Read as thou wilt: The Kushiel’s Avatar Read Along – double feature!

Hello, all! So. Having fallen behind in the Kushiel’s Avatar Read Along last week, I am cramming two weeks of Q&A into a single post. Send help.

Let’s discuss the finale of Kushiel’s Avatar.

Plentiful spoilers will follow for the final chapters!


This double feature of questions are courtesy of Peat Long (week 5) and Mayri at Bookforager (week 6)! And if you need a reminder of the schedule, here you go:

  • Week One: Beginning through the end of Chapter 16, hosted by imyril
  • Week Two: Chapter 17 through 34, hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Three: Chapter 35 through 51, hosted by me
  • Week Four: Chapter 52 through 68, hosted by Bookforager
  • Week Five: Chapter 69 through 85, hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six: Chapter 86 through End, hosted by Bookforager

First up, let’s discuss Part Five…

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?

I’ll be honest, the dedication to descriptions of travel isn’t my favourite thing about this book, though to be fair it’s nice as a breather following the harrowing Drujan experience, so I’d have to go with Saba being my favourite featured land! I didn’t really remember much of anything about this section, either, so it’s also nice as a memory refresher.

So Phèdre is now on first name terms with God. Cool huh?

Or – more exultantly – she’s done it! She’s completed her quest and all that remains is the back again! What were you thinking as it happened?

… I vaguely recalled this part being more difficult than it turned out to be? Or maybe it’s fairer to say I kind of feel like it should have been…

That said, it’s not as though Phèdre is just swanning around and sailing through this part of her quest. The effect it has on her is quieter, but arguably no less impactful. And I definitely appreciated that it was the women of Saba who got together and decided “well the men are being fools, again, so it’s up to us to help our sister out”. Women know what’s up.

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!

Hehe. Fish.

Joking aside, I will never not be a sucker for a good found family storyline. Imriel deserves this. For that matter, so do Phèdre and Joscelin. They’ve all been through some horrifically hard times and it’s reassuring – and heartwarming – to see them come out of it into something better for all of them. It’s this kind of good/bad balance that leaves grimdark fantasy lacking for me – I need that balance in a story, fiction or no fiction. Anyone can describe horrific scenarios. A really good writer makes sure to lift the reader up out of them as well.

All of this is to say: I am swimming in feelings. Again. And I don’t mind at all! Again.

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)?

As a rereader: nope, I don’t really remember anything beyond the ultimate outcome (which I will cover below!). So it’s kind of like reading it for the first time, the second time? Almost. Thanks a lot, memory.

Onward, now, to the final chapters – and questions from Mayri!

Our starter for ten: let’s talk about that final meeting with Melisande. What were your feelings about Imriel’s meeting with his mother? How did you feel Phèdre handled herself? And any opinions on those rumours about a cult?

It has never felt clearer to me that Melisande would rather dodge responsibility for her actions than it was in this meeting with Imriel, and I say that about someone who got other people to do all her dirty work, escaped imprisonment and claimed sanctuary in a temple rather than face the consequences.

“What you did got people killed!”

“Yes but what about all these other people who got people killed?”

I see you there, Melisande. And so does your child. It’s deeply fascinating to me to think that her own son is the one person Melisande can’t manipulate, even if it’s only because Imriel flat-out refuses to hear her out. He has his family, he doesn’t need her. More power to him.

As for Phèdre … Ooooof. Once again, we’re in a tangled web, aren’t we? It makes perfect sense, even while it hurts my heart, that when Melisande tells her she’ll only grant one of her conditions in order to see Imriel raised safely, she chooses the one that will protect others from Melisande instead of protecting herself. One: that’s so selfless it pains me, and two: nonetheless, I wanted to yell at her for it. Oh, Phèdre.

Regarding the cult: I can’t really see Melisande actively taking advantage of something like that? I can definitely see her finding it amusing, or not choosing to put a stop to it because hey, people will do what people are going to do, right? Not her fault, not her problem. But it speaks to more blatant egotism than I think she has (yes, I know how that sounds). Maybe it might one day benefit her, but that will only happen on a day when no one else alive remembers the truth of what she’s done, and let’s be real – that day might come when Melisande isn’t around to enjoy it. So I’m not terribly worried about the Cult of Melisande. Even if I want to slap anyone and everyone involved with such a stupid idea.

To say Ysandre is miffed upon Phèdre’s return would be an understatement. Let’s talk about that courtly face-off and our Comtesse’s punishment.

… I mean, it was fair. And clearly Phèdre was expecting something like it because she made very sure that Ysandre had accepted the fact that she owed Phèdre a boon before she dropped the Imriel bombshell on her. I feel for her, having to wait even longer to free Hyacinthe, but punishments aren’t meant to be fun.

Well, not all the time anyway. Ahem.

And to be fair to Ysandre, if I wanted to punish someone and be sure the lesson would stick (and not just for Phèdre herself) I’d go for something personal as well. Slapping her with a paltry fine wouldn’t have done the job, after all.

Showdown with the angel Rahab! We want all your reactions – go!

Is it weird of me if I preferred the idea of Rahab as a leviathan? Cos I did, heh. Maybe I just have a thing for sea creatures and/or exiled angels ending up as something very different than what they were. But I guess it’s easier to banish a human-looking(?) entity than one that can bat you across a thousand leagues with a tentacle.

Thoughts on Phèdre’s feelings for Hyacinthe at the last? And while we’re on the subject of Hyacinthe – let’s discuss how he has been changed by his time on the Three Sisters and maybe speculate a little on his future.

Love is selfless, love is enduring – but love is also a little bit selfish as well, isn’t it? Oh, Phèdre.

As for Hyacinthe … I love him as a character throughout this trilogy, to be sure, but. I dunno. I’m not sure I’d read a story about his next adventures? I’m happy to think he has the quieter, curse-free life he deserves. Though I also want to note that of course I had a little heart-flutter at seeing a tiny little glimpse of the old, show-off Hyacinthe in the City of Elua, there at the end. I like the thought that he wasn’t changed completely, after all.

Finally, a party to end all parties. Has everything been wrapped up to your satisfaction?

That party sounds epic, but also overwhelming. Spot the introvert, heh!

Seriously though, it sounds awesome and entirely appropriate given everything Phèdre has gone through to get to this point. Who wouldn’t want the biggest party of their life after all that? And she went all out on someone else’s behalf? Queen.

It’s a lovely way to end things, and I have no more notes.

So I guess that’s it for this Read Along! … Now what do I do?!



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