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

We’re near the end now. Will Phèdre find the name of god? Will she and Joscelin get horny? Will Imri be okay?

For answers on all this and more keep reading, as I answer questions set by myself.

1. Another week, another country. Tell us all what you make of isolated Saba – and since this is the last new land we travel to in the trilogy, what was your favourite?

One of the delights of answering your questions is when you find you’ve asked a question you’re not really interested in answering.

Or, to put it another way, it seems a good question at the time. Then I saw what Imyril had to say about travel fantasy fatigue and was “oh gods yes”.

Therefore, my impressions of Saba is… big whoop. Which is a little unfair, but I just don’t think we saw enough to cut through my fatigue. My main thought was that the whole council of men then council of women thing felt very Wheel of Time.

Favourite… probably La Serenissima. I think she did the most interesting things with her version of Venice (although I have to say I am now beginning to realise just how even more utterly fascinating real Venice is). Her version of Crete was also rather interesting.

2. So Phèdre is now on first name terms with God. Cool huh? Or – more exultantly – she’s done it! She’s competed her quest and all that remains is the back again! What were you thinking as it happened?

… speaking of fatigue, I’m also getting a bit of drama fatigue, so I read this with my secondary belief wavering and my internal editor on the prowl for fresh meat. Is fear for another’s life the only way she could have been empty enough to receive the name? The knowledge that this was effectively Hyacinthe’s life not enough?

I wonder if Carey and her editor ever talked about the fact that Darsanga was a huge trilogy worthy ending in itself. Did they worry about it making what passed afterwards seem trivial? Did they include it because they feared a fantasy audience wouldn’t find the name of God itself worthwhile? Not think about it at all? Me, myself, I find that as I answer those questions, that yes this does seem a bit trivial. Phèdre probably just saved the world. She did so at considerable risk and a very bad time in her own head. I get the Sabeans here have their own lives and concerns – really big concerns – but I have checked my pockets twice and I am all out of fucks about that.

Inside the temple was fascinating though. Inside felt right. I might even go back and reread as I didn’t feel like I quite took it in but… that feels quite right, so there we go.

3. “Like Ardath,” Yevuneh murmured. “Like all our children, when they are grown. Ah, child, I do not mean to press. It was a kindness, what you did for Ardath. You have the right of it. As often as not, we forge our own chains. And from those, not even Adonai Himself can free us. We must do it ourselves. You are kind, to encourage her.” This quote jumped out at me, and I’d love to hear what you saw about forging and releasing our own chains in this book and trilogy.

Oh goodness.

This jumped out to me when reading it. Then it seemed obvious when putting questions together.

Now all I can think about as I sit down to answer, is that Phèdre’s life has been hugely directed by the destiny Kushiel laid on her, and then threatened to take away.

Or, on further review, how Phèdre couldn’t free herself from the presence of self until someone threatened Imriel’s life.

A huge amount of this book, this series, has been about releasing ourselves from our own chains – our own fears, our own anger, our own everything.

But from everything else Carey has said, talking about it as us putting ourselves there and us freeing ourselves just seems, well, incomplete. Other people have colossal amounts to do with the weights people carry in this trilogy and near as much in terms of removing them. And if Kushiel is capable of sending Phèdre to Darsanga to apply some adjustment to the situation, is he not capable of putting someone in the right place at the right time to let her be better? Or that Adonai isn’t?

It is a lovely sentiment but ultimately, in that time and place, seems very incoherent to me.

Which is not at all what I was expecting to type.

4. It looks like Phèdre and Joscelin are firmly back together and all it took was a big… fish. Not a euphemism, folks! And they also appear to have acquired a foster son. Tell us your thoughts on how this all went down!

This was absolutely magical. What couple doesn’t need an enthusiastic kid all but pimping them out to each other to get them back together? Not that Imriel’s huge enthusiasm for Phèdre and Joscelin being happy together is the main driver here, not at all, but it added an extra layer of charm to something that was utterly charming already.

I am so happy for them. How it went down was perfect.

As for Joscelin deciding to fight a rhino just to see if he can… perfectly Joscelin. Made far too much sense to me.

And then there’s Imri, and the way they cling to each other… and that is excellent.

I have nothing further to say other than throwing around the words magical, perfect, and charming willy-nilly, so I shall cease there.

5. The presence of the Name of God seems to be doing a number on Phèdre’s psyche, although not in a bad way. Do you think we gain extra insight into who Phèdre is at the last here? Do you think you’d enjoy the experience yourself?

I think this is my favourite part of the section beyond the whole family stuff. Phèdre’s actions just seem right and natural for someone who has done something utterly transcendent. The way everything and anything seems to put her in this perfect place reserved just for her is beautiful. It reminds me of Mightily Oats saying everywhere he looks, he says something holy in Carpe Jugulum.

The fact that how she looks is uncannily like how she looks in Darsanga is… is…

I think it says so much yet I am really struggling to put it into words. I guess what we’re learning is that peak Phèdre has many forms, but they’re all peak. That there’s many sources too, from the holiest of holies to what we’re told to see as utter wrongness.

And yes, I think I’d very much enjoy it, although I would just blurt out the Name of God by accident for sure.

6. We finish the section with La Serenissima on the horizon. Any thoughts and expectations on what happens next (or what we recall from our first time read for those rereading)?

I think my first time thought was “goodness, there’s a lot of book left considering everything has happened…”

7. As ever, tell us everything else that excited, delighted, frighted and incited you this week!

I think I’ve covered everything above, but am looking forwards to reading others and seeing what I missed.

5 thoughts on “Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Avatar Readalong Part Five

  1. My interpretation was that they opened the door to the temple because Phèdre offered her life in exchange for Imriel’s and then he screams because he doesn’t want her to die. She expresses a self-less love and Imriel expresses his absolute anguish. I did think the people of Saba were a bunch of chumps which may not be fair. I had no patience for them rejecting Phèdre’s petition and then that they were going to kill the three of them on the island. I mean he threatened to murder a child on the steps of the temple… Phèdre, Joscelin, and Imriel together is magical.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that bit I get, just… I dunno, feels a bit overdramatic and unsatisfying. The Saba bit, well, I think it would have gone better for seeing it through their eyes… but yeah, didn’t love this section.

      Liked by 1 person

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