Kushiel’s Dart Readalong, Week 2

Phedre’s Marque Variations by AngelaSasser on DeviantArt

Hi everyone, and welcome to Week 2 of the Kushiel’s Dart readalong!  This week’s questions are written by Allie from Tethyan Books, and cover chapters 9-18.

Often when I do readalongs, I choose to showcase fan art that I find from the books.  This selection shows different conceptualizations of Phedre’s marque, which I thought was a good reflection of what we’ve read over the past week. What do you think of Phedre’s marque?  Is this how you envisioned it?  If you were to have something like a marque, what would it look like?

Onward to the questions!

In these chapters, Phèdre finally gets to have her own dedication ceremony.  Were you surprised by what they did with the dove? Also, do you think it is fair to ask people to make a life decision about serving Naamah at such a young age?

I was glad that the dove was released and not killed.  I saw the decision to release the sacrifice rather than kill it as highlighting the distinction between Christianity and worship of Elua–Elua isn’t about austerity, but rather appreciating the sheer joy of life, and that permeates all forms of worship.

I’m not surprised by children being asked to make major life decisions at an early age.  If you think about it, Catholics get confirmed as young teenagers, and in their view it’s a similar commitment.  And serving Naamah doesn’t seem to have to be a lifetime commitment–I mean, on one hand, religiously, it is, but you can still get married later or choose to take your life in other directions.  I’m more surprised by the fact that the young people are given a choice at all.  I mean, they’re pretty much indentured servants, yet they’re given the freedom to freely accept this path or to choose a different one.  I’m not sure that in other times, cultures, or worlds that that would have been the case.  Then again, having read this series before, I find that there’s a very strong thematic emphasis on consent, and that the people of Terra D’Ange take it very seriously.  More on that in other answers.

Sex ed is definitely different in Terre d’Ange.  Do you think the Showing was useful for the teenagers? Do you think, at their age, you would have appreciated something like the book-learning they received in the art?

I would have a appreciated getting the sex talk in general.  My family was uptight about it and never actually told me what sex was.  I had heard the word in hushed conversations, and gathered from context that it was something bad and sinful that grown-ups sometimes did.  I had no idea what the actual act involved though, and thought it had something to do with women’s breasts, because people always freaked out about bare breasts so much.  I tried to look up the word “sex” in a dictionary, but the definition was the vague word “intercourse,” and when I looked up “intercourse,” the definition was “sex.”  Circular definitions are not useful!  Eventually when I was 14 or 15 I was camping with my family and had read all of the books that I had with me, and so I ended up picking up one of my mother’s romance novels, which contained some explicit scenes.  It was certainly eye-opening!  Probably not the best way to learn the mechanics, though.

The Showing is certainly different, but I like the idea, because the focus is on showing consent and respect, unlike what I assume that curious Western teenagers would be exposed to when searching for porn on the internet.  It’s treated as a form of art rather than a taboo.

Hyacinthe has some neat theories about Delauney’s past.  What is your favorite theory?

I know Delauney’s backstory, so I’m gonna skip this one.

Phèdre seems to be making a name for herself as an anguissette, known for never giving the signale. Do you think she would ever actually choose to use the signale, even if she were in real danger? Do you think her inability to do so might get her into trouble?

I think that the danger in Phedre’s role is that she doesn’t know what danger is real and/or how far her patrons would go (versus, for instance, threatening worse than they’d ever actually do in order to build up a scene, cause begging and pleading, etc.).  She would be safer if she discussed limits and boundaries beforehand.  Communication is key.

This question brings up another point that I found strange.  What’s up with renaming common sex acts/terms?  It’s something that happens a lot in any kind of novel that has explicit content, and I find it hilarious and strange.  Using the word “safeword” won’t ruin the story, and the first time I read the book, the word “languisment” sent me into fits of giggles.  Presumably, anyone reading this book is an adult.  Call it what it is.

Do you think Alcuin is enjoying his career as much as Phèdre, or do you think he has a different focus? Do you think their differing appeals and tastes will drive them apart?

Alcuin is madly in love with Delanay, and doesn’t enjoy his career for its own sake.  He knows that Delanay cares about him enough that if he said something about how much he hates it, Delanay would never ask him to take a patron ever again, and then Alcuin would feel like he was letting Delanay down.  I don’t envy his position.

Phedre’s the more empowered of the two, both despite and because of the fact that she’s in a more submissive position.  If something happens that’s too much for her, she can always use her safeword.  Alcuin doesn’t have that option, and because his tastes run vanilla, I think people assume that he’s okay with things rather than communicating with him.

10 thoughts on “Kushiel’s Dart Readalong, Week 2

  1. I love the fan art and it goes along with how I’d imagined the rose looking in my minds’ eye.

    As for getting at tattoo myself, I have no desire to do so. Part of it is the discomfort associated with it. Actually, that is probably most of it. 🙂

    1. Haha, I have a deathly fear of needles, so I’m in the same boat, even though I love how tattoos look.

  2. Yeah – I have no tattoos – for the same reason pretty much!
    I liked your point about the dove – even though I’ve read this already I was, again, thinking it was going to be a sacrifice!
    In a way I’m not surprised about the life decisions – because different times/cultures, etc. It’s not to say I really like it but then, like you point out later this is very much seen as a beautiful and artful way of dedicating one’s life rather than something that is taboo – and why the hell is everyone so fired up about breasts for goodness sake!
    I do feel sorry for Alcuin – strangely, in a way, I think Phedre is almost envious of the relationship he has with Delauney, almost like he’s a favourite and yet really he’s far less enjoying his role and in fact has less power in a way than Phedre does.
    Lynn 😀

  3. I’d go with the tattoo on the far left, most likely.

    I also kind of roughly gathered what sex was on my own, though there was eventually a sex ed that covered the basic mechanics (in addition to implicitly teaching me that only men have sexual desire and that if I have sex I will definitely be pregnant and have diseases… sigh). I would have really loved the tips and techniques class Phèdre and Alcuin get.

    I was also laughing a little at the renaming of sex acts. Based on my French-resource (husband), I don’t think languisement is actually a word, so it’s just a straight-up fantasy term.

    I was kind of getting that feeling with Alcuin (that he was in love with Delaunay), but wasn’t sure if I was reading the signs right. He seems really invested in and grateful to Delaunay, at the very least, and more interested in him than his work.

    1. I feel like he’s crushing kind of in the way a student might on a teacher, but because of their respective positions, Alcuin won’t voice his feelings, just act on them.

  4. I too feel that Elua is more about the sheer joy of life and being accepting of all that encompasses – hence the variety in his companions. I especially love that Elua’s ‘temples’ are often garden areas and that any plant, weed or flower, root or berry, is allowed to grow there.

    Thank for sharing your quest for basic info on sex as a teen. Very similar to mine. My mom skirted the point of the question by giving me a little talk on reproduction, which can be a part of sex…. but without the sex there is no reproduction.

    I kinda like the renaming of the sexual acts, etc. After all, the whole book has a certain tone and language set. Languisement sounds so much more like an art form than blow job or even oral sex.

    Yep. Alcuin definitely isn’t communicating much with his closest friends about his conflict in serving Naamah. I can’t blame him. I think sooner or later, most humans care so much for another that they are willing to do something they may not enjoy 100%.

    1. The fact that this book is so positive about accepting different sexualities continues to impress me.

  5. I liked the renaming of the sexual acts, and feel like it would be strange to call them what they are in this sort of book. With it all being tied to religion, I can’t imagine “Anal for Elua” or something.

    I like the fanart of the marques, though for some reason, I imagined them being more spread out over the back than just being a twisting vine up the spine like those. I find the marques very interesting at least. I’m curious how much of a marque is done at a time. She only gets more of the marque as basically a tip from a patron, but how much does each tip buy her? How many times is she going to have to get tattooed before her marque is complete? Just my thoughts as I was reading it.

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