On the sea: Kushiel’s Chosen Read-along, Part 4

In this week’s chapters, Phèdre escapes La Dolorosa, narrowly escapes drowning … and ends up in the hands of a notorious pirate.

Let’s discuss Kushiel’s Chosen.

Spoilers follow for chapters 45 through 55.



What are your thoughts/feelings on Phèdre’s escape from La Dolorosa? Specifically, how do you feel about her rejection of Melisande’s offer, Tito and Joscelin’s roles in her escape, and the vow she made to Asherat?

Contrary to previous weeks when I’d forgotten most of what went on, I actually remembered this part of the book! This is quite a bit to unpack, so let’s take it bit by bit:

I think Phèdre did the right thing in not accepting Melisande’s offer, but good grief that was a tough call. I felt for her, here; I think this entire segment was a perfect example of just how deep and complicated Phèdre’s feelings about (and for) Melisande are. But Melisande seems to be counting on that, and I maintain that she absolutely cannot be trusted. No, Phèdre made the right call. She might have been made more comfortable, but her surroundings wouldn’t have changed her circumstances. Melisande wanted her kept under lock and key either way.

I knew Joscelin was going to come for her, and I won’t lie: I love that he went legendary here. NO MAN CAN SET FOOT ON LA DOLOROSA UNBIDDEN unless you’re a crafty, deadly Cassiline warrior. Joscelin made me proud this week. And of course I felt sympathy for Tito, but … this might be the unpopular opinion here, but the man was working in a maximum security prison. Kindness is nice, but why the heck was he working there in the first place? I know it’s a good thing for our heroine that he was, but I couldn’t help side-eyeing that fact a bit…

As for the vow to Asherat: this is so perfectly Phèdre. On one hand, her desperation lends it a good amount of logic. On the other hand, Phèdre is already a symbolic weapon of justice for her god. Why not do a solid for one more when she has the chance? Perhaps she made the vow out of a sense of desperate need, but I fully expect her to keep it at the end of the day.


Pirates! A dragon! A secret island! Woo! What do you make of pirate captain Kazan Atrabiades? 

(I keep having to correct myself regarding Kazan because no, Lisa, his last name is NOT Atreides.)

Pirates, dragons and secret islands are like my fantasy trope drugs of choice, you guys. I just love them. Put them all together, and of bloody course I’m going to be into it.

THAT SAID. I recalled Kazan being … more charming than I felt he really was, on this reread. I can sympathise with him to an extent, but something about him just rubbed me the wrong way, this time. There’s something a little too cold about him for my liking, though that might not be the right word for it. I don’t know; I just can’t quite bring myself to root for him. Especially given what happens at the end of the last chapter in this segment – but I think I remember what happens next and so I’m reserving judgement…


Yet more of the map has been filled in this week. Do you have any thoughts to share about what Phèdre and we have learnt of Illyria and its relationship with Terre d’Ange and La Serenissima?

Only Phèdre nó Delaunay could get captured, escape an inescapable prison, end up being rescued by pirates – and find herself in a position to engineer some useful political outreach.

I’m fascinated by Illyria and its relationship with these bigger powers, because we’re getting a look at those powers through the lens of a smaller nation who have cause to resent them. This book in general has been widening the scope on how Terre d’Ange is presented, or how it presents itself to other political powers, be they large or small. All of Phèdre’s experiences and trials have broadened her horizons, and in turn they’ve broadened her understanding of all the ways in which her country is not as perfect as it probably would like to seem. That might be cynical of me, but for some reason politics, real or imagined, brings that out in me…

At this point I’m just curious to see what Phèdre does with the new information she’s gleaned in her time with Kazan. We all know she’s going to do something with it, right?




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