As we approach the finish line, our heroes face the harsh realities of war, but any victory feels short-lived as things take an unexpected turn on the journey back to Terre D’Ange…
Let’s discuss Kushiel’s Dart.
Spoilers follow for chapters 62 through 79.
We’re back on the road again with Phèdre and Joscelin, and this time they’re with Hyacinthe as he finally comes face to face with his heritage. What were your first impressions of the Tsingani?
This was part of the story that I’d been curious to revisit since it’s a part I didn’t remember much about from my first readthrough. Reading it now, though, I feel a little bit conflicted about all of it. We’re going from the intricate levels of D’Angeline worldbuilding into the wider world, with other (not entirely secondary-world) cultures, and I’m left a bit dissatisfied with the relatively cursory look we get into the lives and culture of the Tsingani. That is balanced, however, by the interpersonal relationships and conflict that takes place where Hyacinthe and his kin are concerned; on that level, Carey keeps the drama flowing – and to be fair, this was only supposed to be a short stop on a longer journey. I wouldn’t mind a return visit, though.
What did you make of Hyacinthe’s reaction to his reception, and Phèdre’s reaction to to that reaction? How did you feel finding out about Anasztaizia’s past? Finally – Hyacinthe’s choice. Could you have done what he did there? Give up finding you family just after finding them for your friend?
As I said, the real weight of this segment was carried by Hyacinthe, and I was so not ready for the bucket of feelings it dumped over my head. Learning that Hyacinthe had doubts and uncertainty lurking under all that flash and confidence he projects to the world only made my sympathetic feelings stronger. As for Phédre, I really appreciated that this was another teaching moment for her when it comes to her perspective on things, and people, beyond the narrow, privileged worldview she was raised into. I loved that it served to deepen and strengthen her relationship with Hyacinthe rather than putting a barrier between them. I feel like they both needed that, and will need it, going forward.
Anasztaizia’s past is one of those aspects of this book that I’d forgotten from my first read, and I have to say that on second read I cannot approve of the way she was treated by her own family, after an incident in which she was basically victimised and then shamed, personally, for … being victimised. There’s just no good light in which to paint that picture, and given that Manoj basically goes from welcoming his grandson ‘home’ with open arms and joyful tears to turning his back on him over something which ultimately is not Hyacinthe’s fault – and his refusal to hide his gift for the dromonde tells me he knows it’s not – it seems dear old Grandpa hasn’t learned from his first mistake with his daughter.
To put it all simply, it’s Manoj’s loss as far as I’m concerned. Stick with the friends who genuinely know and love you, Hyacinthe.
And I guess that answers the last part of the question, too!
Phèdre being Phèdre, she jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire – a handsome, sadistic fire. Does Phèdre’s pleasure at being able to resume her craft, even in these circumstances, and the description of that sense of release make sense to you? Did the Duc de Morbhan’s gift surprise you?
This encounter with the Duc de Morhban was interesting because it’s the first time Phèdre is faced with the choice of using her training, and her gifts, when she’s able to make the choice freely (despite the arguably unfortunate circumstances). There is a very important difference between allowing a character the agency to use her own body as she sees fit, and putting that character in a position where her body is being used. In “bargaining” with the Duc de Morhban, Phèdre is doing what she feels needs to be done – but this is balanced by the benefit of her hindsight, and in her (literal) new lease on life. Her experiences have made her wiser, not just about other people but about herself, and seeing her put that wisdom to use in a way that allows her to find a sense of joy, of release, instead of the kind of shame and resentment that we saw her struggle with among the Skaldi is deeply heartening. I love all of it.
As for the Duc de Morhban’s gift – no, it didn’t surprise me. If Phèdre’s gift is a double-edged sword, then it makes perfect sense that any sense of joy, or peace, or satisfaction she feels would be felt by whomever she is sharing herself with in that moment. Winning people over with warmth and joy is always going to beat the alternative. (Melisande, I’m looking at you.)
The Long Road keeps getting longer but Phèdre seems equal to every task and soon they are in Alba’s green and pleasant land. What were your first impressions of the Dalriada and the Cruithne, and their respective rulers?
OK, look. I know that there are stereotypes all over the place here, and I’ll be honest – I am too far in love with it all to be critical and mean it. If these people were any less intriguing and endearing to me, I probably would have criticisms. But I’m here for the people, as I’ve always been, and I love these people. I love how honestly straightforward and blunt and ultimately respectful they are, even when they can’t agree on the way forward for their people. MORE LEADERS COULD STAND TO BE LIKE THIS ahem.
Who do you agree with on the decision to go to war – Eamonn or Grainne? And what did you make of Joscelin’s take on Phèdre’s brand of diplomacy?
I am going to be That Person and say that it feels really difficult to answer that first question, and how dare you try to be so divisive!
In all seriousness, though, what I love most about the twins is that one would absolutely be less without the other, even though they seem to be nothing alike. I saw the flaws in them both clearly alongside their strengths, and they both made excellent points about how to handle the threat of war even while it’s clear that their own flaws are doing the talking too, in a way. They balance each other out so well that I honestly wouldn’t want to side with just one in case the other one took offense!
As for Joscelin – my love for him grows with every page I turn, it seems. Oh, Joscelin. You are learning, and while you are still occasionally ten pounds of repression in a five pound bag, I would not have you any other way. Also there is totally a little bit of jealousy going on there, do not @ me. A torch. He carries one.
Were you surprised by Phèdre and Hyacinthe’s moment together?
Technically yes, but only because I had entirely forgotten that they had one here. It still made my heart break for them both, though. So many Feelings. So many.