Kushiel’s Dart Read-along: Week 1 Update

Image credit: Imyril @ onemore.org

The wonderful hosts of Wyrd and Wonder decided to host a read-along of Kushiel’s Dart, the first installment of the Kushiel universe. I have read all the books set in this world and I love this series. I read Kushiel’s Dart 6 or 7 years ago when I was in high school so, when I saw that this read-along was a thing, I wanted to join to refresh my memories and revisit this wonderful world of Terre d’Ange.

I was probably around 16 years old when I first read Kushiel’s Dart. I vividly remember reading the synopsis of this book in a bookshop and putting it down because it sounded more erotica than fantasy and that I was sure I wasn’t going to enjoy it. However, at the time I was a part of a SFF book forum and a lot of people whose opinions I trusted loved the series so I decided to give a try. And I loved it: I flew through Kushiel’s Dart in 2 or 3 days, I couldn’t get enough of Phèdre and her adventures. I read the entire Phèdre trilogy in a summer and I remember being very frustrated because the other books weren’t translated in French at the time. I have very fond memories of this trilogy so I’m very curious to see if I’m going to love Kushiel’s Dart as much the second time around! 😀

If you want to join the read-along, you can find all the info regarding the reading schedule on the Goodreads group page. The first week is hosted by imyril, you can find her introduction post here.

Enough rambles, let’s start answering some questions.

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 do love maps even if I never look at them while I read. I admit that the first time I looked at this map, I was surprised to see that Terre d’Ange was a fictional version of France. I’m French so I’m always curious when I read stories set in my country. I know Terre d’Ange is not strictly France but it is heavily inspired by it and it’s pretty rare to see this kind of setting in fantasy books.

As for Dramatis Personae, I don’t read them or use them as reference when I read. I don’t know why; it would probably help me to follow along but I always forget about them.

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 whole mythology is fascinating and the re-read made me appreciate it even more. Now that I know how much the story of Elua is important to the series, I’m trying to pay more attention to all the details and hints Carey drops.

As for D’Angeline culture, I have mixed feelings about it. Since Terre d’Ange is based on France, I don’t know how I feel about the shallowness of D’Angeline people. 🤔 Is it based on French people or is it completely fictional? I know we French people have a reputation of being assholes (and that’s pretty much correct haha) but, I didn’t know we cared so much about beauty! 😂

Anyway, D’Angelines value beauty above everything else and, I am not finding this quite as charming as the first time I read the book. I know they are all supposed to be born beautiful but, what does it even mean? Beauty is so subjective, it varies from culture to culture so, if you only describe something or someone as beautiful, I can’t picture it. And for me, the most beautiful people have something that put them apart from other people. If everyone is beautiful, who is?

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 love Phèdre and she is obviously devoted to Naamah’s service but, I can’t see a House that would be for me. None of them really appeal to me and, I don’t like the fact that the adepts are groomed to become sex workers from early childhood. It makes me uncomfortable.

Guy, Alcuin and Phèdre are all devoted to the mysterious Anafiel Delaunay. Do you think he deserves their love?

Delaunay is so mysterious. I like this aspect of him, it makes the story more interesting but, he’s also very flawed and I’m seeing even more with the re-read. I do think he deserves Alcuin and Phèdre’s love since he cares for them in his peculiar way. I also don’t think he’s a bad person but, he’s still playing with their feelings. He’s their master, he hides a lot from them yet, he demands their outmost loyalty.

What do you make of Phèdre’s choice of signale?

I love it. Hyacinthe is her best friend and I like the fact that she knows she can count on him to make her safe, always. I would have been disappointed if she chose anything else. I have a fondness for Hyacinthe, he’s great.

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?

Yep, definitely in! I love this universe and Phèdre is such an interesting character. I will try to catch-up to post my updates in a timelier manner! 🙂

18 thoughts on “Kushiel’s Dart Read-along: Week 1 Update

  1. Mental note: pay more attention to the story of Elua. 😄
    I find it interesting that Carey has based her world on ours – I definitely see her using national stereotypes and I’m curious if she will turn them on their heads later on.

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  2. I’d always been curious as to what someone’s who actually French would make of Terre D’Ange! I can see why someone would elect to make France their land of beauty and passion and defiant free willed love as the stereotype of France outside France… but it’s far from the whole story, even outside France. I guess it’s never intended as more than a loose homage? (I guess).

    Did you ever read beyond the original trilogy?

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    1. Yes, it’s probably just a loose homage and for the most part, I can’t say I’m too surprised that Terre d’Ange is portrayed at the land of passion, delicate food and vain people. If I remember correctly, the neighboring countries of Terre d’Ange find D’Angelines very pretentious and, it’s pretty on point with the reputation of French people in general haha.
      Yes, I read the second and third trilogy a bit later in English, I actually read the last Naamah book in 2018 or 2019. 🙂

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  3. I’m not doing the read-along but this series has been tempting me for a while now and I’m enjoying reading everyone else’s thoughts on the story; it’s tempting me to dive into this world a bit sooner than I otherwise thought 😃

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  4. It’s great to have a French opinion on this readalong as I’ve always been curious to know what one would think due to the historical fantasy setting of the series. And I agree about beauty. Many people have something beautiful about them, whether a physical trait or a talent or something in their demeanor.

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    1. Thank you! Since Carey based her world on ours, I’m not too suprised she used a lot of stereotypes but I didn’t remember that beauty was such an important part of D’Angeline culture. I also didn’t question Carey’s vision of beauty when I first read the book but now, I found it a bit narrow and simplistic.
      However, I’m still enjoying my re-read immensely, the writing is superb and I love the characters and the story! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So I have read the entire series, all 9 books, and all sorts of other cultures are explored. I would say that Phedre and most of the D’Angelines we have met have a narrow definition of beauty, not the author. One of the great thing about this series, and even this book, is that Phedre grows with each encounter with another culture.

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      2. Oh that’s correct, I re-read what I just said and yes, I didn’t mean to say “Carey’s vision of beauty” but “D’Angeline’s vision of beauty”, sorry for the mistake! I have also read the 9 books in the series and it’s true that other nations have other canon of beauty (like the Pict who favor people covered in blue tatoos for example!). Thank you for the precision! 🙂

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  5. It’s such a delightful reread – I’m finding so much to chew over, but I’m loving spending time with beloved characters too.

    I don’t think d’Angeline culture is meant to _directly_ reflect France – but, well, I can’t deny I recognise the stereotypes being applied for German, Italian, and British culture 😂 …still, there’s plenty of sauce added here, right? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s such a great book to re-read, it’s so funny to see all the hints Carey keeps on dropping about the events of the trilogy. I didn’t see anything coming the first time yet, she adds a lot of clues very early on! 😀

      Of course, I don’t want to sound too nitpicky, Terre d’Ange is not France, nor is Alba, Great Britain etc. But still, it’s hard to miss the similarities! 😉

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