Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Avatar Readalong Part Four

Last week, our valiant heroine was being the universe’s most hated child and planning a bloody-handed uprising.

This week, it’s time for some payback for her and payoff for us.

Asking the questions is Bookforager and here’s some answers below…

1. “And they heard me, îshta, your gods heard me and knew fear.” We’ve speculated about Kushiel’s involvement already I know, but have your theories developed or feelings changed at all in light of this week’s chapters?

Well, Kushiel certainly heard him alright.

Beyond that… who knows. I favour soft worldbuilding, just like I favour cake over rice krispie treats. If you’re doing food sculpture though, sometimes you need those treats for supporting weight, and sometimes you need a few nuts and bolts.

Maybe Kushiel and pals are indeed afraid and this explains why they threatened to take away Phèdre’s connection to them. Or maybe that happens all the time, it just doesn’t make the myths.

Maybe Phèdre’s whole purpose in life was for this moment and Melisande was just along the way. Maybe it all was. But if they can give Phèdre that purpose in life, why not give Melisande the life purpose of “try not to be such a bellend”?

Yeah, such questions bedevil the devout and without in real life too. But I don’t read fantasy with very active deities and widespread belief to get a “I dunno mate, you tell me”. I think back to the last readalong, The Fionavar Tapestry. The gods were mysterious, capricious, and the rest of it, but you knew what needed knowing. You knew they couldn’t act beyond certain conditions unless they wanted to find out what cruel and unusual punishment looks like for immortals.

Here the gods are just too mysterious and capricious.

2. The death of the Mahrkagir and the subsequent escape from Daršanga is a terrifying and bloody end to Phèdre’s Drujan ordeal. How’s everyone doing now?

Honestly, this sort of violent, nerve-wracking conspiracy is what gets me out of bed in the morning. That slow degradation is stomach-turning at times but this? This is fun to read. Let’s do it again tomorrow.

Now, yeah, I imagine Phèdre isn’t doing great, but I’m tickety-boo. But let’s talk about how Phèdre is doing, shall we…

3. “Some things, once broken, can never be made whole again.” Thoughts? Feelings?

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery using lacquer mixed with precious metal and the philosophy of treating breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

Is the bowl in that image broken, or whole? Or something in the middle with elements of both?

I would give the last answer and note in the same breath that humans are greatly more complex than pottery.

Phèdre, in her despair and hurt, has oversimplified the matter. Of course she has. Wholeness has a very specific meaning for her and Joscelin. Them being remade in some other form is a painful, painful idea to her. She has forgotten how resilient people are too. Very few of us can’t be put together in some form. Still, that’s the difference between sorrow and a depressive state in many ways – not being able to imagine an ending.

I say forgot and oversimplified because Phèdre has shown she knows these things. She has been broken and remade many times, and has rarely been bashful about admitting that.

Therefore, to sum this up:

a) I don’t agree with her general philosophy
b) I doubt Phèdre does either and see her statement as one on just how badly Daršanga has wounded her

Still, if there’s one thing Phèdre is, it’s resilient.

Also, if I remember the context aright, she is warding off questions from a curious boy about her most private wounds. Saying simple, heavy things to drive those questions away is very normal for both Phèdre and just about everyone else. Look at how she answered Hugues in the beginning before he pushed it too far.

4. “The boy could be dangerous. Or he could be something else.” Imriel has a hard road ahead of him. How do you feel about him and his situation?

Picking my answer carefully to try and avoid any spoilers for his trilogy (or the next part of the book) –

We’ve just had numerous examples of how the child becomes the adult. Joscelin sticking with his Cassiline discipline. Phèdre nursing the wounds of her childhood. The Mahrkagir.

Imriel has had the most extraordinary childhood. The patterns for doing extraordinary things are being mapped onto his brain. Combine that with considerable natural mental gifts and you can see how people look at him for a moment and, if only for a moment, see the potential for him to be his mother again. Or outstrip her.

Something that the wary reactions of most d’Angelines to him might only reinforce.

So yes, one totally understands that reaction. Still, for the most part, he is still more the goatherd than the survivor. There is vastly more compassion than ambition. What mischief and cunning he has is applied to innocent aims. For him to be dangerous unprovoked, I think someone would have to utterly mess up his upbringing (or do an excellent and blackhearted job on it, I suppose).

5. Valère L’Envers again. Anything you want to share on this particular character?

I’m not sure this bit makes a huge deal of sense other than needing to make sure Phèdre doesn’t send the boy back, to be honest, and Valère isn’t interesting enough that her betrayal matters greatly. There’s no way she doesn’t smirch her, and her house’s, reputation doing it. Maybe she’s not thinking that straight though.

I guess you could say my grousing means I kinda liked Valère and didn’t like her doing a heel turn, but didn’t like her enough to care beyond that.

6. And it doesn’t look like out little D’Angeline family will be heading home any time soon. Care to share your thoughts on where they’re heading next and what kind of welcome they might get when they do finally make it home?

I remember quite a bit of this, so I’ll keep my lips shut.

And anything else you want to talk about, of course.

This quote filled my heart

He took it gravely, crossing the gap between us. “I’m sorry, Phèdre,” he said, looking at me with guilt-stricken eyes. “Will they hate me for it, do you think? Because I am my mother’s son?”
“No.” I held his hand hard, my heart aching. “I won’t let them.”


10 thoughts on “Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Avatar Readalong Part Four

  1. As the sole flag waver for Valère L’Envers – a minor NPC, let’s face it, who needs no flags waving, but questions were asked and I found I had a flag – I counter that she acts in precisely the way her father would have done, and with just as much cautious deniability. She knows she did it. Phèdre knows she did it. She knows Phèdre knows she did it. And they both know Phèdre doesn’t have a shred of evidence. No besmirching here, although she may get hell from Barquiel for not _succeeding_ …but this is my sort of reading intrigue – deadly, deniable court politics. Oh I’m so sorry did you trip on the stairs and catch a knife in your back? How… clumsy.

    Although I also think you nailed it with the observation that all this by play happens purely to ensure they don’t put Imriel on a boat home without them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You don’t necessarily need proof to besmirch someone’s reputation though. Just to paint a picture it was them. And the picture paints itself for me when it’s inside her own home. If she’d had someone do this at the port, on the ship, I’d buy it. That could be a lone, crazed d’Angeline with a grudge.

      Still, stupidity happens. As said, I think I go after that one because I wish Valere wasn’t that… and also, probably a level of fatigue with Carey adding another melodramatic thing to make the plot go the way she wants.


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