Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, readalong week No.4

Welcome to week four of our readalong of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series.  Kushiel’s Avatar is the third in the series and I am loving it so far.  All free to join in, if you’ve already read this then please join in with the comments.  The full schedule is here and this week Susan at Dab of Darkness is our lovely host.  Before moving on: a word of warning – there will be spoilers lurking below.

So, moving swiftly on:

Chapters 38-49 

1) What do you think of Phedre’s dealings with Naamah, Elua, and Kushiel in this section? 

I’m not really sure what to make of it all – other than it really demonstrates that the red mote in Phedre’s eye really is Kushiel’s dart of course!  In one respect I’ve been thinking that I didn’t really understand why Phedre chose this path.  Hyacinth means a lot to her and yet she’s turned aside from her quest to save him to go and look for Imriel and in the process put both herself and Joscelin in danger.  Plus, it feels like she’s put Melisande before Hyacinthe – but at the back of my mind I think there’s something much bigger going on here and it’s not really a question of either Melisande or Hyacinthe but actually something more fundamental about Phedre and her choices now and in the future.

2) We have met the Mahrkagir. Are we dealing with true madness? Does he still know right from wrong? 

I think something is definitely missing in him!  He has shown a slightly different side to Phedre – but it’s still only small change really and I can’t imagine how he’s going to react if he discovers her true purpose here.  I think I’d prefer it if he was totally mad because I’d hate to think he could be so depraved and be sane as well.  I guess part of me hopes that there is still a kernel of goodness in him but then on the other hand I think how could he ever change – or change and then live with himself!  This really is a nasty place – it feels like Phedre has fallen into the pits of hell – in fact not fallen – but walked in there willingly.

3) The zenana is full of interesting new characters. Who has caught your interest so far? What do you think of Phedre’s first encounters with Imriel?

I’m not sure what to make of the characters yet to be honest.   I like the doctor lady (whose name just escapes me – sorry!)  I suppose Phedre’s first encounter with Imriel was what you would expect in a way.  Imriel is not exactly going to welcome her when she’s become the favourite of something so despicable – although it does give them all a bit of a break I suppose.  He’s strong willed which I like about him – especially after his ordeal.  I’m kind of thinking that maybe the Mahrkagir is saving Imriel for a sacrifice and so in that respect is keeping his innocence intact?

4) Phedre has her first night with the Mahrkagir. Thoughts? 

I have to be honest and say I really disliked everything about it.  It’s just nasty.  I don’t know what’s going to happen or how Phedre and Joscelin are ever going to get out of this situation because it really does feel darker than anything they’ve been through before.  I hope that the God’s have given Phedre enough to cope with it all.

5) Who do you think is having a more difficult time, Joscelin or Phedre, and why? 

I think Joscelin.  I know he’s not having to put up with the special attentions of the Mahrkagir, but I kind of still think of Joscelin as a iittle bit innocent – which probably sounds daft given the battles and death they’ve both experienced.  But, there’s something about him that still seems, I don’t know, clean, wholesome, or just good, and it feels like this whole encounter really is just one step too far to him.  To have to stand and observe everything must be like its own kind of torture and it almost feels like he will be a little bit broken after it all.  I hope not.  I know that what we’re reading about Phedre enduring is absolutely awful – but, in a way, I feel like she’s stronger in that respect and will come through it.

The other participants:

  1. Susan at Dab of Darkness
  2. Allie at Tethyan Books
  3. Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
  4. Me at Lynn’s Book Blog
  5. Emily at Emma Wolf

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5 Responses to “Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, readalong week No.4”

  1. emmawolf

    “I think I’d prefer it if he was totally mad because I’d hate to think he could be so depraved and be sane as well.”

    This reminded me of learning about the insanity defense in law school. I think we were talking about Andrea Yates. Someone said no one’s crazy enough to kill their children. So sort of a different take on what you said. That insanity is one thing and evil is another. (This was before her appeal, where, IIRC, she won something about the insanity defense.)

  2. tethyanbooks

    I think I’m a little confused about the insanity thing. Does insanity = psychosis? In that case, I don’t think he’s insane at all, because he’s lucid and aware of his surroundings. I would say he’s probably traumatized by his experiences as a child, and it seems like his brain is physically damaged, but I don’t think that kind of madness would make him unable to choose right from wrong.

    And yeah, I really didn’t like anything about his time with Phedre, either. I hope they get out of this place soon.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really hope they get out of there. Yeah, don’t ask me about insanity – I just want to think he’s insane (at least then there’s a reason for him being such a nasty sod!)
      I think Joscelin will be traumatized by the time they leave.
      Lynn 😀

  3. nrlymrtl

    Hyacinthe might be undergoing a bit of emotional torture being stuck on this island learning to be a Master of the Universe, but he also chose his path. Imriel was snatched and is truly innocent. Also, Hyacinthe is an adult, can do things to mitigate his own sadness (he’s not totally alone, he can search the depths of oceans for treasure, spy on any ship within his domain, and carry about dancing and dining on the isle with his loyal followers – and if he is choosing to do none of those things, that’s on him). So, I’m OK with Phedre taking time off her Hyacinthe quest to deal with Darsanga.

    Um… and you might have noticed I am not so sympathetic to Hyacinthe’s plight as Phedre is.

    This first time I read this, I was definitely worried that Imriel was being saved for a special sacrifice.

    I think you are right about Joscelin. He hasn’t had to really stand by and face the ugly side for prolonged periods. In the past, he always had the option to act nobly in some regard – usually killing and escaping. So he has to pay witness to all this crap for an extended period of time and I think you are right about that really stabbing to the core of his innocence.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – Now I’m trying to read into your comment about Imriel and ‘being saved for a special sacrifice’.
      I do still feel sorry for Hyacinthe – although, to be clear, he did make his own decision and he has allowed himself to wallow a little – that being said, he felt like he sacrificed himself for Phedre and whilst she’s had a relatively normal life for the past 10 years he’s been in an enforced kind of prison – plus, given how guilty Phedre feels (which isn’t really necessary I think because he made his own choice) I’m just a bit surprised that she didn’t go to try and help him rather than Imriel. But, Imriel is a child – so then she probably would have felt even more guilty. And, on top of all that – I think this choice is all part of something much bigger.
      Yeah, I feel awful for Phedre – but it feels a little different because it was her choice – and, I know Joscelin chose to go with her – but it’s all wrapped up in his ‘serve and protect ethos – not to mention that he’s desperately in love with her so would probably follow her to hell and back.
      Lynn 😀

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