Kushiel’s Justice readalong: week 8

Hi all. Chapters 57-65. Questions by Allie.


1. Imriel actually gave up the quest for justice before he found Berlik, and would have left empty-handed if the man had not come to him. Does knowing that their eventual encounter was of Berlik’s choosing change the way you think about how it finally ended? How do you think this will affect Imriel, moving forward?

Is this asking if Imriel wouldn’t have killed him if Berlik hadn’t offered himself? I think I have two thoughts. 1–Imriel wouldn’t have found Berlik unless Berlik wanted him to. Or 2–if they had fought, Imriel would have killed him in a fight. But no, I don’t think Imriel would have forgiven Berlik to the point of letting him go if, contrary to my two thoughts, Imriel found him and they didn’t fight.

As for how it will effect Imriel, I don’t know if I will be able to phrase this well. I think it gave him a greater understanding of his enemy. Hopefully in the future, he can use this to 1) not underestimate an enemy and 2) use compassion to come to diplomatic solutions rather than fight.

2. I was definitely not expecting to see Maslin in the Vralian wilderness! What do you think of his motivations? Do you think it’s still possible for them to build the friendship Imriel wanted so dearly many years ago?

Maslin!! I do hope they become friends! I’m not sure what I think. I guess an awesome resolution even if it’s slightly deus ex machina but not really. I feel like it was a good resolution to both the Sidonie/Maslin/Imriel love triangle and the animosity between Imriel and Maslin. I like that he was motivated by love but it caused him to realize that he wasn’t in love. I guess it got pretty cold in Vralia all alone.

3. Imriel feels very strongly about going back through the places where he was dishonest or where he caused pain (Miroslas, Tarkov, the Vralian capital). Do you think these stops were necessary? Do you think he was right to not go to the pilgrim family that took Berlik in?

For the pilgrims, yes. I don’t think they needed to know the friend they had made was dead. I think it was better for them to wonder. For Tarkov, I think it was right too but dangerous. He had killed two men from there. Even though there was a misunderstanding, why was he so certain they would believe him and let him go on? Or at least think it was worth the risk.

4. We have another myth in the making: the dark angel and the light angel, battling for Berlik’s soul. Clearly this isn’t literally true, since Maslin knew nothing about Berlik. Do you think it carries any metaphorical truth with respect to Berlik’s struggle with his guilt?

I’m thinking no. I mean, I’m not sure how guilty or badly Berlik feels about killing Dorelei. In his mind, it was self defense and defense of others. If he had to do it over again, he would. And I don’t think this means darkness or evil or badness won. Or light or goodness either, for that matter. More like he sacrificed himself to maintain the balance between light and dark, old and new. (I’m suddenly put in mind of Sergei Lukyaneneko’s series Night Watch, which I highly recommend if you like urban fantasy and wandering around in the cold in Russia. It’s about Others, who are people with supernatural powers. They are divided into Light Others and Dark Others, but that can’t be summed up as just good and bad. More like selfishness and selflessness…but not. They work to maintain the balance between them. Anyway, Berlik’s sacrifice on behalf of the Maghuin Dhonn feels like that to me–it’s not good or bad. It was just necessary for what he did and to prevent slaughter of Maghuin Dhonn/preserve the balance.)

5. It looks like Tadeuz Vral will have another Yeshuite advisor now, in the Rebbe from Miroslas. Do you think this will impact the path of Vralia in the future? Do you think Imriel’s deceit will affect Vralia’s relationships with Alba and Terre d’Ange?

Ugh, Tadeuz. I hate him. I can’t even answer this question because I read the Naamah series, which if you guys are going to read, I’ll pass. And not just because I hate Tadeuz.

Other thoughts:

Ok, so this time around, I thought a lot about the whole mass conversion thing. Damn I think it’s stupid. It reminds me of Robert from Game of Thrones (which I’m also doing a group reread of) forgiving all his enemies because they swore loyalty to him. Um…but they swore loyalty to the last guy too. But I guess since they didn’t betray Aerys (except for Jaime….) it’s ok? I just feel like, when they (the people in both series) were given choices twice in their lifetimes: once freely to join the Kingsguard or fight for Fedor and once at the point of a sword. Does Tadeuz really think that if another rebellion will occur (maybe from someone from their original faith), they are going to side with him? Surrender or die is not mercy. Convert or pay taxes is way better.

Anyway, so my husband is doing research on this group of people called the Khazars in what is now parts of Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, some of whom converted to Judaism in the 700s. Totally not at the point of a sword (I think the legend goes that they were sandwiched between the Roman Empire (which was Christian at that time but not yet the Holy Roman Empire?) and a Muslim empire (I can’t remember which!), and they were mostly pagan, which was undesirable to either of their neighbors, so they converted to Judaism to try to please everyone…Yeah, because everyone loves Jews…). As I was reading this portion, I realized how closely related it is to my husband’s work in a way. Neat. He wanted me to send you all my paper, but I said no.

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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 Justice readalong: week 8

  1. tethyanbooks says:

    For #1, I was mostly trying to get at whether it matters (to the reader or to Imriel) that it happened this way, rather than in a fight, or in Alba just after Dorelei was killed, or just Imriel hunting him down like an animal. I also don’t think Imriel would have been able to not kill Berlik once he found him, and the odds of him finding Berlik in the wilderness without a trail would have been very slim (without Berlik’s or divine help).

    I saw the Night Watch movie, but I haven’t read the books (I’ve heard they’re better than the film, as usual). That is a more interesting way to think about the dark/light dichotomy.

    I’m not sure if I’d be in for the Naamah series, just because it’s so far in the future. None of the characters I like will be there anymore. I mean, I know I can meet new characters, but I guess I just feel like it would be sad to read a story set where all the characters I like have died already.

    I wonder if that bit about the forced conversion was to point out how badly wrong Vralia was going with respect to the Yeshuite faith? Micah wasn’t very happy about it, I think.

    • emmawolf says:

      I loved the first Night Watch movie (and the second is ok), but it was very different from the book. I’m not going to decide better or worse.

      I think Berlik’s death matters to Imriel. I think Imriel is moved by Berlik’s sacrifice and willingness to die for his people. And I think the other side of that coin is that Imriel has to be the one to receive the sacrifice and that is a heavier burden to bear that killing in battle. Though maybe I’m not sure why now. I mean Valpetra was willing to die to gain Lucca, and his mercenaries were willing to die for money. Maybe, for Imriel, it’s easier to kill when someone is motivated by greed than by love.

      Yeah to the Vralians and the Yeshuites. I wonder now about Yeshuites who didn’t move to Vralia and if the religions changed to the point they now believe there are two different faiths. Also, there is some other study out that my husband was talking about (that I can’t find online right now, so I can ask if anyone is interested) that mentioned how early Christians didn’t want to use the cross as their symbol because crucifixion was a humiliation. (here is something I found: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3498373/Was-Jesus-really-nailed-cross-Ancient-artefacts-suggest-tales-crucifixion-myth-tradition.html) That kind of reminded me of Imriel’s surprise that the cross is being used as a sign of their faith rather than the chai (which always makes me think of tea. I prefer transliterating it as “khai,” because I’m annoying like that).

      • tethyanbooks says:

        I’ll try to read the book someday, I’m curious to see how different it is.

        That’s interesting about the cross. Thinking about it, it is kind of a weird thing to take as a symbol. It seems like they could have focused on the resurrection rather than the long and humiliating execution.

        • emmawolf says:

          The books are three stories each. From what I remember, the movie was just the first story and a little part from the second book. And original content.

  2. nrlymrtl says:

    This hunt for Berlik, and then Berlik finding him and offering himself up is definitely something that will continue to ripple through Imri’s life. I think he learned many, many lessons in this quest.

    That’s a good way to sum it up – Maslin was motivated by love to go on his quest to find Imriel and along the way found out he was not really in love with Sidonie. It’s interesting how this cold, snowy backdrop of Vralia is great at teaching young men some real life skills.

    I like your idea about balance and Berlik’s role in preserving it. Also I will have to check out that series you mention.

    I only read the first 2 books in the Namaah trilogy and I don’t recall the link to Taduez Vral, since the final trilogy is set a few hundred years later, right?

    Anyway, I like your idea of convert or pay taxes too because it allows people choices. Of course, a chunk of our modern world can handle free religion with out the need to tax the minorities.

    Pretty darn cool about the similarities between your husband’s research and this section of the Imriel trilogy.

    • emmawolf says:

      Yeah, Taduez wasn’t in the Namaah books, but we saw what Vralia and their faith became, which I think can be traced back to him. That’s what I mean.

      I don’t like the idea of taxing religious minorities in modern society, but it shows a lot more tolerance than some other practices. Without getting too much into modern politics, I just have a lot of…frustration? with Israeli occupation when historically Jews and Arabs have gotten along much better and better with each other than with other populations. And I just think that’s one example. Jizya versus Spanish Inquisition…

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