Thursday, 15 October 2020

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel's Dart Readalong, Part Six

Let us finish this.

Phèdre risks everything yet again on a chance to finish what she started, and keep her word to Ysandre. Joscelin does the same trying to thwart Selig, if not stop him. What were your thoughts about their last confrontation with the Skaldi warlord, and what it means for their relationship?

I think the big thing, looking back, is that everything 
Phèdre and Joscelin had done for each other and everyone else up to that point, mostly had to be done. The situations they'd got themselves into left little room for thought. But in these moments in the book, the threat is not face to face. They could say "someone else". Instead, they say "this is my task" even at the cost of seemingly certain self-destruction.

And I think that experience of knowing again, and now with complete certainty, just how far each other will go breaks certain barriers between them. They knew, but but now they *know*. 

Isidore d'Aiglemort turns out to be the hero that Terre D'Ange needs, if not the one they want. Do you think Phèdre made the right call, making him that offer? What do you think of his final act, and the reasons that drive him to it? Is he a hero, or was he ultimately still only a tool in the hands of others?

Yes. Hero and tool both, at least for a given value of tool. I would in fact advance the theory that any true hero is acting in service to someone - or at least something - else. Joscelin is 
Phèdre's tool, Phèdre is Anafiel's tool and then Ysandre's, and Ysandre is the tool of her people. That's how it should be. A person with the attributes of a hero and no drive beyond their own desires is a villain in the making. Here endeth the pontificating.

And yes, I think Phèdre absolutely made the right call. Isidore holds the balance of power and more over, the reasons why he acted were always things that could be redirected back to the service of Terre D'Ange.

Melisande faces the consequences of her actions, though it seems her 'deep game' is not over. Do you think she was prepared for her plan to fail, or was she seizing any opportunity to save herself with that escape? What are your thoughts on her after her last conversation with Phèdre?

I don't know. I feel like we know a lot about Melisande, but not whether she's the sort of person that is planning for the worst even when the best seems to be happening. Which is arguably a hole in the characterisation.

As for who she is after that last conversation... she's charismatic, even magnetic, but there's nothing of worth underneath.

Finally, everyone gets a chance to rest and recover, and Phèdre is richly rewarded for her deeds - in a few senses. How do you feel about her (double-edged) Happily Ever After with Joscelin? And do you think she's doing the right thing, choosing to find the traitor who freed Melisande in her own way?

Anafiel Delaunay's pupil to the last.

As for the edges on her happily ever after... well, when it's as happy as happily ever after gets, I don't think there's too much worth to considering the edges. And it does look very happy, at least for the while.

And as always, please do share any other thoughts you had on this finale! Were there any particular moments that stood out for you?

It irks me that nobody stops to count Drustant's tiny army of, what, 3,500, vs the 7,000 soldiers Isidore D'Aiglemort has. Love as thou wilt, and there are some bad precedents in giving guys like Isidore exactly what they want, but the author has done little to convince me that in terms of pure practicality it shouldn't have been Isidore next to Ysandre. Better story? No. But better story if it's made clearer that's not the case? I think so.

This is still a very good story. Phèdre's arc and character is just great, and the characters are compelling. This probably won't be the last time I read this story. However, with my writer's hat on, I have to ask myself why this book isn't in the genre's major canon (correctly imo - more asking why it missed than perception) and I have three answers

1) A book full of kinky and taboo sex scenes will always faces a struggle to be mainstream
2) Luck
3) The world isn't given enough coherent logic and specialness to be remembered as well as Phèdre

Which is no big. The story of Phèdre no Delaunay is prize enough.


  1. It's also awfully convenient that the death of Selig causes instant disarray. He's got - what - 10,000? people in the field, but word spreads almost instantly and everything unravels (although to be fair, I guess it only takes a certain critical mass of people you know are on your side running away to start a rout with no questions asked).

    ...and I guess the measure of Isidore d'Aiglemort is whether I think that he would have taken advantage of this moment to make his superior force count if he hadn't been mostly dead. It would have been hard but perhaps possible to win the crown after all. And that's where I perhaps have to give ground on him being a smidge heroic - because in my heart of hearts I think he was honourable enough _not_ to turn coat one last time.

    I like the finale: it's grand and epic if yes, a little simplistic really ;) I think it's likely the kinky sex that has made this a cult classic rather than mainstream.

    1. The finale is grand! You're right about the convenience of the rout (although they're getting beat up anyway, so it's not that big), but the finale is grand and epic enough that I didn't really question it. Just lots of other things :P

      And on better examination - Isidore had 5k before the invasion, and 3.5k at the battle. I think even if alive, he's only really got the numbers to say "I go into exile rather than get executed" - the D'Angeline-Cruithne forces outnumber him. I still say just going with the 5k and having Isidore trick Selig woulda worked better though...

    2. Dammit! When even MATHS is determined to keep you honest ;)

    3. Keeping track of this is so much easier with electronic documents and word search :D

  2. Ha! I love that you call Isadore a tool. I wouldn't do it to his face, but I feel the name has merit.
    In regards to Melisande - do you think people can change? What would it take for her to break out of her selfishness and powerhunger?
    I adore this story and often recommend it to my epic fantasy fans, yet so many are automatically turned off by the sex. Sigh... I'm not big on romance myself, but this story really works and I think the world of Terre D'Ange would be incomplete without the sex and, yes, the romance.
    I'm glad you joined us for the readalong and it's been great to see this book through your eyes.

    1. I'm glad someone else joined the double meaning of tool there :)

      As for Melisande - I cannot answer without spoilers! But her story is continued in the rest of the trilogy, and the one following.

      It is a big shame that so many can't get past the sex/romance - although the only other real person I recommended it to never got that far, just didn't like the prose and Phedre, and I'm in retrospect grateful for that as it was my mother. Dunno what I was thinking tbh (other than my, wasn't there a shortage of female led fantasy there). I do find it weird how many people are "oh! sex! no" when so much of our culture is saturated with it.

      And finally, thank you! It's been great going through this with you all - and I really need to catch up on other people's comments sections :)