So, this is roughly the middle third of KUSHIEL’S DART. There’s a lot happening.
I struggled with the first 100 or so pages of this book, but I have to say that it’s really hit its stride. The politics are still convoluted and maybe flying over my head a bit but it feels like a lot of puzzle pieces are clicking into place.
This section brings in the Skaldi, and I thought it was really interesting that, once we moved away from it, I realized how enamored and interested I was in Terre d’Ange and it’s people.
Somewhere in the Week 3 section, I realized I was loving this book and had completely fallen for Phèdre as a protagonist. Unless something dramatic happens, I’m definitely reading not only the next book but (eventually) the whole series.
Week Three| Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven
‘I have lived in servitude all my life,’ I said softly. ‘I’m not willing to die for your oath.’
Do you think Delaunay was right to keep Phédre unaware of his identity, motivations, and true intentions to prevent such slips on her assignments?
I’m split on this one. I’d like to say that he should have been honest and trusted her not to spill secrets, but on the other hand, we’ve seen how high the stakes were, so I can understand his being cagey. It all seems a little overblown though — unless I’ve missed something — since it feels like most everyone apart from Phédre is in on his secrets.
Delaunay, Alcuin, and the entire household are murdered. What are your thoughts on the manner in which this happens? Do you think Phédre and Joscelin were lucky to escape, or is Phédre as unlucky as she believes her name to be?
I do think — although, obviously, in grief, she can’t see it — Phédre was lucky to escape. The happenstance of being out of the house saved her life. As good a swordsman as Joscelin is, I don’t think he could have turned the day and where there’s life, there’s hope: right?
Do you think Phédre will be able to have her marque completed? Do you have any predictions of how her unfinished marque might affect her in the future?
As a new reader, this interested me. With Delaunay dead and his household dead, what proof does Phédre have that she completed her indenture? Until the marque is officially complete, does she not belong to Delaunay? Who does that ownership belong to now? Would someone be able to force her into their service to “re-” complete her marque? She better hope that the artist doesn’t go anywhere!
For Phédre as a character, I imagine it would be tough, to have the marque unfinished on her skin. It’s a constant reminder of her lost loved ones, of the night that doomed them and paid for it, and of the day the attack happened. It’d imagine she’d wait until she’s had some sort of vengeance or closure to have it finished.
We get to meet the Skaldi! What were your initial thoughts when Phédre and Joscelin were handed over to them? Were you disappointed that Phédre did not try to fight like Joscelin did or aid him?
I thought it was sensible and played to her strengths. As Alcuin complained earlier Delaunay never taught them to fight. We know he never really thought to teach them to ride until it was brought up either, so I’d imagine he taught them few other survival skills either; it’s just not the world they were being trained for. Would escaping really help her survive and make it to safety? It makes far more sense for her to fall back on the skills she does have: observation, patience and manipulation.
Phédre and Joscelin’s relationship is slowly changing. Do you have any predictions about where/what these changes will lead to?
I love the relationship developing between these two and I loved the soft moments where she helps him bathe or goes to him at night. I think it’ll be interesting to see how the changes in their relationship play out once they (presumably) get back to their “real” lives.
We meet Waldemar Selig, the Skaldi who aims to unite all Skaldis and conquer Terre d’Ange. What do you think of Selig? Were you impressed?
Selig is dangerous! I like that by having Phédre and Joscelin spend time becoming part of the first Skaldi community, Carey puts a bit of distance between them and Selig. This made his higher station feel more pronounced and it was another blow to Phédre. I think the meeting with Selig would have been lass impressive/ frightening for her if he was the one their captors had sold her to. Having worked to earn her place with the ‘savage’ Skaldi and found a few friends among them just makes this new threat hit harder.
The romances would have it otherwise, but this I will say: There is no point in speaking of love when survival is at issue.
Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one
All along, I had thought myself Kushiel’s victim, marked out for the awful divinity of his love. It was something else, to think of myself as his weapon.
Waldemar’s old teacher Lodur calls Phedre “a weapon thrown by a D’Angeline god” and this changes how Phedre sees herself to some extent. How does this change the way you’ve thought about Phedre so far?
I feel like up til now she’s been relatively passive, and let others set her on certain paths. Being alone (apart from Joscelin) shows much more of who she is without others to influence her. Even up until she hears from Lodur, she’s pretty much playing a “lying in wait” game. I feel like hearing herself called a weapon at this point in her story motivates her to take control and make far bolder moves.
Joscelin has broken all but one of his vows during the time he and Phedre have been in Skaldia. How do you feel about everything he has gone through? Everything Phedre has gone through? And the Prefect of the Cassiline Brotherhood’s opinion on these matters?
I really felt for Joscelin but like Phédre, the pity is tinged with frustration and a smidge of annoyance. So much of his self worth and who he is is tied up in those vows, it must be soul-destroying to break them. I have to think though, that survival is more important and that his oath to protect Phédre has to supersede the others. Most of what he does — fighting and killing — was necessary for that, and I don’t think it can really be held against him. I’m not so sure the Brotherhood will agree, but we’ll see.
A whimsical question: Phedre doesn’t seem to be able to lose or give away Melisande’s diamond. What do you think this stone’s eventual fate might be?
It’s got to play some pivotal role, right? Like unmasking Melisande’s involvement in all the schemes, or Phédre stabbing her in the eye with it… I’d sort of love if it didn’t though. If she tries and tries to give it away and then it just slips out her pocket one day or something really anticlimactic.
What do you make of Ysandre de la Courcel now that we’ve finally met her? And what of her intention to honour her betrothal to Drustan mab Necthana?
I like her. I like how determined she is. As a character, I think she’s an interesting comparison to Phédre. They’re the same age, with several allies in common and although they’ve lived very different lives, there’s a lot of similarities between them too. I hope we get to see the two of them interact more in the future, I think they could do impressive things if they work together. And I think they could each do with another friend. As Ysandre points out, they’re almost like family.
Finally, Phedre’s marque is finally complete. Do you think she is free?
I think she’s tied into Delaunay’s past and Terre d’Ange politics even more than ever, so no, I don’t think she’s truly free. However, this does feel like a moment of taking a breath for Phédre. It’s a moment of calm and wrapping things up. She’s home, reunited with friends, delivered her message and done her penance. Having the marque finished is a nice moment of closure before she moves onto starting a new adventure.