Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Avatar Readalong Week Two

The last we saw Phèdre in this readalong she was… actually, I can’t quite remember.

See, the questions this week are by moi, and as a result of the reading needed to get ahead of the game the first two weeks are very much blended together in my mind.

Anyway, this is our readalong of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Avatar, the trilogy ender to her classic Phèdre trilogy. Fun times! But also spoilery times. It’s not too long to jump in on the ride (Sun I’m looking at you even if I know this will touch you obstinate side and guarantee you don’t join us), head on over to Imyril’s for details. If you just want to read answers, here we go…

1) We have a twist in the plot! Imriel’s disappearance is less about Imriel and more random cruelty… and Kushiel. What was your reaction to this?

I wish I could remember my reaction to this the first time I read it. It feels like it should be a bit of a shock given how much intrigue we’ve seen. That said, it also feels like obvious misdirection – anytime an author hammers you over the head with what’s happening, get suspicious – and I know at least one other reader was heading that way.

Now it just feels so smoothly done. I love the way that Carey just de-escalates and escalates the plot at the same time. Good news, there’s no political nefariousness that will threaten Terre d’Ange this time. Bad news, the stakes are now one boy having a seriously, seriously awful life. The implication that Kushiel is involved suggests it’ll get much worse too, which is fun! Well. Fun for us readers.

2) Last week we saw Phèdre get uncomfortable over the human cost involved in her tale. This week, she gets very close to it, both watching the torture in Amilcar and watching Joscelin kill the bandits (and fight a little herself). Do these events and her reactions tell us more about Phèdre?

Last week, Phèdre reminded us that its real humans bearing the cost.

This week, she saw a lot of cost. Cost that she didn’t necessarily have to watch. Could she have just delegated all of the torture to the Count’s men? Someone who really didn’t want to be there could have convinced themselves yes.

I guess it maybe isn’t news, but it really does hammer home to me just how tough and determined Phèdre is while being very sensitive at the same time. That doing the things she does really does hurt her… but she won’t stop doing them. It makes her a great moral agent and in dire need of a good psychologist.

3) Phèdre’s decision to give Melisande the news in the most compassionate of fashions possible causes a bit of friction with Joscelin. Would you have done the same thing? And what do you make of Melisande’s response and revelations?

I would like to believe I too would have given Melisande as much compassion as possible. It’s not about who Melisande is, it’s about who I am, right?

But she does get rather under the skin.

It’s also perfectly fitting for her character to have been holding this little scrap of where we might find the Name of God back for when she really needs it. A good reminder of just how Melisande sees people.

4) One thing that’s noticeable is just how many characters we meet in this section as Phèdre travels back and forth across Europe. Any standouts? Any you wish we’d seen more, or even less of?

The Yeshuite scholar seems a really nice old dude. It’d be fun to hang out with him and listen to him teach. I also liked the drummer as, again, my sort of person. Meeting Joscelin’s family was pleasant too, although I don’t think we really saw enough of them to get a real feel.

Also, I’ve got a soft spot for Nicola as probably the sanest character in the whole series.

5) And from Europe to Africa! What do you think of our introduction to Iskandria and Menekhet?

I’ve never been a big travel fantasy peep so it’s a little lost on me, but that meal in the tavern did make me hungry. I think it would have made more impact on me if I knew more of the subject matter? It reminded me a lot of Dana Stabenow’s Ancient Egypt murder mysteries, which I guess is intentional. Some places have their middle ages/renaissances just as normal, some places its like Rome never fell. Odd mix.

6) Something the narrative and Phèdre are keen to point out in these chapters is how some groups of people are overlooked and traduced – the Menekhetans, the Tsingani – which leads to a number of conversations. Anything in particular jump out at you about those?

Remember that thing about worth, and Delaunay and Hyacinthe? Phèdre has always stuck up for those who don’t have a great deal of worth in the world’s eyes, and the narrative is giving her lots and lots of chances to do so here.

7) We appear to be on the verge of some big revelations. Any guesses at what they’ll be? Rereaders – can you remember much about what’s going to happen next?

The bold strokes, yes. The specifics, no. How the next couple of chapters goes is a mystery to me

8) Any other thoughts!

This section felt a little slow and short on explosive events – it’s very much a set-up section – but I’m still very much enjoying being in Phèdre’s world, particularly with this new mature relationship between her and Joscelin.


13 thoughts on “Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Avatar Readalong Week Two

  1. Nicola might be the most rational in the whole bunch, now that you mention it. I’m a bit scared for what comes next. I hope it isn’t spoiler to say that the next section might make me sob, multiple times. And possibly rage.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Huh, Phèdre was ‘flawed’ until Delaunay made her special at a word … therefore she identifies with those set apart and traduced. (I’m not wording it very well). I hadn’t realised this until you said it there.



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    1. I almost want to reread the whole series again to see whether this is Phèdre changing and recognising what her life was… or whether I just needed her to explicitly say it before I got it. I do think there’s a change in her through the series from “I am the super-excellent scion of the super-excellent d’Angelines” to “I am flawed and wounded, like so many others of us” tho and it’s great that the author kinda explicitly brought that up.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yea… I’d have liked to hear more from that Yeshuite scholar too because I’m so interested in the religions and gods of this world.
    I can’t remember what I thought about that twist in the plot, but most likely I was excited because gods and all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do love that after two very epic ‘save the country’ books the final volume is such personal stakes – the lives and souls of Imriel, Hyacinthe and Phèdre herself. I’m also really enjoying the introspective tone as Phèdre battles internally with her nature and patron god – I’ve been far more aware of the religious elements in this read through, but I’d forgotten the final book was essentially a crisis of faith with Kushiel and mythic parallels with Naamah. It’s great.

    Also hell yes #TeamNicola

    Liked by 1 person

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