Read As Thou Wilt: The Kushiel’s Dart Readalong, Part One

It’s time for a new readalong, and a revisit to an old favourite book!

imyril over at There’s Always Room For One More has organised a readalong of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, the first book in a sequence set in the glorious and deadly world of Terre d’Ange. So let’s get this party started, shall we?

 

 

When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty who took pity on me.

The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good … and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with a very special mission … and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundation of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair … and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin: they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

You know it’s an epic fantasy when it starts with not only a map but a list of Dramatis Personae. How do you feel about this approach to beginning a new story? Do you read the character list or use it for reference along the way?

Definitely for reference! I love to study maps before reading a story, when they’re included, but with a Dramatis Personae, especially one as long as this (and that makes sense, this is an epic fantasy after all), I tend to take note of the first/main ‘players’ before I start reading, and then check back along the way to keep track of who’s who. Always at the end of chapters, though, otherwise I’ll only distract myself! Goodness knows, that’s easy enough to do…

What are your first impressions of Elua and his Companions, and of D’Angeline culture? Are you comfortable with the way in which Jacqueline Carey has reimagined the world?

I love how thoughtfully this has all been imagined; I am fully here for a reimagined world where this culture’s most unifying precept is a celebration of love – but there is still nuance and conflict to be found, this isn’t just a bland utopia where everyone’s happy and no one hides ambition, or darker desires. Where there’s politics, there is political conflict – these people may be descended from angels, but that certainly doesn’t make them “angelic”…

And on a personal level, I’ve changed quite a bit in some ways since the last time I read this book, so it’s going to be really interesting to read it again with a different point of view on a lot of things. So I guess we’ll see how comfortable, or not, I am with it this time around!

Phèdre’s story begins in the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers. What are your thoughts on the Court, its adepts, the service of Naamah and the earning of marques? What House would you patronise – or belong to?

Aha! We’re starting early with that “different perspective” thing, then!

I … honestly don’t know. As someone who is on the bi/ace spectrums, naturally I’m taking a lot of this worldbuilding in stride, and enjoying how openly this particular subject matter is dealt with – but at the same time (and my memory tends to fail on a lot of details over time) I don’t recall any asexual representation in this book so the question of “which House would you belong to” doesn’t feel like one I can answer. Not yet, anyway. Give me time to get reacquainted and I might feel differently! We’ll see.

Guy, Alcuin and Phèdre are all devoted to the mysterious Anafiel Delaunay. Do you think he deserves their love? For first time readers, what are your theories about his past – and what do you think he is trying to achieve?

Since I’m not a first-time reader, I will hold my tongue on that second question! As for the first … It’s really difficult to separate my feelings on Anafiel at this stage in the story from what I know, and how I feel about him, given what’s going to happen later. But I feel like he does deserve their love; characters like Anafiel always fascinate me because there are clearly many layers to them, and that’s certainly true of him, even at this point in the story. But for all of the political games he plays and the calculating way his mind works, I think there’s a good heart under it all.

What do you make of Phèdre’s choice of signale?

… This is where so much begins. And that’s all I will say for now. No spoilers, remember? But I’ll definitely come back to this later!

Last but not least, the big week one check-in: now that you have seen a Showing and witnessed Phèdre’s first assignation, are you still in?

This is something else I hope to come back to in discussion later! I certainly have thoughts about Childric d’Essoms … but that’s for another time. I’m all in, don’t worry – and let that tell you what it will…

The Schedule

Discussions will begin from today (Thursday 3rd September):

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa (that’s me!) at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

 

 

 

4 comments On Read As Thou Wilt: The Kushiel’s Dart Readalong, Part One

  • Omg! As I read your post, especially toward the end, I kept thinking “Tell me, tell me!” lol! I’m so curious to know exactly what you think of Anafiel, but this is my first time reading and I really shouldn’t spoil myself on it (although I’ve tried, lol). I don’t trust the dude.

  • I’m trying to recall if this series has any asexual characters as well…. I have a vague memory of a brother and sister who hire Phedre for some fun and I think the sister doesn’t partake in the sex but enjoys the whipping or something….. Anyhoo, it’s a good thing to point out. Have you read her other book Starless?

  • I do love the central tenet of love – as a holy rite, as a celebration of life, as an expression of self – and while I find the world-building a little too neat to believe in as a literal history, I also love the myth of Elua and the angels and the way that translates into regional characteristics. I like the many interpretations of Naamah’s motivations by the Houses too – although I’ve also been scratching my head over where demi/ace fits in. But maybe the House where the canon is focused on artistic achievement? I know we’ll get to see them before long so I guess we’ll find out then…

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