It’s time for week two of the Kushiel’s Dart readalong! You can find the schedule and weekly discussion prompts here. This post contains spoilers for chapters 1-31. (Though I’ve actually read about 50 pages further than that because I didn’t want to stop. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.)
We get a few more hints of magic or the supernatural in this section. Phèdre sees Kushiel’s visage after Alcuin is injured; Hyacinthe’s mom & he himself both have things revealed via the dromonde; that moment of deep peace at Elua’s statue. What do you think of magic in this world?
I’m enjoying how subtle it is. It seems to fit in well with the religious system, like the magic is just leftovers from the angels, with a possible exception of the dromonde. (I don’t remember an explanation as to how the Tsingani got their foresight, but it seems likely that it was different for them.) I’m interested to see if Phèdre’s visions of Kushiel turn into anything more.
More politics! For those new to the series, what do you make of Baudoin and his mother, the Lioness of Azzalle? For those rereading, are you noticing details you missed before?
I think Phèdre was right in that, though Baudoin would have loved to have the throne and certainly hasn’t been likable so far, his mother pushed him a bit father than he was planning to go by organizing the actual treason. Baudoin wasn’t prepared for the consequences because it wasn’t his plan. Still, I don’t feel bad for either of them. I am more interested in the husband and daughter and whether they’ll make another appearance down the line. To me they don’t seem all that likely to be looking for revenge, but you never know.
What do you think of Alciun’s final assignation? Guy’s death? Would Alcuin have been happier, but perhaps less useful, as something other than Naamah’s servant?
It’s strange to say because I’ve always thought of Alcuin as rather petite and frail, but I think he would have been much happier being trained as some kind of soldier (assassin?). Of course, Delaunay didn’t really have need of a fighter, so in that sense Alcuin would have been much less useful as such. Alcuin is definitely too good at pretending for his own good. I think there’s a bit of irony in how Alcuin is copying Delaunay’s example of undying loyalty, to Delaunay’s own chagrin.
Guy was a favorite character of mine, and his death was very sad. But at the same time, it seems like his replacement, Joscelin, is going to allow for a lot more character development and growth which will be good for the story.
Phèdre has a new bodyguard – a Casseline Brother, Joscelin Verreuil. What do you think his life was like before this posting? Are you surprised that Anafiel didn’t dismiss him after the confrontation with Childric d’Essoms?
I think his life was mostly a lot of boring, grueling training so far. I didn’t expect Dalaunay to dismiss him– having a Casseline brother as a bodyguard is a big deal and it’s not like Phèdre doesn’t regularly encounter worse. I’m interested to see how his character develops. I feel like I’ve caught some slight foreshadowing hinting that he and Phèdre will have a close/important relationship, but, of course, he is going to have to be more accepting of who she is and what she does before that can happen.
We finally meet Barquiel L’Envers. How dangerous do you think this man is? What do you make of his history with Anafiel?
He certainly seems dangerous from the way that Delaunay approached and interacted with him, but so far as his motives or the history between them, I don’t even have a guess.
How did you feel about Phèdre granting Childric another assignation? Was she right that she owed him a debt?
I mean, in a technical sense, no, she didn’t. But also privacy and confidentiality does seem to be an important tenet upheld by Naamah’s servants, so in that way she betrayed his trust. Sort of. I mean, he guessed from the start that she was working for Delaunay in some way.
To me the debt she’s talking about is very personal. This assignation something that needed to take place in order for their relationship to be in a good place again. And she wanted/needed it just as much as he did. So, if she didn’t care about their relationship, there wouldn’t have been any need for her to grant him another assignation. But since she does care about it to a certain degree (just like she does for pretty much all her clients, but especially him, her first), she was somewhat obligated to grant his request.
Alcuin has completed his marque and displays it to Anafiel. How do you feel about the shift in their relationship? Phèdre’s response to it?
It feels too much like grooming for me to be comfortable with it. Both Alcuin and Phèdre are obsessed with Delaunay in practically every way, which makes sense since he effectively saved them and gave them worth and a purpose. It doesn’t seem like this was what Delaunay intended, but at the same time their undying loyalty benefits him. When it comes to having an intimate relationship with Alcuin, I think Delaunay should have been the adult and said no. But I don’t fault Phèdre for her response to what took place. She and Delaunay are even less of a match romantically than Alcuin and Delaunay, and I’m not even sure she’s actually attracted to him. But that doesn’t really matter because Phèdre and Alcuin have always desired attention and approval from Delaunay, so it feels like Alcuin has won (and sort of betrayed her) because he’s getting it and she’s not.
That’s all for now! If you’re interested in what other people have to say about this week’s reading, you can find a list at the bottom of imyril’s post.