Gah! I’m so late with this post. Life got busy for a minute there, but guess what?? I’m participating in a group readalong for Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. I’m very excited for this because it’s a book that’s been on my shelves for quite some time that I often hear great things about and have wanted to read but, of course, didn’t get around to it until now.
The readalong is hosted by Imyril of the Wyrd & Wonder crew, but each week someone new will pop in to host discussions. We’re now halfway through the second week, but here are my responses to the first week discussion, which was hosted by Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More.
If you’d like to join in the readalong, you can check out the links above or visit the Goodreads group for the reading schedule or to share your thoughts on the book.
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?
I love a map in a book, especially for fantasy novels, even if I don’t end up using it, which is my experience so far with Kushiel’s Dart. For some reason, seeing the map increases my excitement for the story. It makes me think the story will be about a long journey filled with exciting adventures. I always think that when I see a map in a novel, even if I know beforehand that there won’t be any exciting adventures. But the list of characters is a different thing.
It intimidates me a little. My immediate thought was “Dammit, that’s a lot of characters I’ll have to keep track of.” It can be helpful, but I hate that it’s one of the first things I see before starting the story. I always stop and read the whole thing, which makes it even more intimidating if it’s a long list like this one in Kushiel’s Dart. I prefer when everyone’s listed in a glossary or something. Just move those lists to the back of the book and let me know in the index that they’re there.
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?
So I didn’t think of this as a reimagining of our world. I thought of it as a fantastical world that takes some influences from our world’s history, religion, and myths. As someone who LOVES rich worldbuilding and interesting religions and beliefs in fantasy, I was impressed and enthralled by what we learn in these chapters about this story’s world: its beliefs and how its society is structured based on those beliefs.
I thought Elua and his Companions were interesting because of the similarities there to Christian stories. I suspect that it’s probably more similar to certain stories from Catholicism, but I don’t know anything about Catholicism to tell. Of course, I was interested and am very curious about the D’Angeline culture — it’s worship and focus on beauty and pleasure and why that is. Because of how the story is narrated, I felt very confused while reading the first couple chapters. Much of it focused on world building and introducing us to characters, but I felt overwhelmed by all the information, so the story didn’t make much sense to me until the chapters where Phèdre has been living with Delaunay for some time. So, of course, I’ve already decided that I want to reread this book. I really like the writing.
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?
I’d love a list of all the houses and what services they provide. As I read, I tried to form a list in my mind, but I couldn’t keep them straight. I think it would have been helpful, and less intimidating, if such a list appeared at the front of the book and the list of characters were moved to the back.
But I find the houses very interesting. It’s weird, but I kept thinking of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton as I read. It’s a YA fantasy book about young women named for flowers who work at court or special tea houses to make people beautiful. I kept thinking of the setting of the book and the names of the Belles as I read this one. The two books have nothing in common, but I kept thinking of Kushiel’s Dart as a… more mature kinda-version/concept of The Belles.
Anyway, I haven’t yet fleshed out my thoughts on the adepts and service of Naamah and all yet. I’m surprised they start out so young, and at the same time I’m not since I suspect that the world here is probably influenced by one of those old European courts, like France or something. I also wonder if night court actually runs on a form of slavery and if only those of the D’Angeline line are born into it. (I haven’t puzzled that out yet.) Also, I found it interesting that it’s normalized (or seems normalized) in this society for a person to have a job in which they provide sensual pleasure and seem respected for it, but the slur “whore” is still thrown around. I just don’t have a handle on the society and all yet.
As for what house I would patronize…
I think it would be an interesting experience to visit them.
I just don’t know enough about them. I think of the houses as all providing some sort of sensual pleasure, but I don’t think it always includes copulation since they all focus on different things. Maybe that’s why the term “whore” can be hurled as something derogatory since the night court apparently provides more stimulation than just sex.
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?
Ha! Good question. Omg! I am so suspicious of him! I must confess that I’m the type of reader who spoils herself when she can’t bear to remain in suspense too long, so I looked up this Delaunay dude to see if he can be trusted. However, I’m also the kind of reader who spoils herself and then forgets the spoilers she read, so I’m still suspicious of him and don’t know if he can be trusted. He tries to do right by Alcuin and Phèdre, but I suspect he’s up to something. I wonder if he’s truly the nice guy they all believe him to be. Sometimes I think he’s a bastard prince vying for the throne or maybe an assassin (that’s my most popular theory so far) sent to kill someone (I don’t know who yet). He’s definitely plotting to take over something. I’m thinking the kingdom, or maybe the night court. How influential is the night court?
What do you make of Phèdre’s choice of signale?
I loved that moment. I was like, aww… I don’t expect her to fall in love with Hyacinthe (and won’t mind if she does), but I think it shows how much she values their friendship. I hope Hyacinthe feels the same. I suspect that he’ll become a prince of thieves or something. I keep thinking of him in that way. I wonder if Delaunay will use him against her. Hyacinthe might be Phèdre’s weak spot. (I keep thinking of Phèdre and Alcuin as assassins, smh…. Are they?)
…plus of course any other thoughts you’d like to share.
So… I really didn’t expect it to be BDSM high fantasy although Imyril mentioned it in one of her posts (I think). Somehow I glazed over those letters, so those scenes caught me by surprise. I was like “Hold the fuck up!”
I liked the subtle hints in the writing regarding what Phèdre desires. I just didn’t expect Carey to be descriptive about the act when it happens.
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?
Yeah man. I’m still in this.
I hope we get to see another Midwinter Masque. About a year or two ago, someone told me that a masked ball inspired by this event in Kushiel’s Dart is held in my area in December. I wonder how true that is. Of course, back then I didn’t know what the person was referring to since I knew nothing about the book. But I thought it was a cool idea to have a masked party inspired by a masked ball in a fantasy story.