Kushiel’s Chosen reread: week 5

Time for the reread discussion. This time it’s chapters 50-61. Questions by Susan. There will be a mild spoiler for the next book (I mention the big bad and Phedre’s feelings concerning the big bad) following the discussion questions when I get to my own thoughts. I will place an additional spoiler note there when I get to the spoily bit.

1) This week we learn plenty more about Kazan Atrabiades and his personal demon, the kriavbhog. What do you think of this demon and his blood curse?

I’m not sure how to phrase it, but his mother chose favorites and I think that’s unfair. Daroslav’s death was an accident. Yes, it was Kazan’s fault on two levels (he told his brother about the upcoming fight, which (though it was not his intent) put his brother in harm’s way, and he stabbed him), but Daroslav also made his own choices. I also got the impression that Daroslav wasn’t entirely happy being a scholar. He wanted to be a soldier, but something (maybe his mother) compelled him to study. And then it was their mother to bring about (possibly…? Kazan says it was her bitter words that made it stick) the blood curse. It’s an unfair ending to a sad story or bad parenting.

2) On the island of Dobrek, even Phedre has to admit she had some harsh pre-conceived notions about pirates in general and then Kazan specifically before she was brought to his home. How do you think this experience will affect Phedre going forward?

! In a good way! Kazan’s story is one example of this: people are not always what she expects. They are not so one-sided. She learns more about herself in the thetalos. Her unwillingness to trust others, believing she is smarter than others, gets others into trouble or killed. I think these experiences make her more open-minded, to say the least.

3) Nikanor’s ship returns and Phedre is once again off on the high seas. But, alas, she is not ransomed safely. Were you angry at Kazan for not telling Phedre who she was to ransomed to? Or angry at Phedre for not having told Kazan the whole of it in the first place?

I don’t think I was angry at either one. I always liked Kazan. Even though he wasn’t honest with Phedre to begin with, he saved her life then.

4) Nearly to Epidauro & safety, Phedre can see the kriavbhog is killing Kazan and orders the ship about into the storm. Was there really no other choice?

I guess the other choice would be to let Kazan die. But Phedre and Kazan tend to save one another.

5) Now in the land of Kriti, we meet Oeneus, Hierophant of the Temenos along with the Kore, Pasiphae. What do you think of these two and the small amount of aid they offer Phedre and Kazan?

Politics isn’t really the Kore’s domain. They did what they could and were willing to get Phedre an audience with someone who is in a position to help. I can’t fault them for not helping more.

6) Kazan enters the thetalos to be cleansed of his blood guilt. Of course, Phedre is pricked by Kushiel to go comfort him as she might. There she faces her own guilty demons. Would you be concerned if you had to pass through the thetalos?

I don’t think anyone leads such a blameless life that they wouldn’t be.

My additional thoughts:

I’m a little…I don’t know….confused by? Interested in? Annoyed by? how Phedre thought of Kazan. Yeah, the whole “you’re my hostage” was a pretty bad first impression. And we have to deal with stereotypes against pirates and Phedre’s non-D’angeline snobbery, which is (at least in part) shaped by her experiences. She seems to be a bit pissed that he wants to sleep with her. She is a courtesan, NTTAWWT. This is her trade. Kazan wanted to make a deal with her based on her trade, and she seems very put out by this. She instead seems to think that Kazan should do it (send a ship to Marsilikos) because it’s the right thing to do. And it is. But I think she doesn’t understand the politics behind it. Illyria doesn’t want to get between La Serenissima (to whom they are a vassal) and a country that didn’t come to their aid when it was needed. It’s a big risk for them.

Phedre’s services demand a big price (see her dealings with Severio). It bothers me that she doesn’t seem to think their risk is worth her price.

It especially bothers me that she judges him so harshly because she doesn’t judge all bad guys equally. Melisande and Isidore get passes (not exactly), but Selig is evilpants. Even though he did great things in Skaldia (aside from invading).






IIRC, the next guy is judged less harshly than Selig, and he was for realsies evil. Phedre excuses him because he was mentally ill (and because she went willing). I know it’s not the best test for mental illness and criminal culpability, but I’m an attorney. The Mahrkagir (from the next book) knew the difference between right and wrong and didn’t have an irresistible impulse. And what he did was a whole fucking lot worse than what Selig could even dream of doing. But I guess because he didn’t do it to D’Angelines (with two notable exceptions), it’s ok.

edit: I’m really losing my patience with WordPress and the not putting breaks where I put them. I wonder if it’s my theme.

edit again: Ugh, I think I finally solved it! That was a huge pain! I think there was something left over from the gmail formatting? Weird. I don’t know why that would make wordpress not work, but it did.


About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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11 Responses to Kushiel’s Chosen reread: week 5

  1. nrlymrtl says:

    Good point about the bad parenting concerning Kazan & Daroslav. Obviously Daroslav wanted to be in that fight (no matter what mommy dearest wanted) and it is very, very unfortunate how things turned out.

    Either way, Kazan was going to ransom her and I believe they agreed on the destination and who before he offered to send the ship hastily in trade for some sexytimes. I think that is what irked Phedre. It irked me too. But in hindsight, Phedre could have stipulated that the ransom ships be sent hastily, etc. in the first deal. Kazan would have had to work harder to find a way to trade for her favors then.

    Phedre’s role is not to pass judgement, or at least, not often. Though she is often the person who brings forth the evidence that allows others to pass official judgement. She steps back and lets kings and queens do the judging and pass sentencing. In private, she is ruled by her emotions and we spend the entire trilogy in her head. So I think that is why we see how she judges some people less harshly – because she is human. With that said, I don’t think Phedre gives Melisande a pass; she’s just not currently in a position to bring her down.

    Spoily Bit (teensy tiny and probably wouldn’t spoil stuff for most folks as it is talking big picture stuff) concerning Book 3:

    So, yeah. Book 3 brings up all sorts of tough, tough questions. Is mental illness true evil? Or is true evil knowingly doing it and knowing your motivations? Either way, the Baddie had to be taken down. I think it feeds back to how each reader views mental illness and how they treat it in their real lives. Do you give folks with mental illness more slack than, say, someone with a hearing impairment or one leg or chronic illness like diabetes? Or do you put limits on how they treat you no matter what their mental illness is? I hope folks want to continue the read along into Book 3.

    End spoily bit

    For some reason, my gmail adds these breaks that I can only see in the window where I generate the post. But I have to go to the top right and hit the ‘TEXT’ tab to see all the coding. There I see lots of stupid ‘div> and <div' and I just have to delete all those to get my breaks to work out nicely.

    • emmawolf says:

      It’s not that Phedre is passing legal judgment. It’s her own opinion/judgments and snobbery that confuse or irk me. With Kazan, it’s icky. What you point out about the two deals and now versus later makes it especially icky, I think. He forced her consent and called it fair trade. Her services…it’s not like she’s a swimming instructor. My issue, I think, is that she is harder on him than others. But who am I to judge a survivor? I think I’m accusing Phedre of some things I’m guilty of myself. And forgiveness is probably much healthier than anger and brooding. Case in point, the younger D’Angeline survivor.

      I feel like this book is a turning point for her. I think it even comes down to the moment she sees Dobrek. She says there is bewilderment in her voice when she sees how pretty it is. I don’t think she expected to find such beauty outside of and uninfluenced by Terre d’Ange. And just her passages there learning about plants and animals and mentioning that there are some species that she only knows the name for in Illyrian. It just seems like such an eye/world/mind opening experience. And then with the thetalos. It might be this new openmindedness that allows her to forgive.

      With Melisande, I only mean that she gets a pass in that Phedre still thinks she loves her. There was discussion earlier on someone’s blog about how shallow Phedre is and worshiping beauty. I think she saw beauty in Melisande and confused that with love. Which actually, she was raised in Cereus, so I guess that makes sense.

      SPOILER (discussion on mental illness in the series):



      Re mental illness: I think there is a difference between reason and excuse. For example, if next baddie thought Phedre was evil or sent by the devil to corrupt him and that she had to be killed to save his own life, country, or soul because it was just and right and holy, his mental illness would have been the reason behind an attempt on her life. But he did it for power and he tortured her before and it was not limited to her. This was not exactly related to his delusions of grandeur, so I think it was more an excuse. I think he deserves sympathy for his illness but it doesn’t justify what he did. I don’t know. Gray area definitely. It was wrong of me to judge Phedre for her opinions on surviving that. Even though she’s a fictional character, I feel bad about it now.

      I’m down for continuing until book six. Five and six are my favorites!

      • nrlymrtl says:

        I am very much enjoying this discussion. So many excellent thoughts on Phedre in specific.

        Yes, I definitely see this book as a big growing/turning point for Phedre. She had some travel experience from Book 1, but this book takes her further and some of these cultures she hasn’t studied ahead of time. Plus she has no D’Angeline travel companion for much of it. Very different from Skaldia and Alba.

        I see what you mean by how she judges some harsher than others. But I think this is very human. Phedre may very well believe she still loves Melisande in some fashion. You can love evil people and not condone their actions. I know I have been guilty of this…. or maybe naive?

        The next book brings up many tough questions about mental illness. I totally agree that you can sympathize with the illness but still have to put a stop to the evil. Let me get my cape and I will join you.

        • emmawolf says:

          Me too! I am loving this read along! There are so many smart and observant people, and I’m reading their thoughts and thinking “how could I have missed that?!” And so many times I’ve wanted to say “OMG wait until Kushiel’s [fill in the blank]!” but I really don’t want to give things away. Reading my least favorite of the six with you guys has been so great because it’s helping me appreciate and enjoy it so much!

          I think for me I never really got what Phedre saw in Melisande (other than sexy times), and I kind of figured it was because I never *saw* Melisande. Their relationship just never seemed loving to me. More lustful. And for me, so many times when I thought “this person is hot,” as soon as I got to know him or her, if they were a jerk, their appearance totally changed for me. Maybe Melisande is so beautiful she is above that. Maybe there was real love.

          Yes, Phedre is very human. For all that I complain that she’s a snob, I still love her. Jacqueline Carey is so amazing that she created such a complex character! Have you read the Agent of Hel series? I love those books too!

  2. tethyanbooks says:

    I’m not thinking too fondly of Kazan’s mother, either. At probably the darkest time of his whole life, she bloodcursed him and sent him away. I know it must have been very hard for her too, but like you said, it was an accident!

    I’m actually with Phedre on the ‘deal’ with Kazan. He wasn’t just ransoming her because it was the right thing to do, he was ransoming her for 30,000 gold ducats. I’m pretty sure based on the context that this is a substantial amount of money. 20,000 was enough to buy Favrielle’s bond and get her business set up. He was going to ransom her anyway for his profit, so I felt that the “but I could do it very slowly if you don’t sleep with me” was putting a nice face on coercing someone who was in his power. He could have made an actual offer, and she might have accepted. Other than that, though, I really liked Kazan.

    I’m also with her on Selig, at least in their ‘relationship’. He treated her like an object and not a person. He definitely was good for his people, though, if only he wasn’t going to have them invade Terre d’Ange. I didn’t like him, but he did have some admirable traits.

    I’m with you on Melisande, though. I think she’s far worse than either Selig or Kazan. I’m really hoping that *this* time Melisande murders people Phedre cares about, it’ll be enough to break the hold she seems to have on her.

    • emmawolf says:

      Concerning Phedre, Kazan, and the “deal,” I think the reason why I was (I really don’t know the best word to describe it) confused? by her reaction to it is because I did think it was wrong and unfair (to say the least). But other people do worse and do worse to Phedre who she thinks higher of. It’s weird, while having this discussion, I was wondering why am I defending Kazan and saying what he did was ok? And I had to remind myself that I wasn’t and of who I was comparing him to (Selig, Melisande, Isidore, and other bad guys). If I thought Kazan was a super guy who didn’t do anything wrong, I wouldn’t have made that comparison, I don’t think.

      I think her relationship with Kazan is a journey. Her initial impression of him sucked. Yes, he saved her life, but he was a pirate (scary to her), he refused to listen to her, he referred to her as his hostage, he said he killed his brother and that he would have given her to his brother. But I think seeing Dobrek and his treatment of her helped change her opinion. That doesn’t change the “deal” though.

      I think even if other people are worse (and I think they are), Kazan is what she is going through now, so of course it’s the worst. I don’t know if that makes sense…

    • emmawolf says:

      I also think I misunderstood the deal. For some reason, I read it as he will only send the ships if she sleeps with him. Not now versus later.

      • tethyanbooks says:

        Looks like I was misreading the ‘additional thoughts’ paragraph as a defense of Kazan. Sorry about that. I’m pretty sure he was planning to send the ships for the gold regardless, and he was just suggesting that he could wait and keep her captive for a year or so if she didn’t sleep with him. So from my perspective, there wasn’t really a ‘deal’ for her services, he was just using his power over her to extort sex.

        Other than that, though, I agree that he has done nothing remotely as horrible as Melisande, Selig, or Isidore. I guess Isidore never did anything to Phedre personally, so maybe it’s easier for her to think more kindly of him after his death?

        As for Melisande, I really, really hope Phedre gets over her soon. She has murdered Phedre’s chosen family twice, raped and tortured her, sold her into slavery, and threatened her with lifelong imprisonment and rape. And that doesn’t even touch on all she’s done to Terre d’Ange and others. Referring to your comment to Susan, I also only saw lust, not love, in their relationship. I really don’t get why she’s still hard for Phedre to resist at this point, but maybe it has to do with Phedre’s enjoyment of suffering?

        I think you’re probably right, that Phedre is focused on Kazan right now because he’s the person she has to deal with currently. He made a pretty rough first impression, but Phedre has come around to saving his life twice now, despite the ‘deal’. I think that at least where we are now, she respects him much more highly than she did at first.

        • emmawolf says:

          I don’t think you did misread me. I think it was a defense of Kazan in a way (and also I misread the “deal”…I keep putting in quotes because you’re right. It was coercion, not fair trade). I think it was me creating a bad guy list and saying he doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the top. I’m a criminal defense attorney, so I think my default might be “come on! It’s not that bad!” But I think through this discussion, I learned to stop being so judgmental to Phedre and to focus on the now.

          Concerning Melisande, yeah. I agree with what you said and have nothing to add!

  3. lynnsbooks says:

    his mother chose favorites and I think that’s unfair – yes, very bad parenting! I couldn’t agree more and that and the blood curse definitely make you have an element of sympathy for Kazan.
    That being said, I didn’t appreciate his double crossing Phedre – but I could see the reasoning behind it and could appreciate him protecting his own men. I was still a bit stunned mind you. And it would never occur to me that Phedre would let him die – it just doesn’t seem in her nature to do so does it?
    Lynn 😀

    • emmawolf says:

      Sorry, I just saw this comment now…I like the relationship that he and Phedre have that they seem to always save each other. I also think their relationship is a journey or part of the impetus behind Phedre’s change. Which is probably why I had the issues that I did. I was looking at the beginning through the lens of the end, which was my mistake. (It’s hard doing a readalong when I both read ahead and have read the whole series before.)

      As for the double crossing, it sucked and surprised me, but I couldn’t blame him, I guess? They didn’t trust each other. I think this was all part of their journey to trust and rely on others for help.

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