'Ey up all, it's time for another Wyrd&Wonder read along and this time, it's Kushiel's Dart, a book dear to my heart for it's uniqueness. Great stories - in my opinion at least - are great because they do many different things at once. Kushiel's Dart is an intrigue, a romance, a slice of life as a courtesan in a magical fairyland, openly erotic yet full of mystery. There's almost nothing like it in mainstream fantasy for concept and few like it for quality; to me, I would compare Jacqueline Carey here to Guy Gavriel Kay for the ability to take character-led stories of growth and patiently turn them into emotionally powerful plots (the near-historical, low-magic worldbuilding and slightly old fashioned storytelling aids this comparison too).
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?
The very first time I read it, I was too impressed by the mythology and what not to be particularly critical. This time is a wee bit different for reasons I'll mainly cover in the next question. But in general, I remain interested and impressed. It's Europe as fairytale; if some of the overly romanticised stereotypes pall a little (Pictish Britain! Bloodthirsty Germanics! Mysterious Romany!) it's only a little.
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?
Let's do the easy part first; I paid special attention when Phèdre was describing the houses so I could answer the last question and now I'm here, I can barely remember a thing. There's too many of them! I'm reminded of the clan proliferation of White Wolf's Old World of Darkness (I'd put money on Carey having played Vampire the Masquerade) and wish the list was more boiled down. Besides, everyone else seems to have ducked the question of which group of courtesans intrigues them most, so I feel no shame about doing so myself! Strange how the attitude to sex is the most fantastical thing here.
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?
"It is human nature, to give in hope of getting."
And I think that in this light, Delaunay has given more than enough to all of them to be worthy of their love. Has he got more from them than is fair? We will see.
It makes perfect sense - for all I have said of transactional love, Hyacinthe is the one who asks least of her - but I am amused at the slight attempt to rile Delaunay and his sense of appropriateness with it. And judging from his response she succeeds, if only a little. And the choice of his words leads me to...
...plus of course any other thoughts you'd like to share.
The nature of his response leads me to a little something that Imyril pointed out about illegitimacy and the use of whore as an insult.
"Why not? It's a good enough choice; no one need know you mean a Tsingani soothsayer's by-blow when you speak it."
The word whore is used as an insult four different times in this section; by the dowayne of Cereus House, by Hyacinthe, by society in general, and Childric d'Essoms. The servants of the Night Courts might be held in great respect, but they're also held in a little contempt too, and aren't above spreading it around. I'm reminded of some of the irregular verbs from Yes Minister - "I give confidential press briefs, you leak, he is charged under section 2b of the Official Secrets Act".
Well the Kushiel's Dart version of this Russel's conjugation (as I've just learned it is properly known) probably runs "I am a servant of Namaah, you are a high priced courtesan, he/she/it is a jumped-up whore". I think this is deliberate, another vein of darkness placed to remind everyone this fairytale world isn't as pretty on the inside as it is on the out. Which I think is right; people use the word love a lot when talking about this series, but I think a better word might be passion. This is a world where people don't hold back at all, for better or for worse.