Read as thou wilt: The Kushiel’s Avatar Read-along, Week 3

The situation gets dire this week as Phédre and Joscelin reach Drujan, and are faced with the grim reality of their choices as they meet the Mahrkagir and learn of the coming rise of Angra Mainyu – and find Imriel, at last.

This week’s reading took a toll on our group, but we’re seeing it through. With that in mind, let’s discuss Kushiel’s Avatar



We meet the Mahrkagir, learn his story, and… witness what Phédre has gotten herself into. First of all, because I need to ask: are you all right? Second: do you feel like there’s any sympathy to be had for the villain of this piece?

First: purely by virtue of having read this before, I suppose I am all right? Though this was certainly not a stroll among the flowers, emotionally speaking, even knowing generally what was in store. This being the final book of this trilogy, the stakes naturally had to be raised, and so the depths of pain that Phédre submits herself to are darker and deeper than ever before. The story had to reflect that, and while it’s never going to be easy reading, I do appreciate the way Carey achieves this aim without ever seeming to simply exploit her characters for shock value.

Second: yes, and no. When we learn what the Mahrkagir has gone through, of course I’m sympathetic because no one should ever have to endure what he has. That said, the choices he’s made since then are his own (arguably? but more on that in a minute). And he has made some dire choices. If his horrific experiences have informed the person he is, then so do his actions following them. Which is not to say that I’m entirely convinced he’s acting on his own, free of any godly influence, because I’m not. Angra Mainyu’s presence is felt by Phédre the moment she sets foot into his domain. What must that presence be like for someone who has mired himself in it?

I could speculate on this a lot more, but I think it’s a question for a future post… We’ll see.

As this came up in chats after last week: It’s becoming apparent that maybe this story is even less about Melisande, and possibly even Imriel, than we thought… Do you still think Kushiel’s justice is intended for her, given what we’ve learned and what the Mahrkagir intends to do?

I asked about this because I suspect quite strongly that Imriel’s kidnapping, and Melisande’s punishment, were incidental to Kushiel – I think that putting an end to the Mahrkagir and to Angra Mainyu’s incursion in this world is the real endgame, because it fits much more closely with the higher stakes I mentioned. Can I justify the collateral damage being done to a young boy, or even the incidental suffering his mother has been dealt? No (well, in Melisande’s case not really I guess). Can I understand how a god might be focused more on an apocalyptic threat and less on the fallout for individual mortals? Yep.

Not that I think that makes what Kushiel appears(?) to be doing all right. Phédre may have made an irreversible choice when offered a way out of her service, but let’s not forget that she made it in a matter of seconds, when presented with it suddenly, and given everything that she’s now facing it would take a much colder soul than me to think that her choice makes her suffering fair.

So if the aim here is indeed to punish Angra Mainyu and his acolyte(s), then Kushiel had damn well better not have one heck of a retirement package waiting for his avatar.

We finally meet Imriel, as well. What role, if any, do you think he’s going to play going forward?

This is the part where my memory fails me, ha! I know the results but I don’t properly recall how they’re achieved, though I suspect Imriel does have a part in it somehow. I suppose we’ll see! But I want a safe ending for him, even if a happy one is bound to be relative…

Speaking of roles to be played, we should spare a thought for Joscelin this week. Do you think he’ll come through this any more whole than Phedre seems likely to?

See above, re: safe endings.

My heart broke for Joscelin this week, mostly because it hurts to see him enduring a pain akin to Phédre’s in terms of how far past his own boundaries it’s pushing him. I’m concerned for both of them being able to find a way back from this, whether together or apart. I just want them to be okay!


I have to stop here and find something more lighthearted to fill my head with. But I’ll be back for the next round, hoping for better for all involved.

Except probably the Mahrkagir. And Melisande. But that’s a given.

Until next time!


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