Kushiel’s Dart Readalong, Week 6

Kushiel’s Dart by raemae on DeviantArt

Today I’m hosting the next installment of our conversation about Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey.  This week’s reading covers chapters 46-64.  For anyone who hasn’t read the book, this post will contain spoilers through the end of chapter 64.

Feel free to use the Linky at the bottom of the post to link up your own thoughts about this section!

One of the questions from last week dealt with initial impressions of Waldemar Selig’s steading.  Now that we’ve finally met him, what are your thoughts about him?  Do you think he suspects that Phedre knows anything, and will he continue to play a role in the story?

Selig reminds me of a cross between King Arthur and Napoleon.  I respect the fact that he’s trying to unite his people and quell the in-fighting among them, and was pleased to see how he administers justice and comes up with mutually acceptable ways to settle disputes that don’t involve duels to the death.  He wants the Skaldi to be taken seriously.  But in the absence of a common enemy to rally around, Selig is instead manufacturing his own conflict, and that doesn’t sit well with me, especially because it involves invading and occupying Terre d’Ange.

After all the warnings he’s gotten about Phedre, he’s got to at least have some inkling of the fact that she’s a serious threat and not to be taken lightly.  If she knew too much in Terre d’Ange, that knowledge has multiplied exponentially since she’s been among the Skaldi.  It makes sense that once she escaped, he’d want to get her back, or at least stop her from getting to Terre d’Ange.  And even though he doesn’t know she was listening to the Allthing, people aren’t exactly keeping quiet about what happened there, as the Skaldi are prone to boasting.

The trick for Phedre is going to be getting the folks in Terre d’Ange to take the Skaldi threat seriously.  They’re so used to thinking of the Skaldi as isolated warlords that the idea of a united front might seem a touch too preposterous to believe, especially coming from a courtesan.

What did you think of the visit to Lodur?  Do you think it will impact how Phedre thinks of herself?

This scene was a major turning point for me, and I think it was almost a coming-of-age moment for Phedre.

Lodur’s comment about Phedre being Kushiel’s weapon seems to greatly empower her.  Melisande told her almost the exact same thing when she said “That which yields is not always weak,” and gave Phedre the resources to finish her marque, but the message really hits home when it’s coming from an outsider.  Up until this point, Phedre has viewed her gift as a curse, even though it’s kept her alive and gotten her out of some sticky situations.  (To be fair, it’s usually what got her into those situations in the first place.)  But now, she stops thinking of herself as a victim and instead starts realizing that she’s capable of changing the course of history.  And you can see it in the scene where she almost kills Selig, and then later as she and Joscelin plot and execute their escape.  Up until this point, no matter what Phedre’s had to take, I don’t think she’s let herself realize how badass she is.

Phedre and Joscelin have both gone through some harrowing experiences in the past few chapters.  How do you think it will change them going forward?

It’s teaching both of them what they’re capable of.  Joscelin has to learn that although his ideals are noble, real life isn’t black and white, but rather differing shades of grey.  He has to let go and accept his own humanity and imperfections, and learn how to make mistakes and then move on rather than dwelling on his perceived failures.  That’s something he’s never really had to do before, and he’ll come out of it a stronger person and an even more formidable adversary.

As I mentioned in the previous question, Phedre learns to stop thinking of herself as a victim and take control.  Being Kushiel’s Dart and Delanay’s pupil gives her a unique set of skills that allow her to change the world.  Up until this point, she’s mostly just observed and tried to piece together the way Terre d’Ange’s politics work, and even when she intervened with Childric d’Essoms, she was acting as a part of someone else’s plan.  But now, she’s starting to act, not just to listen, and her plans are her own.

Next time Phedre and Melisande meet, I think Melisande is in for a big surprise.

If you were in Phedre or Joscelin’s place, would you have acted the same way in crafting your mastermind escape plan?  What are your thoughts on how it worked out?

I was scared for them that it wasn’t going to work out, because there were so many things that could go wrong.  Joscelin’s disguise and their journey through the steading seemed almost cartoonish, and too obvious to work.  And reading their description of traveling through the mountains and losing their horses made it really obvious that the odds of them coming out of this alive were incredibly slim.  If Phedre wasn’t chosen by a god, I’m not sure they’d have made it, and the scene with the cave made me feel like someone really was watching out for them.

If I were in their place, I don’t think I’d have had the nerve to go through with it, cause winter.  (‘Winter’ is a bit of an understatement, but you get my drift.  Drift.  Bad pun.  I’ll stop now.)  But, at the same time, they covered some very important things: warm clothing, lots of food, a tinderbox, etc.  It was probably the only chance they’d have to escape and reach Terre d’Ange in time to change anything, and I admire them for taking it, even if it was reckless.

We’re finally getting to observe a budding romance between Phedre and Joscelin.  How do you see this playing out?  What do you think of it?

Their romance is adorable, and is strengthened by the way that they’ve shared experiences and overcome obstacles together.  I loved the focus on the fact that this was a relationship that Phedre chose.  Not that she didn’t choose to be with her patrons, but that was her job, and there was always a transaction involved.  This is the first time Phedre’s made the choice to give of herself and bring someone (and herself) that kind of pleasure for free purely because she wants to.  And in that magical moment in the cave, she and Joscelin seem so right for each other.  They get each other on a personal and emotional level, and despite the fact that he’s a Casseline and she’s a courtesan, you see in each of them the same sort of devotion and dedication to serving their deities.  And I think it’s good for both of them to be able to see that in someone else, and to be able to inspire each other.

But once they’re back to the real world, I forsee some problems.  Joscelin’s vanilla, and Phedre’s a raging masochist, and that’s going to cause major frustration for both of them.  There’s also likely to be some Casseline guilt built from years and years of sexual repression.  And there’s some unresolved romantic tension with Hyacinth, even though he and Phedre never were together in that way.

7 thoughts on “Kushiel’s Dart Readalong, Week 6

  1. That’s an interesting idea – Selig as a cross of King Arthur and Napolean. He definitely has wisdom and charm to unite his people, but he is also planning a bloody invasion.

    One of the things I really like about Phedre’s story arc is that she doesn’t start out as our hero. Along the way, we see all these folks she interacts with that may be the hero of the story…. and here we see that she is the blossoming hero of the story. Lodur’s conversation with her really cements that.

    The first time I read the escape scenes, I was really concerned that Phedre would lose Joscelin – either to recapture or death. We know that Phedre continues to live because she is telling the story in past tense, but I was not so sure about Joscelin. And we all know by now that Ms. Carey isn’t afraid to kill off characters when it makes plot sense.

    1. Yes! I love that Phedre starts out the way she does and slowly comes to realize that she’s a strong person who will stand up for what she believes is right. Seeing her go through the bratty teenager phase first really cements her as a person who is also a hero and makes her that much more compelling.

  2. These chapters do seem to have been a turning point of sorts. I think Phedre and Joscelin have both grown and are having to rethink their own personal philosophies. Both of them have always been given direction before so it was good to see them taking charge of their own fate. Phedre definitely had a bit of an eye opener with the scene with Lodur – she is a weapon and she’s finally starting to believe it herself – a little maybe anyway.
    I think to an extent Waldemar fell victim to his own self confidence – he paraded Phedre around like a trophy – showing her yielding face to the clans as a sign of weakness and to demonstrate how easily they could be beaten – but, like Melisande says, that which yields is not necessarily weak.
    The scene in the cave was lovely – especially because it was so natural for both of them – they still have a lot to get through but they’ve been through such a lot together already that they’ve really already forged very deep bonds.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Mhm. In this section, Phedre’s masochism goes from a kink to a superpower as she realizes that she can take advantage of the fact that people constantly underestimate her. I suspect that Selig underestimated her danger because Melisande let her live–even though she openly admitted to knowing too much, he probably told himself that if that was the case, then she’d be dead. And he’s going to regret that mistake, because Phedre doesn’t seem the type to easily forgive those who have wronged her.

      I loved the cave scene. It seems so magical and right, in an almost religious way. One of the things I love about these books is the way that they handle the physical aspects of romance, and instead of treating it as something to be ashamed of, they treat it as something that’s truly special. And I loved how that scene paralleled the story of the angels as well.

  3. Your comments about the scene with Lodur makes me appreciate that scene much more than I did initially. It definitely changed Phedre from a passive character to an active one.

    I too was SO worried about Joscelin during these chapters. He’s my favorite character in the story (maybe my favorite character in any book I’ve read in some time) and I just knew that he was going to die and leave Phedre alone.

    1. I worried about him a lot more the first time around. Even before their escape, he seemed like he could either adapt to a harsh reality or completely give up on life while envisioning himself a martyr. I’m very glad he managed to survive!

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