Read-along: Kushiel’s Chosen – week two

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

Phèdre is back, and the d’Angeline court can’t get enough of her. But the most satisfying patrons in the City of Elua can’t heal the bruises left by Joscelin’s cold shoulder or help her sleep at night. As the pieces start to fall into place, it becomes clear to her that she won’t find her answers in Terre d’Ange – but what will be cost of persuading Joscelin to accompany her to La Serenissima?

It’s the second week of our Wyrd and Wonder read-along of Kushiel’s Legacy, and the dial is set for spicy in every sense. Unlike Phèdre and Joscelin, let’s talk… about chapters 18-30.

Marmion Shahrizai has a sudden fall from grace this week. What’s your take on how he handled Persia’s treason – and on how Ysandre handles him? Do you feel sorry for him? Do you think we’ll see him again?

It’s so easy to disdain Marmion Shahrizai. He’s very arrogant for a man who is fundamentally terrified (and with good reason. Melisande is far more scary than he is), and he’s just not very clever. For all we learn about Shahrizai subtlety and cruelty in Kushiel’s Dart, Marmion is an absolute novice. His best move is making nice to Ysandre in the hope she’ll protect him, but he really hasn’t been paying attention if he actually thought that was going to work.

For all that, I do feel sorry for him. He’s unmasked and exiled here less for getting his sister killed and more because Barquiel L’Envers wants… well, I’m actually not sure what he wanted. To set an example? To assuage his general bad temper by seeing someone have a really bad day? To punish Melisande by proxy? (unlikely) To separate his royal niece from a charming young man with bad judgement who can’t be trusted not to trip up and cause an international incident? (maybe)

Maybe he thought Marmion would have more information to give up than he did. I’m quite comfortable with Barquiel L’Envers being disappointed; I don’t mistrust him as Phèdre does, but I don’t like him either.

Motives aside, I like this scene as an illustration of Ysandre’s authority. We have seen her be insightful and indulgent in this book, but here we see her be a Queen. Whatever her private feelings may or may not have been – and I suspect they were little more than ‘oh look, a convenient pawn to distract a court obsessed with whether I’ll take a lover’ – she doesn’t hesitate to enforce the law and to make it quite clear she’s angry with everyone about the whole affair. She will not indulge people who secrets from her, usurp her authority or break her laws.

What do you make of Nicola L’Envers y Aragon? Do you trust her? Do you think she’s right in her assessment of Barquiel L’Envers?

Hooboy, did it suddenly get awfully warm in here? Not going to lie, Nicola is one of the three elements I remember vividly from previous reads (I can’t imagine why, ahem) and there’s been a lot of anticipation building up to that first assignation. Phew. Still dynamite.

Regardless of whether I trust her, I like Nicola. She has great enthusiasm for sexual subterfuge but appears to lack the subtlety for it. Sure, that may all be an act to disarm Phèdre, but I enjoy how excited she seems to help a mistress of the art. We talked last week about how Chosen mirrors Dart – Nicola is clearly the mirror to Melisande, but her connection with Phèdre has a great deal more warmth.

That said, while I happen to agree with her assessment of Barquiel, I don’t necessarily trust her judgement of him. Although I suspect we’d both agree that he’d wildly disapprove of her giving Phèdre the L’Envers emergency support code.

Phèdre returns to the Night Court as a patron, seeking help to understand her dreams. How have your impressions of the Night Court evolved since we first met Phèdre in Cereus House?

I’m not sure my position on the Night Court has shifted very far at all, to be honest – I’ve still got all the misgivings – but it’s lovely to see someone enjoy their job this week, just as it was good to see (with Favrielle) how the Courts extend beyond the service of Naamah.

Much has been made of Joscelin standing at a crossroads. Did any of his choices this week surprise you? Any thoughts on what roads he may walk down – and where they may lead him?

As Joscelin’s arc is one of those three things I remember, I’ll mostly duck this except to say that I like the way the narrative keeps coming back to this image of Joscelin as a man eternally caught between irreconcilable loyalties. I have a great deal of sympathy for people with overcommitment issues, heh. I also like that for all the spats and wilful cruelty we also get quiet moments between him and Phèdre that underscore how much he does still love her.

I get so frustrated by him – and by Phèdre, who is at times wilfully hurtful towards him – but you can mostly see how tormented he is. If I’m really honest though? I don’t entirely understand what his main beef with her is: I have it down as hurt that she won’t give up her former life as he has had to give up his, but I’m not sure how many nuances to read into his decision to limit himself to being her protector rather than her lover. Unrelated, I think it’s a damn good thing she decided not to sleep with Fortun. A man has limits, after all.

On the road again… Phèdre discovers she has friends in unexpected places and allies in every port. What was your gut reaction to the confrontation with the Unforgiven? Any predictions for what may await in La Serenissima?

SCREAMING. I had completely forgotten the scenes with the Unforgiven and while I knew Joscelin definitely wasn’t going to get killed, I couldn’t remember – and didn’t predict – how it would all play out. Literally reading on the edge of my seat.

My word, Phèdre leaves a mark wherever she goes; and I have a soft spot for a legion of bad-asses who will drop everything to do the right thing… but are aware they have made bad choices in the past and think this lady can point them in the right direction. With apologies to anyone who isn’t in on The Expanse, big Amos energy, right there. Although to be fair to them, they think (and they’re probably not wrong) she’s the avatar of a demi-god rather than just a middle-class bloke with white knight syndrome.

The thing I’m taking from that whole scene though? If she needs them (and can get word to them, I guess), Phèdre can summon a legion of bad-asses. Nice. Also, she should be very careful about what she wishes for in front of them, because they’ll likely get right on it.

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 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
  • Week Six | Chapter Seventy-one through the end – hosted by Lisa @ Dear Geek Place

Fancy joining us? Drop a comment to let us know and jump on in! 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 as 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 five is still up for grabs (otherwise you’re at my mercy). 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.