Moving into the third week of the Kushiel’s Dart read-along and things are starting to get very interesting for Phedre and company.
This week’s questions comes to us courtesy of Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow.
There’s a lot of intrigue to get to this week, so let’s start the conversation.
1) We get a lot of political intrigue to wade through this week, plus a couple of pretty big dramatic revelations, not least of which was the twist of fate for Prince Baudoin and his mother. What did you make of the trial, and what became of these two?
Prince Baudoin’s entire family comes out on the short end of the stick in the trial, don’t they? Two of the family members are exiled and told if they come back they will be killed. And then there’s the prince and his mother who are found guilty and by unanimous vote put to death.
I found it interesting that each of them got to choose how they would die. Their execution can be public or private and I only assume there are a variety of ways for them to go to their end. The mother picks a quick acting poison that puts her to sleep and she never wakes up while the Prince falls on his sword — literally. Reading this section, I couldn’t help but think a bit about George R.R. Martin and his propensity to kill off any character at any time. And while we haven’t yet had a death that is quite as shocking as Ned Stark from Game of Thrones, I find myself wondering if Jacqueline Carey might not be put laying the foundation for a shocking death to come later in the book.
2) On a rather different, much more personal note for the House of Delaunay was the drama that unfolded surrounding Alcuin (poor Guy!). What do you think might become of Alcuin now that he appears to be out of the game?
A couple of weeks ago, one of our discussion topics was about whether or not Phedre and Alcuin were able to fully know the implications of what swearing their lives in service meant. This section would seem to indicate that while Phedre has taken to this life like a duck to water, Alcuin wasn’t really prepared mentally, physically or emotionally for the implications of the life he chose. And so he tries to find a way out of it — with dire consequences for everyone involved.
I also think that while Phedre has taken to playing the game of politics, Alcuin never quite got the rules of the game or how to play it. Phedre gets to experience a bit of that here by knowing what Alcuin is trying to do but not telling him. I almost got the feeling she was saving this knowledge for some point in the future when it might be useful to her to use it.
3) As we’d suspected last week, Phedre’s refusal to use her signale gets her into some trouble with d’Essoms – but it also gets her the result that Anafiel had hoped for… Do you think she’ll be more careful from here or will this only make that addictive slope more slippery for her?
Phedre’s on a dangerous path and building quite a reputation. Somehow I think that not only is she becoming addicted to the sexual side of things but she’s also becoming addicted to the political game she’s playing. It almost seems like she’s playing chicken with herself to see how far she can go to get the information she wants or needs to take back and continue her role in the game. I can’t help but wonder if the impact of what happened to Alcuin will play out and cause her to take a step back or if she’ll further embrace the political and sexual game she’s playing. I also wonder if her being the only source of information now for Delaunay might make her more willing to take a risk or two for him because she wants to keep him in the game.
4) Speaking of Phedre and trouble, what do you make of the ‘relationship’ building between her and Melisande?
I see terrible things on the horizon for Phedre when it comes to Melisande. We see how Melisande is willing to use anyone to get what she wants and then toss them aside. And I wonder if Phedre might not become a pawn in the game that Melisande is playing that can be sacrificed when her usefulness has come to an end.
I also wonder if Melisande sees a reflection of her younger self in Phedre and that may be part of what the attraction is. I think that Phedre is drawn to power and it could be interesting to see if and how she gets burned by Melisande. Or maybe she will find a way to turn the tables on Melisande.
3 responses to “Kushiel’s Dart Read-Along Week Three: Chapters 19 – 26”
#1, I’m not sure who could die that would be as shocking as Ned Stark, because we don’t really have a standard, honorable, fantasy hero anywhere. I guess if Delaunay dies, that would be a shock!
#3, I’m getting the sense that she won’t be more cautious, but I could be wrong. She hasn’t really tested the extent of her fast-healing, so I wonder if she thinks that even an injury such as Alcuin’s would be trivial for her.
#4, I agree that Melisande uses people and is dangerous–but at the same time, Baudoin was also using her for sex and planning to cast her aside. I remember someone in the story commenting that Melisande only took action against Baudoin once it became clear that he was not going to be loyal to her. Things might have turned out quite differently for Baudoin and his family otherwise.
I must confess I was also thinking that the deaths of Baudoin and his mother was shocking and made me realise that Carey isn’t afraid to make sacrifices – and she doesn’t muck about either – straight in!
The whole thing with Alcuin – it’s a shame he went all out to get that piece of information and also his full mark. At the end of the day – we didn’t think he was really as ready for this life as Phedre and that has sort of played out. It’s a bit like he wanted to be over with it but to give Delauney such a valuable piece of information at the same time to soften the blow. It’s a shame that Guy was the victim – I liked his character even though it was very much a background role.
Melisande is definitely not a person I’d like to play politics with – she seems to always be one step ahead.
Interesting observation about the trials and the comparison to GRRM’s works. I can see how the recent events and deaths could be seen as the author foreshadowing.
I think Phedre is naturally more cautious than Alcuin and part of that is because she can hide behind her anguisette ability. Her patrons can get caught up in high emotions as they flog her or spank her or wave a branding iron about, and Phedre can stay cool and collected. Meanwhile, Alcuin raises lust, maybe even passion, but not the high emotions we see with Phedre’s clients. At least, not until they try to kill him.
Those are all great observations about Melisande. She’s one of my favorite characters even though she isn’t good for Phedre.