Kushiel’s Chosen Readthrough: Week Three

Week three! Almost caught up. This week’s questions came from Zezee With Books and lets plough right on in.

Phèdre, her boys, and Joscelin arrive safely in La Serenissima. What was your impression of the city, its culture, and its ruler, the Doge? What did you think of its goddess, Asherat? Do you agree with the Doge that Asherat-of-the-Sea reached out to Phèdre about the Oracle being tampered with?

To be overly glib, my impression is that it’s just like a lot of other fictional Venices!

Which is an answer and isn’t. On the one hand, I do struggle to get excited about settings that are pretty much entirely real world inspired. But I guess there’s always something more, right? I think our Serenissi are very open about thinking everything has a price, starting with their own thoughts, in a way that is interesting but rarely sympathetic. It’s probably the least appealing of her destinations so far, but also the most fun when it gets going.

And I retroactively agree with the Doge, but somehow managed to miss that bit when reading.

Do you think it a coincidence that Phèdre is finally invited to meet with Benedicte de la Courcel after turning down Severio’s proposal? Do you think Severio will make problems for Phèdre or will he get over Phèdre turning down his marriage proposal?

I think any scenario where Severio gets to make problems for Phèdre is a good one for her at this stage! But yes, I think he’ll get over it if shown again. He’s too much a pragmatist, and too much an D’Angeline, not to once his temper has faded.

And going from Melisande’s words, it’s not a coincidence – they marked the withdrawal of interest from the last influential person who’d care about Phèdre’s whereabouts before making a move.

Josceline is teaching the Yeshuites to fight like a Cassiline. Do you think he is the Cassiline leader prophesied to help the Yeshuites? What do you think about him abandoning his post, especially considering what happens to Phèdre and her boys by the end of this week’s chapters?

I plead the fifth on the first part of the question.

This, uh, this is not the finest hour for Phèdre and Joscelin. They both go completely against the core of who they are and their previous moral decisions. Which, the more I think about it, makes me want to question Carey, not the characters. But, taken at face value for now, both has been tortured beyond endurance by themselves, each other, life, their gods, and so on. The romance is too much! And so… I ain’t impressed. I guess I can understand, but I ain’t impressed, not by either of them.

Melisande is unveiled! Were you expecting her to pop up as we received more hints about Benedicte’s mysterious wife and new-born D’Angeline son? We learn that in addition to Benedicte, Melisande has also roped Percy de Somerville (who already had plans for treason) into her plots, do you suspect anyone else of siding with Melisande?

I knew as this is not my first read. But I can’t remember whether I’d guessed the first time.

On this read, all the prior references to Benedicte’s mysterious wife really jump off the page, and I think I’d have worked it out this time around simply because the plot foreshadows one possibility and one possibility only. The only thing that might have stopped me is thinking we were still in the clue gathering part of the book, not the big reveal part, although this is bang on timing for Carey’s big midway reveals. I’m not sure the clues are there in the narrative to work it out – particularly when Phèdre is struggling hard to do so and it’s easy to get swept away by her viewpoint – but they are definitely there in the plot structure.

Phèdre is imprisoned and two-thirds of her boys are confirmed dead, what did you think of this sequence as events. Did you see it coming or were you shocked?

Right. This is the question I’m here for. Because my most vivid memory of my first read was that scene and afterwards thinking “Man, two characters I really liked just got rubbed out, and this whole chain of events doesn’t feel right. It feels cheap”.

Which I guess means I was shocked the first time. But not in the happy shocked. And re-reading this time, knowing it was coming, watching them go through the process, wasn’t an entirely enjoyable read for me.

To me, this is something of an idiot plot. They have so many clues that there’s something rotten in Benedicte’s court, and they have so many clues that there’s something rotten at the top of D’Angeline society, and they never put two and two together and ask the question of how high it goes in this particular place? Not one of them brainstorms it for real? I could get it if they’d considered it and decided against it for a good reason, but to completely not think about it irks me. And so the two best characters in the book to date die in the name of plot convenience.

That’s all the questions I have. Please share any other thoughts you had regarding this week’s reading. It was a juicy bunch of chapters with much political intrigue.

I said when I started my memories of this book weren’t great and on rereading, for me, this set of chapters is part of where my memory formed. I think Carey made a lot of choices for dramatic effect – Phèdre jumping Joscelin, Joscelin leaving, the deaths of Fortun and Remy – that I don’t enjoy and don’t find particularly inevitable. Explicable I guess but I don’t want the author’s choices explained, I want different choices from the author. I still enjoy reading Phèdre’s thoughts but she is thicker than two short planks here. Which isn’t Phèdre as a rule. I’m not sure Carey was consistent with her characters here.

And this isn’t even the portion of the book I have the most meh memories from.

Oh well, onwards!

7 thoughts on “Kushiel’s Chosen Readthrough: Week Three

  1. Interesting – Phedre isn’t really living up to her spy-education here at all, is she? And I’m inclined to agree that some of the plot things feel cheap in this section – looking back on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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