Read As Thou Wilt: The Kushiel’s Dart Read Along, Part 4

A daring escape, a harrowing journey, and a safe return… But what’s next for our heroes? The newly crowned Queen has some ideas…

Let’s discuss Kushiel’s Dart.

Spoilers follow for chapters 48 through 61.

 

 

Waldemar’s old teacher Lodur calls Phedre “a weapon thrown by a D’Angeline god” and this changes how Phedre sees herself to some extent. How does this change the way you’ve thought about Phedre so far?

First of all, “a weapon thrown by a D’Angeline god” is such a great turn of phrase. I love it when we get those!

As for my thoughts on Phèdre in this light, I feel like this ties into my take on the gods in this world as being beyond the scope of human comprehension, for the most part. If they are playing a game on some cosmic level, this would indicate that Phèdre does indeed have some role to play in it. But that certainly doesn’t negate any sense that these people have free will or can make their own choices – far from it. But that’s for another discussion, much further down the line (if we make it through the trilogy here!).

With that in mind, I wonder if it’s less a case of Phèdre being the weapon as Phèdre wielding the weapon. Her faith is becoming a bigger issue for sure, so what really interests me isn’t so much the power she has as what she chooses to do with it. And given the developments upon her and Joscelin’s return home, that’s going to become an even more interesting question from here.

 

Joscelin has broken all but one of his vows during the time he and Phedre have been in Skaldia. How do you feel about everything he has gone through? Everything Phedre has gone through? And the Prefect of the Cassiline Brotherhood’s opinion on these matters?

Character development, baby! I’m absolutely here for everything that happened, in the sense that my sympathy for Joscelin always goes through the roof when I read these chapters. I was waiting for all this to happen, though on a reread it’s interesting to see how my recollection matches up to what’s actually on the page. Joscelin accepts the changes that are (at least in part) forced on him throughout this ordeal far more readily than I remembered, but it’s clear that it all still takes a toll on him. But in the end, he’s still standing tall and holding to the one vow that he clearly feels truly matters – protecting his charge. Though perhaps a different word to describe Phèdre is needed here…

As for the Prefect – nah, he can GTFO. Sorry, but there’s no place in my attention span for anyone who repels change and refuses to accommodate it. There’s probably a more sympathetic way to say that, but I don’t remember him having much sway from here, if any, so why bother? Pipe down and go and recite your rules, old man. Joscelin’s doing just fine.

 

A whimsical question: Phedre doesn’t seem to be able to lose or give away Melisande’s diamond. What do you think this stone’s eventual fate might be?

You know, it’s actually bugging me that I can’t quite remember for sure what does happen to that diamond! Time will tell…

 

And a follow-on to that: all gifts in this story, god-given or otherwise, are double-edged swords. Discuss.

You are not kidding. That’s politics, I guess, whether it’s among mortals or on the gods tier. It’s a little tricky to stay positive about it without risking entering spoiler territory, because right now things do seem Very Serious if not outright grim. But on the other hand, we’re at the point in the story that we’re at because Phèdre (and Joscelin, and Ysandre) believe in better things. There are no fools among them, but the flip side of that is that there are no foolish villains on the other side either. (At least not among the living.) I feel like that kind of duality is a running theme here, and those two sides of human nature are never entirely separate from each other. It makes the story more interesting, and it makes these people more interesting as well. There’s a whole other discussion in there about how this explains why “grimdark” stories just don’t work for me; to my mind you need that “double-edged sword”, that balance of duality, or your story just stops being interesting. So I deeply appreciate the way this story is playing out.

 

What do you make of Ysandre de la Courcel now that we’ve finally met her? And what of her intention to honour her betrothal to Drustan mab Necthana?

I. LOVE. THIS.

Seriously, how often do you get to see the young Queen, the political leader, able to stand her ground about choosing to marry for love? And doing it while still providing a good political alliance for her people?

Assuming, of course, that it can be pulled off successfully. BUT ANYWAY. I love how bold Ysandre is being, and I deeply appreciate how she’s clearly trusting her own judgement here and not simply accepting some lesser fate as a political puppet.

And of course I’m here for a journey into Alba. Let’s go already!

 

Now that we know the whole of Delaunay’s story, has your opinion of him changed at all?

Kind of? But at the same time, not really. I have more sympathy for him now that we know all the facts, but it would have changed my mind more if we’d learned these things from Delaunay himself. Sympathy after the fact can only carry so much weight, and I never disliked him, exactly, but I feel like sympathy after the fact is all we’re really left with? Others may disagree, of course, and this is one point of the story that I’m interested to get other takes on!

 

Finally, Phedre’s marque is finally complete. Do you think she is free?

I’m always here for a good symbolic gesture, and though I know that this is tied up with the customs of the Night Court, I appreciate that Phèdre got the chance to tie off that loose end and choose her own path forward. It feels like a fitting tribute to the life she can now leave behind if she wants to; her life with Delaunay got her into a lot of trouble, true, but it build a foundation for who she is at the same time. It’s a wise move, to choose not to disregard everything she’s learned and where she came from.

Does this mean she’s free? Yes, and no. That’s a complicated question with someone like her, I think. There’s no more contract to bind her, but on the other hand she ended up in the life of a courtesan because of another aspect of who she is that she didn’t choose, when you think about it. So it’s a complicated question with a very complicated answer…

*

What does the rest of our group think of the story so far? You can check out other responses by following the links at our Goodreads group page.

See you next time!

 

 

 

 

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