Read-along: Kushiel’s Chosen – week one

Kushiel's Chosen: A Wyrd and Wonder Read-along

Picking up where Kushiel’s Dart left off, we rejoin Phèdre nó Delaunay at Montrève, breaking the news to her household that she will be returning to the service of Naamah. Cue romantic anguish from a certain former Cassiline and a shudder of delight from the Court. Without Delaunay to guide her, Phèdre must set her own course – without tipping her hand – if she is to find Melisande Shahrizai…

Welcome back to the Wyrd and Wonder read-along of Kushiel’s Legacy, picking up the erotic adventures of Phèdre nó Delaunay as she attempts to identify the traitor at the heart of the d’Angeline Court. We’ll be reading and discussing this fantasy doorstop across the next 6 weeks (if you’ve read it, feel free to chip in in the comments, but please avoid spoilers). I’m the host for this first week so without further ado, let’s dive into the discussion!

What is your position on Phèdre’s decision to return to Court as a Servant of Naamah – and Joscelin’s reaction to it? Do you have more sympathy with one or the other? 

Oh, Joscelin. On the one hand, I have a great deal of sympathy for him. He thought he knew who he was and what his life would be, and he was very comfortable with that. Then along comes this snip of a girl and suddenly he’s at the heart of political intrigue trying to stop wars (or win them) with her, when her very nature makes his vows a challenge. He slowly but surely had all his certainties stripped away from him, and he’s just about managed to make peace with that – because he loves her – but it’s a very precarious peace.

And she doesn’t even discuss this decision with him – she just tells him what she’s going to do.

I commented last year that I thought this relationship came with a lot of strings attached, but bloody hell, Phèdre. Have a heart. And a bit of respect. This is not how you build a long-term relationship!

On the other hand, he is such a mardy fucker in response that I can’t help but roll my eyes so hard it hurts. Keeping vigil and then announcing coolly that he will protect and serve? Power move. Joscelin is going to keep that last vow if it kills him, but he’s not going to pretend he’s okay with it. Sniping at everybody in the household and belittling the chevaliers? Not okay. They’re just doing their best. But let’s face it, Joscelin has never been great at coping with Feelings.

But we do see him try. While it hurts to see him and Phèdre lashing out at each other, I can’t blame either of them. They are both still quite young and thinking about it, neither of them have exactly had healthy relationships modelled for them. It’s years since Joscelin left home and Phèdre may be very sexually mature, but she’s been exposed to very few happy couples in her life…

In fact, what they need right now is someone to box their ears and tell them to just bloody talk it out. Dammit, I miss Hyacinthe.

Phèdre is quite certain that the sangoire cloak is a challenge. Why do you think Melisande sent her the cloak? 

Look, I totally buy into this plot. Phèdre knows Melisande better than anyone, and I accept her logic. The bit that sells me on it is that Melisande likes an audience – and crucially, an audience who can appreciate her work. Yes, that adds the risk that they may manage to stop her, but a woman who is willing to manipulate Prince Baudoin, Isidore d’Aiglemort and Waldemar Selig at the same time is hardly risk-averse (plus she’s supremely self-confident). So yes, I think the cloak is practically a dare (and while Phèdre briefly muses that Melisande would enjoy the emotional conflict it causes between Phèdre and Joscelin, I think this might be her only misstep: I’m not convinced Melisande gives Joscelin a second thought. It would surely entertain her once pointed out, but I’m really not sure she remembers he exists most of the time).

All that said, there’s a little bit of me that thinks this is an excellent diversion. If I were Melisande, would I believe Phèdre nó Delaunay – of all people – could be happy living quietly in the countryside? Hell no. Would I believe that Phèdre could be happy with a rigidly honourable man who will never intentionally cause her physical harm? Ah ha, no. So would I assume that my old nemesis was likely bored by now and far more likely to cause me trouble if left to her own devices?

…I might. In which case, I’d be very keen to keep her busy. Having her kidnapped and sold into slavery didn’t work out so well last time; maybe giving her an excuse to enjoy her unmet sexual urges is the perfect wild goose chase?

We get to know a plethora of characters this week. Any new favourites so far?

I had forgotten the chevaliers and how adorable they are. In my head, Remy and Ti-Philippe are basically Merry and Pippin, happy hobbits committed to their Comtesse and probably not taking any of this as seriously as they should. Fortun is all the more delightful for being more thoughtful; he’s clearly the adult in the household.

I love Favrielle for being a committed grump and an artistic diva, but she hasn’t made me feel wildly better about the Night Court and its indentures. I did enjoy Phèdre flat-footing Favrielle and Joscelin both after her assignation with Severio though.

What do you make of the way this first act mirrors events of Kushiel’s Dart?

I’m amused that Phèdre lampshades it, but I’m also conscious that a week (and 150 pages) in, we’ve spent – objectively speaking – a lot of time treading water or covering old ground. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much enjoying it, but gosh it feels like an old-school sequel in that regard. Even Joscelin being grumpy mirrors younger Joscelin, if for rather different reasons. The deliberate mirroring makes me nervous for the chevaliers, of course, and also makes me acutely aware of who is missing: Delaunay, Alcuin, Hyacinthe. It has made certain scenes particularly poignant; and I appreciate that in the middle of her one-woman mission, Phèdre is still making time to try and find a way to free Hyacinthe.

However, it’s definitely got me back in the mood for sexy shenanigans and intricate adventures, so let’s do this!

The Salon

But wait, this is a read-along – what did everybody else have to say?

Links will be added once they go live.

Read-along schedule

What next? Well let’s see…

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Seventeen – hosted here at There’s Always Room for One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Eighteen – Thirty – hosted here at There’s Always Room for One More
  • Week Three| Chapter Thirty-one – Forty-four – hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-five – Fifty-five – hosted by Mayri @ BookForager
  • Week Five | Chapter Fifty-six – Seventy – hosted here at There’s Always Room for One More
  • Week Six | Chapter Seventy-one through the end – hosted by Lisa @ Dear Geek Place

Fancy joining in? You are more than welcome – just drop a comment here to let us know to expect you. Read at your own pace, but please, no spoilers for advance chapters in posts or chat comments! If you fall behind, you can be sure we’ll still be happy to chat later when you catch up.

Please remember to either post a link to your post / thread to the Goodreads group or tag me so that I can find and share your thoughts with the rest of the read-along group.

Want to host a week? Week two or five are still up for grabs; yell, and they’re yours (otherwise you’re at my mercy again, mwahahaha). Prompts for future weeks will be posted on the host blog and/or to the Goodreads group each Saturday or Sunday for the following week.