Kushiel’s Justice readalong: week 1


Without further ado, chapters 1-7, questions by Susan.

1) Imriel wraps up some left over business – meeting with Bernadette de Trevalion. What do you think of the way Imriel handled the meeting? Will the peace hold?

I like it. I like that Imriel is a little older and a little wiser then he was when it went down with Barquiel’s plot. I like that he genuinely wants to make peace. I think it’s also one part the identity of Bernadette. Not saying that she and Imriel have a good relationship. Just that she is probably someone Imriel doesn’t view as dangerous. Someone who he can safely blackmail (if that’s what we want to call it). I don’t know if this makes sense or is relevant or just completely obvious or if I’m phrasing it terribly.

As for if it will hold, I hope so.

2) Imriel first hears of the Bear People or Bear Witches from Alise and later a little more from the Alban honor guards who attend the Bard, and still a bit more from Phedre. Simply a spooky story or more to it? Does the tale remind you of any myth or legend?

Probably both. A true story embellished throughout time to become legend. It does remind me of something, but I can’t put my finger on what. Maybe it draws on a lot of different stories and myths.

3) Mavros accompanies Imriel on their visit to Bryony House, where Imriel wins them tokens for the Longest Night. What did you think of how Imriel won the bet? Mavros shares a bit of wisdom later, pointing out that Imriel isn’t really enjoying sampling all the Night Court Houses before his wedding and that it is somewhat of an injustice to Naamah. Do you think Mavros is right?

I think Imriel’s victory bordered on blasphemy. In Alyssum House I don’t really think Imriel did anything wrong exactly. I don’t think there is anything wrong with curiosity about the houses. It did interest me to see that that–the modesty or shame of the house–was what he was uncomfortable with. Again, I’m going to phrase this terribly. Terre d’Ange is very sex positive, but with the Mahrkagir there was shame and dread and fear and everything terrible. It’s just kind of interesting to me that he seemed more uncomfortable with this than he did in Valerian House. A reminder that there should be no shame with sex.

Also, Mavros is right. I think if there isn’t joy there and love and worship, if there is discomfort and shame and Imriel trying not to enjoy himself, he is doing injustice to Naamah and her servants.

4) In this section, Imriel visits Kushiel’s Temple and then later Naamah’s Temple, wishing to atone in both for various slights and actions. Which would you find more cathartic? Do you think Imriel has a deeper understanding of himself, and perhaps Phedre, now?

I don’t know which would be more cathartic, but yes, I think they both helped him gain a deeper understanding of himself and Phedre.

5) Finally, we have the Longest Night. What stood out the most for you? If you could join Imriel’s little group, what philosopher would you choose to dress as?

The possible Guildsman stood out a bit. And I felt a bit blue for Alais. But OMG, Sidonie and Imriel by the mountain! And I love Mavros and Amarante helping them.

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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10 Responses to Kushiel’s Justice readalong: week 1

  1. @lynnsbooks says:

    Totally agree and had similar thoughts on virtually all of this. Great to hear this is your favourite 😀
    1. – I’m hoping that this holds out too.
    2. – A story that has grown in the telling maybe. I couldn’t put my finger on what it reminded me of but I’m hoping somebody sheds some light on it!
    3. Never thought about it but now reading your answer – perhaps he was uncomfortable with the shame because it’s what he felt at Mahrkagir??
    5 – Simonie and Imriel – OMG indeed!!
    Lynn 😀

    • emmawolf says:

      ” A story that has grown in the telling maybe. I couldn’t put my finger on what it reminded me of but I’m hoping somebody sheds some light on it!”

      I know! I feel like it’s part Ovid Metamorphoses, part Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and, as Allie pointed out, Pixar’s Brave.

  2. tethyanbooks says:

    It didn’t really occur to me beforehand that Alyssum’s modesty would bother him. I agree the shame aspect is really different from d’Angeline society in general, and I think Imriel in particular is really not okay with sex with people who seem reluctant, even when he knows it’s an act. At least in Valerian his partner acted like she wanted what they were doing and repeatedly said she wanted it.

    Also, can we call it blackmail in self-defense? It seems like blackmail is usually to make someone do something, and he’s only using his knowledge to stop her from killing him.

    • emmawolf says:

      “I think Imriel in particular is really not okay with sex with people who seem reluctant, even when he knows it’s an act.”

      *nods* Yes. I agree completely.

      “Also, can we call it blackmail in self-defense?”

      I don’t know. I don’t think he’s doing anything wrong. I mean, he’s threatening to do something Bernadette doesn’t want done (turning her in to Ysandre for her crime) to pressure her to do something she doesn’t want to do (play nice). He’s doing it for a good reason, I think, to maintain the peace. Is there a nicer term for it?

      Interestingly, this is making me think of another Jacqueline Carey book. There, a good witchcraft practitioner was asked by his friend to curse her to give her a nightmare so she could catch a night hag. She said it was for a good cause, and he said that no one goes down the dark path not thinking they were doing it for a good reason and that the ends justify the means.

      • tethyanbooks says:

        I can’t really think of a nicer term for it, but I also don’t see him as doing anything wrong. I guess in both of the situations, it sounds like the ‘dark path’ is not particularly dark (though I don’t know what giving someone a nightmare entails).

  3. nrlymrtl says:

    I hadn’t thought of Bernadette as a person who is safe to blackmail, but you’re right. In some ways, her family is still in disgrace, the treasonous history not being that old. Imriel is third in line to the throne and his foster mother is the queen’s confidante. So, yeah, Bernadette would be an idiot to go against Imri at this point.

    Thank you for bringing up the shame factor at Alyssum House – Imri was uncomfortable with it and I think it’s because it’s can be a fine line between shame and non-consent in sex.

    Mavros and Amarante are great for helping Imri and Sidonie out.

    • emmawolf says:

      “it’s can be a fine line between shame and non-consent in sex.”

      *nods* I think it looked at first to Imriel that the adepts didn’t want to be there. It just also reminds me of sl*t shaming, making people ashamed of their desires and victim blaming. So many things that seem so un-d’Angeline. I’d like to know more about that house and how they understand Naamah. I should look for some fanfic maybe.

      It also kind of reminded me of Helena and how Imriel saw her after her abduction. Of course, she had nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t know. I should reread her passages to try to better articulate what I’m trying to say.

      • nrlymrtl says:

        I think everything you say is valid. The shame definitely makes me think of slut shaming too, which isn’t healthy. And yet, if someone desires a bit of slight embarrassment at the act to spice up their desire, then that’s part of what Naamah is too? Still, a fine line. Is it spice or is it shame and not wanting to be there? Hard to tell without the written contract.

        • emmawolf says:

          “And yet, if someone desires a bit of slight embarrassment at the act to spice up their desire, then that’s part of what Naamah is too? ”

          I think so. I think maybe this is a case of me (and perhaps Imriel) not being totally in the world. Or maybe Carey is trying to show us how different Terre d’Ange is through Imriel’s discomfort. I’m picturing some sort of feminist utopia. Sex and enthusiastic consent are inseparable and there are no shameful desires. (In Terre d’Ange, she has never shamed homosexuality, open relationships or swinging, BDSM, or sex work. Everything [well, everything legal…sort of] that some in the real world hide and other consider shameful is a matter of course.) So maybe, for some d’Angelines, maybe if they are shy or maybe if it’s their fetish, they need to bring it down a notch. There is a difference between modesty and shame, but I think that modesty can look like shame, which can look like non-consent. Like you said, fine line between shame and non-consent. Maybe, due to his background and his closeness to the situation, its easier for us on the outside to see it then it was for Imriel (to the extend I was able to see it).

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