Welcome to the second week of the Kushiel’s Dart Read-a-long. This week covers chapters nine through eighteen in the epic story and is hosted by Tethyan Books. If you want to see what others think about these questions or get their take on the events in Phedre’s life, you should surf on over there and check them out. I know I will be doing that once I’ve completed my thoughts for the week.
1) 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?
For a little while, I figured the dove in Phedre’s world would used in a similar fashion to the way doves were used in the Old Testament — a pure sacrifice to atone for something. So, it was intriguing to see that in this world, the dove is seen more as a sacrifice that is chosen and then set free. In some ways, it felt a bit like the dove could be used to let go of the past, setting it free and then you’re “pure” as you head into the future.
As to whether or not it’s fair to ask someone as young as Phedre to make a life decision about serving Naamah, I’m not sure it’s fair to her in the long run, but it probably is in the short term. Her decision gives her life some meaning, order and structure — as well as some type of status. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened to her if she’d chosen not to pursue this life and the devotion. Would she be simply tossed back onto the streets or would Delaunay have found some other use for her — even if it’s just selling her contract to someone else so he can profit by it.
One thing I’ve noticed — or that was reinforced in these chapters — is that Delaunay is playing a long game and training his two young wards to do the same. He seems to be willing to use anyone and anything to gain some type of advantage over others later. What that advantage is remains to be seen and I wonder how long Phedre is going to be willing to be a pawn in is game and might not want to start playing her own game. (Assuming that she is allowed to do so. It could be interesting to see how her status as a servant and a female comes into play should she choose to act on her aspirations)
2) 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?
Speaking as a person who was once a teenage boy with all those hormones raging and when every other thought was about sex, I can say that this type of sex-ed seems like a double-edged sword. You’re teaching the initiates that physical love is something beautiful and not a dirty thing when done between two consenting adults. But you’re also exposing teenagers with rampaging hormones to a demonstration of the act of love and how wonderful it can be. Then you tell them they have to wait and can’t pursue this until they are told the time is right. On some level, that seems cruel to both parties — we do get to hear about how Phedre deals with the feelings and urges including feeling like she is burning with impatience for her own first time. It’s interesting to see this world where there isn’t necessarily a book along the lines of The Joy of Sex for these two to take some pointers from or to have a more clinical and scholarly delving into these areas. But I’m not sure that if they had such a book or instruction that it might not make things a bit worse and looking at each other as a bit more tempting.
I also find it interesting that Hyacinthe says that he can’t touch Phedre or help her in this area. There are clearly some differences in their castes and I wonder if these might not become more pronounced as with move through the story.
3) Hyacinthe has some neat theories about Delauney’s past. What is your favorite theory?
I’m not sure if I buy any single theory put forward but feel more like the truth can be taken from the various parts of the theories that Hyacinthe puts forward. I do believe he’s changed his name to protect himself (and possibly others) and there is a lot more to him than meets the eye. I find myself not wanting to speculate too much for fear of falling in love with my own theory and then not appreciating what we learn later in the novel.
4) 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?
In a way, this ties into question two. While Phedre has been trained that the act of love is a beautiful thing, I wonder if she’s been given the instruction on how far is too far and what the line should be. That she is willing to allow herself to take the physical and mental abuse she does in her sessions without giving the code word in interesting. I wonder if part of this is some kind of loyalty and devotion to Delauney — she wants to find out everything she can for him and he’s taught her that knowledge is power. It seems that some of those she attends could let things slip in their moments during or after their sessions that might not normally say and that Phedre is willing to do whatever it takes to get that information — for now for Delauney and possibly in the long term for herself.
And I do think that her inability to give the signal can and will lead to trouble. I feel like Carey is foreshadowing that Phedre is going to run into someone down the road who will take advantage of her not giving the signal.
5) 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?
I get the feeling that Alcuin isn’t quite as enamored with his career as Phedre is. He seems less wiling to talk about it and comes back from his assignments guarded and reserved. Of course, part of this could be that he has a crush on Phedre and he doesn’t to tell her of his other — ahem — conquests. Or it could be that he wants to try and protect her from some of the things he is being asked to do. And I could see these two being driven apart — especially if Phedre begins to have an enhanced reputation among those who take advantage of her services. Also, I can’t help but wonder if Alcuin’s service in this world is going to be shorter lived that Phedre because he gets jealous of her.