Kushiel’s Avatar readalong: week 5

Time for week 5 of the Kushiel’s Avatar readalong. Questions by Lynn.

1. There was so much action this week, let’s just take a minute to discuss that – particularly Phedre’s plan for escape. I realise this isn’t particularly a question but I just found these chapters so edge of the seat that I think we need to take a moment to discuss them and gather all our thoughts. What stood out for you? What surprised you?

One of my favorite lines in this whole series is “I propose to borrow your hairpin.” I just… ahh! It just cuts through the tension and brings it to concrete plans. I don’t know. I love it.

Jolanta always kind of stands out for me. How she made her sign of solidarity and started the fighting.

2. We’ve already had a debate on Imriel’s abduction and who was responsible and why. What are your thoughts now on the Gods and their motivations?

I think the gods used Phedre to destroy the Mahrkagir and evil. I’m in a discussion on nano about culture appropriation. Someone mentioned the great white savior (so to speak) motif. I wonder if this is part of that. I’d never really thought about it through this negative lens, but now I can’t unsee it.

3. How do you feel about Imriel and also who do you think is trying to assassinate him? Also, his reaction to his own family history – do you think that Melisande would ever have stood a chance to bend him to her will or not?

Maybe if she had had the opportunity to raise him since infancy. Or maybe, possibly, if it hadn’t been for Darsanga. But I think no. I think being raised in the sanctuary kind of “cured” him from Melisande’s influence. But maybe that was her plan all along. (dramatic music: dun dun dun!)

I don’t know who personally, but whoever tried to kill Imriel was put up by Valere. I kind of doubt she was acting on Bariquel’s orders, but she probably at least thought she was acting with his blessings.

4. Phedre and Joscelin – they’ve been through a lot and ultimately it’s taken a toll. Do you think this is something that they can get past particularly now that Joscelin has been injured – how do you think he will cope with that?

My guess is he’d make a poor patient. Also, being physically injured must be very hard emotionally for him. So much of his identity is tied up in being a protector. If he can’t do that, he feels useless. But I think they can get through it. I think few people will understand what they went through and their choice (sort of) to go through it.

5. It looks like Phedre’s cause to help Hyacinthe will be restored. It looks, at least, like she will have unexpected help along the way. What are your predictions in that respect.

Um….Ok, so I’ve read these before and I’m not quite sure where the reread ends (because I’m bad at stopping) so I don’t want to answer because the book is downstairs and I’m too lazy to get it and figure out what this question is referring to.

additional thinky thoughts:

So I want to go back to things I said during the last book about Kazan. Basically, when I thought Phedre was being hard on Kazan, I was thinking “OMG but he is no where near as bad as the Mahrkagir!!!” I was always “tchah, really?” when she is all “oh the jade dog!” How does this person deserve her sympathy?! But I realized two things: 1) who am I to judge? I can’t judge how she coped with what she went through. 2) Another difference between Kazan and the Mahrkagir is that Kazan was just a dick and it was only chance that brought them together and it was her gods that brought her to the Mahrkagir and she saw him through the lens of being Kushiel’s chosen.

Also, I have to roll my eyes when she gets…I don’t know about “murder.” No. That is not murder. That is justifiable manslaughter in self-defense. I get my panties in a bunch when people use murder in non-murder situations. (Which is actually why I got all excited when I heard Quentin Tarantino be all “let’s call murderers murderers.” Yes. And let’s stop using “murder” where it doesn’t belong because it makes the word lose meaning.)

Edit: I’m rereading the part about with the Chief Magus, and I don’t understand people’s reaction. There is one line that shows some disdain for Phedre–“I stepped close to the ancient priest, close enough that he drew back lest my nearness taint him, and I knew that in his eyes, I was still Death’s Whore, the Mahrkagir’s favorite.”–but I feel like as a whole, I can’t complain about his actions (he makes sure she has everything she asks for and advises her on how to leave). First, I don’t like close talkers. Maybe it’s just a matter of he wants more personal space. But Phedre’s a reliable and observant narrator, so I don’t think that’s it.

Second, I don’t think the Magus understands all of what happened or all of Phedre’s nature as Kushiel’s chosen. It’s true–she was Death’s Whore and the favorite. It’s what allowed her to get close enough and get him vulnerable enough to kill him. But since she never relied on the help of the priests, I don’t think we can assume he understood what was going on. He just saw someone seemingly enjoying the debasement and acting to kill him only when her life depended on it.

I also think it’s possible that he feared her. Phedre destroyed death. He who fights monsters and all. Him stepping back from her was in reaction to sort of a threat.

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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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6 Responses to Kushiel’s Avatar readalong: week 5

  1. @lynnsbooks says:

    Some great points here. The borrowing of the hairpin was certainly a pivotal moment and I loved it when they all came together and fought for themselves. I mean, it was awful, and so many died, but at least they were standing up for themselves instead of just waiting to be taken and used or killed as part of some horrible spectacle.
    I never even thought of it but she was actually acting in self defence wasn’t she. She was about to be strangled and be partially eaten after all! I think that’s justifiable cause.
    Lynn 😀

    • emmawolf says:

      Yeah, I think it was a pretty clear self-defense case! Even if it hadn’t worked out that she would kill him just before he was going to kill her, they were still all waiting to die. It’s like the battered woman defense.

  2. nrlymrtl says:

    The hairpins were the perfect touch. Very fitting. Ever since I read that scene years ago, I have never looked at hairpins the same way again.

    Ah yes, epic fantasy and the great white savior. So hard to get away from. I think Carey in general does a good job of bringing in other cultures and letting the reader know there is more out there – the white way is not always the best way, etc. And for Darsanga, it was a group effort for 99% of it.

    And, since we’re chatting about it, I really dislike it when characters are white washed on covers. There’s some stories out there that have stepped outside the white savior mode but then the publisher feels the need to make that main character look white on the cover in order to get the sales. This is still a phenomenon and we are in the 21st century. SFF is suppose to be better than that.

    OK. Off my little soap box, I promise.

    I think you’re right about Joscelin – so much of his identity is as a protector and if he can’t do that to his fullest, then he will sulk.

    Excellent thoughts on Kazan versus the Mahrkagir – different situations, Phedre is different in some ways, and definitely very different men.

    And Phedre was too hard on herself about killing the Mahrkagir – it was not murder, it was self-defense. It doesn’t matter that she prepared a head of time for the most likely eventuality.

    The thing that annoyed me the most about the Magus is that he and the other priests never thanked Phedre, or any of the others – Joscelin, Drusilla, Kaneka, etc. Yes, he did provide all she asked for. And I do believe you are most likely correct – he probably didn’t know at the time all that transpired and certainly didn’t understand her nature as Kushiel’s Chosen.

    • emmawolf says:

      I think the reaction of the Magus maybe played into why Phedre leading the zenana didn’t come across as completely distasteful great white savior to me…if that makes sense? I mean, now I see it because I’ve been thinking about it. But earlier, I didn’t. (Also, Phedre may not have seen the Magus thank Drusilla or Kaneka, so if it happened [my guess is no], we probably wouldn’t know about it.) I don’t know. It just didn’t bother me. Maybe also Carey thought it would have taken away from the action?

  3. tethyanbooks says:

    Commenting a little late here, it was a busy week…

    I’m actually surprised that I didn’t notice the white savior issue here. I guess I was thinking of it more of Phedre & Joscelin being there to rescue Imriel, so it wasn’t like she swooped in with the intention of rescuing everyone. There’s no way she would have been able to rescue Imriel without the others, either, so it really was a group effort.

    Now that you make that point about murder, I wonder if I am using it correctly. I would think of it as the premeditated killing of another person without any mitigating circumstances. So, for instance, I have been calling the attempt on Imriel’s life a murder attempt, but not Phedre’s killing the Mahrkagir while he strangled her. Is that correct or do I miss something important?

    • emmawolf says:

      “Is that correct or do I miss something important?”

      Yes! Thank you!!! (Lawyer hat on: Though it doesn’t have to be premeditated.)

      Yeah, I didn’t notice the white savior issue before this reread. I think I only noticed it because I was having a conversation about that concept somewhere else. I think it’s there, but as you said, since it was such a group effort, it’s, well, mitigated….

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