaynes from several houses and the acolytes, both male and female. It was such an eye opener the first time around. Now, I can simply sit back and enjoy the fact that this book is so inclusive when it comes to service to one of the Blessed.

    Love your masque pic. I would really enjoy attending such a party!

    All knowledge does have a price, and I think that is a big part of what this book is about.

    1. I loved how fluid and open-minded the book is about gender and sexuality in general. I love it when right off the bat an author does something to make me drop any assumptions I have that are tied to mainstream Western culture and to realize that this really is a different world with different rules and different values. 🙂

  2. This is my first time reading “Kushiel’s Dart”, and I had a pretty similar reaction as you described in #1 for your first read. I’m really just a lot more interested in Phedre right now! I’ll try to be patient and pay more attention to the angel’s stories :).

    I didn’t mention it in my post, but I was also surprised and happy to see that the servants of Naamah are not only women. Also, the masquerade ball you describe sounds like a lot of fun!

    My answers are here: http://tethyanbooks.blogspot.com/2015/05/read-along-kushiels-dart-part-1.html

    1. How are you liking it so far? When I read it the first time, I pretty much binge-read the first two trilogies. I couldn’t stop myself! 😛

      1. I’m enjoying it so far, and I really have no idea what direction the story’s going to go. It was pretty hard to stop for the week at 8 chapters!

  3. When I hear about fortune tellers, my mind goes to one of my favorite X-Files episodes “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” I am not sure what this says about me.

    This is my first time reading the book, despite having it on the TBR shelf for a LOOOOOOONG time. I find the world-building to be well done and without the feeling that we are having things dumped on us.

    As for the friendship between Phedre and H, I find your take interesting. It’s been interesting to read this book while re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird. 🙂

  4. A car? That’s an oddly specific fortune. And one that didn’t pan out at all for the fortune teller. How interesting.

    Although I loved the masquerade, as it finally brought the Houses to life for me, I still have no idea what all of the Houses entail and what their motto is. Our attention gets drawn to it quite often, but as a first time reader, I don’t seem to be able to remember any of it. A list of them would have been handy.

    “All knowledge has a price” – that’s a great slogan

  5. I like your point about how refreshing it must be for Hyacinth have a friend who doesn’t hate his race and simply wants to chill with him. I never even thought of that.
    I love your picture and stories of your masqued ball events – you’re so lucky!
    Lynn 😀

  6. I don’t know where my book isssss…..too bad I didn’t prepare enough to do this but I’ll keep reading this. Grace you’re the best. This is awesome and detailed!!! <3