Kushiel’s Avatar readalong: week 6

Again, sorry for the lateness of the questions.

1. We see yet another attempt on Imriel’s life. Any new thoughts?

Nothing new. This one seems to highlight Joscelin’s injury even more. And let us know that Valere’s reach (and the reach of L’Enverses) goes far.

2. Imriel pulls the old switch-a-roo and ends up with Joscelin, Phedre, and Kaneka on their way to Iskandria. Phedre decides to press on rather than turn back. What do you think of her course of action? What do you think of Imriel’s trick? Some seem to be reminded a bit too much of Melisande’s escape from Troyes-le-Mont. What do you think? What do you think of Imriel’s rationale that he is in Hyacinthe’s debt?

I think Phedre and Joscelin might be making a tad too much about Imriel’s methods–using a body double, so to speak–and how they paralleled Melisande’s. There are probably only so many ways to sneak out of a place.

I love how they are shaping into a family. I don’t think I really expected Imriel to just go with Amaury (is he not listed in the Dramatis Personae in the beginning of the book? I was looking there for the spelling, because I’m a terrible speller, and I can’t find him. Odd), who he barely knows and doesn’t trust. Given, well, everything. Not so sure I totally agree with Imriel that he’s in Hyacinthe’s debt, but I love his sense of duty and honor. I love Imriel.

3. Phedre meets with Pharaoh again…and threatens to tell Ysandre that Pharaoh has been in touch or in league with Melisande should something happen to her or Imriel. What do you think of her move?

!  I love the “well, in that case, I’ve sent a letter. Oh, and if you change your mind, I’ve sent another letter.” She plans for everything. I feel like it’s almost comedic. Or I’ve seen something like this parodied in a lot of movies.

4. Kaneka finds some healing with Wali, and Phedre finds her way back from the darkness of Darsanga. Thoughts?

I hate fish. Like really, really hate fish. The smell makes me vomit. So the scene of Phedre and Joscelin always has that in the back of my mind.

Other than that, <3. I love how Phedre describes Kaneka as retaking ownership of her body. I love how, with Phedre and Joscelin, Imriel helped bring them together again. They are becoming family.

I think one of the reasons why I love this book is because it’s about rekindling an old romance. In a lot of romances, it ends with the lovers getting together and living happily ever after. But that’s not reality. I like how this book shows that we have to work on our romances always and we can’t take our partners for granted.

5. Phedre et al. journey down the Nahar, through the desert and into Jebe Barkal and Saba. What do you think of these new places and the new characters we meet?

Something that struck me during this reread was that Kaneka addresses Queen Zanadakhete the same way Phedre addressed Kaneka–Fedabin. I thought that was interesting and wonder what it means. It could mean that Jebe-Barkal is a more egalitarian society, even with monarchy, and that they don’t use status and titles so much. Or it could mean that Phedre showed Kaneka a huge amount of respect. I hope it’s some combination of the two.

6. Phedre meets with the elders of Saba and is disappointed. Then she meets with some of the women. What do you think? Will they help her when the others didn’t?

It broke my heart a little to hear Phedre talk about the women fawning over Imriel and touching him.

As a Jew, the whole of Saba is hella interesting to me. Much more interesting than the Yeshuites in La Serenissima. The women holding their own counsel and (possibly) choosing to disregard the decision of the men kind of reminded me of the Golden Calf from Exodus 32. (Or Dogma, if you will.)

In Jewish teaching, the women did not hand over their gold to Aaron to make the golden calf. So, it’s not egalitarian, but under some interpretations of Judaism, women have more intuition or are closer to god, and the gold thing is an example of that. The women of Saba are a nod to this.

There is also the huge differences between Ethiopian Jews (from Saba in this book) and non-Ethiopian Jews (Yeshuites). In the books, there’s Yeshua, of course. But in real life, well, I don’t know a lot about them. They have different traditions and different teachings. The holiday Purim, for example. In non-Ethiopian communities, it is a happy day of celebrating because the Jews defeated Haman. But apparently in Ethiopian communities, it is a sad day because they thought Haman won and killed all the Jews. They thought that they were the last Jews alive.

Anyway, its just fascinating to me. And it makes me want to learn more about Ethiopian Jews and the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. And them in Islamic stories.


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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4 Responses to Kushiel’s Avatar readalong: week 6

  1. tethyanbooks says:

    I hate the smell of fish, too, though I don’t mind it once it’s cooked. Maybe that’s why it didn’t bother me so much in the scene :). Thanks for the info on the Jewish telling of the golden calf story and on Ethiopian vs. non-Ethiopian Jews. It’s interesting to see how that is translated into the fictional Saba.

    • emmawolf says:

      I was really glad that bathing played a part in that scene. I’m picturing Joscelin covered in fish guts (because in my mind, he also gutted the fish) and turning to Phedre and saying “sexy times?”

      I really wish I knew more about Ethiopian Jews. An Israeli friend of mine said that her army service was teaching Ethiopian Jews Hebrew, and she has some neat stories. She’s the one who told me about Purim. She said she came to class all happy and ready to talk about Purim, and they were talking about it like it was one of the sad holidays.

      Which really shows the research Carey did for these books. Ethiopian Jews were so separate from Jews in other places and their teachings are different that the idea of Saba being lost in time seems a nice tribute in a way. (But I mean, it’s not my story she’s telling. I don’t know how others see it.)

  2. nrlymrtl says:

    I thought the same thing about the parallels between Melisande’s escape and Imriel’s little deceit. After all, what kid hasn’t tried to play a little switcharoo at some point? And you’re right, there would be only so many ways off that ship.

    Very good point about real life romance (always having to work at it) versus most storybook romances. Carey does a great job of showing how people can change over time, that love and respect go hand in hand, and that both parties have to work at it. No slacking!

    I use to hate fish too but then I had some very fresh west coast fish and I now love to try the local fish when I am near a large, clean body of water.

    Ah, thanks for the Dogma clip. It has been too long since I last saw that movie.

    Thanks for all the tidbits about Judaism. I know almost nothing and it is cool of you to share your thoughts and knowledge. It makes me appreciate what Carey has done with these books all the more.

    • emmawolf says:

      That is my favorite scene in Dogma.

      I am forever impressed by Carey’s research. And the more I learn about a certain thing (when I was learning a bit about British history, for example), the more impressed I become.

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