Kushiel’s Mercy readalong: week 4

Chapters 23-35. Questions by me.

1. After being freed, Kratos decides to stay in Leander/Imriel’s service. Did his loyalty or reasons surprise you? What about how he was able to aid Leander/Imriel?

Since I first read this book a few years ago, I have a hard time remembering what surprised me. But I like it. I love how we saw his intelligence from the very beginning. I love his conversation with Imrieleander after the wrestling match about how he wants to help bring Astegal down. I love his plan with the bath attendant and was a bit surprised by it. Now by the logistics, I guess, more so that it was needed. More on that next.

2. Despite Justina’s training, her loyalty to Melisande, and her position ready to tip the balance, she is unwilling or unable to help Leander/Imriel. What do you think of this? What good is the Guild or Melisande and her spies if not for this?

I think I remember that this did surprise me. Or at least, it annoys me. I guess like Imrieleander, I’m having trouble seeing the point of Melisande’s spies if they don’t do anything. Sure, gathering information is great. It’s what allowed Solon to figure out what was going on in Carthage and make the needle, etc. But action seems…I guess a necessary part of this? Or the obvious next step? Aside from “all knowledge is worth having,” Melisande’s spying would have been useless if Sunjata hadn’t acted.

3. Any thoughts about the Longest Night?

I loved it. I loved seeing Imrieleander become more Imriel. It’s almost as though with each physical memory of Imriel (Imriel’s muscle memory remembering how to do the Casseline forms), Imrieleander becomes more Imriel.

I also like how the sword fight showed insight into Astegal’s character–thinking Imrieleander didn’t know anything about sword fighting, he wanted to humiliate Leander by making him face his Amazigh.

4. Any thoughts about the aftermath of the breaking of two of the spells? Were you amused by Imriel’s conversation with Sunjata? Were you surprised by Sidonie’s reaction once the spell on her is broken?

I’d always wanted to laugh when Imriel and Sunjata face each other again after that part of the spell is broken, but this time around, I felt a little uncomfortable. Was Imriel’s will taken away like how Sidonie’s was? Imriel never had a male partner, and this was kind of a big deal. Did Sunjata take advantage of him? Susan’s words from last week about how Imriel was always there from the very beginning make me feel better about it, but I don’t know. This was the first time reading it where I felt uncomfortable. I think there is just so much about sexual assault in the news that it’s making me more aware.

5. Last week, Allie said she hopes Bodeshmun’s power “all blows up in his face.” Thoughts on his death?

When I read this from Allie last week, I laughed out loud. She got exactly what she wished for, pretty much literally. It was such a fitting end to his cruelty, and I loved Imriel’s cold line about it being unwise to meddle with D’Angelines when it comes to love. Elua is not a gentle god.

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 Mercy readalong: week 4

  1. nrlymrtl says:

    I also loved Kratos’s conversation with Imri/Leander after his wrestling bout with Astegal – who is such an ass!

    Melisande took on ex-slaves and children and trained them up. I expect she instilled in them some self-preseration and extreme caution. It doesn’t surprise me that Justina felt overwhelmed with the idea of swapping the rings. Even Sunjata, who has taken some actions, left town while the ring exchange was in progress.

    Yep. I have all the same questions about Imriel and Sunjata. Though I do believe that Imriel has allowed a male Night Court flower to give him oral pleasure during a viewing. So he’s dabbled and he doesn’t have a instilled cultural abhorrence of homosexuality. I keep going back and forth on it.

    • emmawolf says:

      I forgot about Imriel and the male Night Court guy. So consenting with a male isn’t unprecedented for Imriel. Not that this means that he would consent all the time!!! Just that he has broken his own barrier consciously and it’s not like any time with a male will always bring up memories of Drusjan. I think Imriel’s reaction to the encounter after the spell was broken is most telling.

      More on Justina:
      I am surprised that more people aren’t surprised by Justina. I see Justina’s point–it would be difficult for her to switch the ring when Astegal just wants sex. But I would be definitely surprised if she didn’t have other skills like pick pocketing generally. I’m just thinking back to Phedre’s training and all the things she learned that might possibly be useful. I would be surprised if Melisande didn’t want her spies to be more talented in things related to thievery.

      But I think more than that, I her “does it matter to us” attitude surprised me.

      But it all worked out, I think, because I love how Imrieleander had to rely on Kratos. I loved his plan and how he berated Imrieleander and Sunjata for just talking about the risk but never acting.

      (Also, I don’t think Sunjata risked as much with the needle trick. He was supposed to take Imriel’s ring, which gave him the opportunity to do the other spell. And I don’t think he, Melisande, and Solon thought Carthage would have noticed if Imriel slipped out of the City of Elua for Cytheria after Carthage’s spell took hold, and they were right….is that just rambling?)

  2. @lynnsbooks says:

    I’m really liking Kratos, which I confess makes me worry for his longevity given that Carey isn’t afraid to kill off some of her characters. I hope he gets to stick around a little to be honest. He’s very likable so far and quite resourceful.
    I definitely see where you’re coming from with the whole spies taking more chances – it was a bit annoying – purely because I wanted the deed done and I suspect that you felt the same. But, I think now, that if Justina had bumbled the exchange, which was likely given her nerves – it would have been a disaster.
    ‘Was Imriel’s will taken away like how Sidonie’s was?’ – OMG this is inspired – I never even thought of that and of course now I think about it his will was taken away – or at least suppressed! Although part of me wants to believe that Imriel’s character was actually shining through, which I do believe. But on the reverse side of that he did refuse other amorous advances so why not Sunjata – because Leander didn’t want to refuse. Oh, I have mixed feelings on this one. Like Susan, I don’t think Imriel would have been totally against the idea, maybe in his past, but I think now he has Sidonie he is much less likely to dally – which is why I think Leander was in control of this situation.
    These chapters were so tense! What next?
    Lynn 😀

    • emmawolf says:

      “I definitely see where you’re coming from with the whole spies taking more chances – it was a bit annoying – purely because I wanted the deed done and I suspect that you felt the same.”

      Yeah. But I do really like the resolution and Kratos’s plan. How he just shamed Sunjata and Imrieleander and was all “stop talking and do something!” It makes me think to chess–I’m a crap chess player. I can’t plan. I just act. Sunjata, Justina, and Imrieleander and plotting out a complex game, and Kratos just smashes the board.

      “Although part of me wants to believe that Imriel’s character was actually shining through, which I do believe.”

      I think so too. I think if Imriel really had objections to it, they wouldn’t have…done whatever it was they did. (Which sounds terrible, like “well, she would have said no if she really didn’t want to, but she was too drunk, so there you go!”) But we did see (I think) the Imriel part wondering “should I do this? Will this help me reach Sidonie? Will people think I’m a rake?” I don’t know. Maybe I’m just making excuses.

  3. Allie says:

    I like that you brought up Astegal intending to humiliate Leander for no reason. The more we saw of him, the more I thought he was a really terrible guy, even aside from the spell-related stuff.

    With Imriel and Sunjata, I feel like it is a bit complicated. Sunjata knew he was Imriel before they slept together, so he consented in full knowledge of the situation. Imriel did not consent to their sleeping together, but he did choose to become Leander and Sunjata knew he wanted that disguise to hold. So, I don’t feel like Sunjata was exploiting Imriel, but in some ways trying to help him. I guess that makes me feel better about the situation.

    • emmawolf says:

      Yeah, I think what Sunjata says about how the Leander part of Imrieleander would have felt is relevant. Sunjata may have also felt that if he had refused Imrieleander, more than just being hurt, Imrieleander may not have trusted Sunjata.

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