Read-Along: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – Week One

Welcome to the Kushiel’s Dart Read-Along, where week by week we read and explore the first in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.

| Week One |

Welcome to the first post in the Kushiel’s Dart Read-Along, where week by week we read and explore the first in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.

The first novel in the Kushiel’s Legacy series has got off to a rather slow start but, while I’m not fully invested in Phèdre or the Night Court just yet, I am keen to see how the narrative unfolds in this popular fantasy read. This week Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More has some juicy questions to kick off the Read-Along in which I’ll discuss the elements of the narrative I enjoyed and those that weren’t entirely to my taste.

Be warned – there will be spoilers!

| The Questions |

| 1. |

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 am always here for a map, and the more of them the merrier!

I don’t often read through Dramatis Personae, unless I am starting a subsequent book in a series and need a bit of a refresh, but I have no problem with either starting or ending a book with one, especially when there are so many characters with incredibly florid names.

| 2. |

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 re-imagined the world?

This romanticised and dreamlike take on our world is interesting and detailed, if a little too idealised. There is an incredible amount of information to take in at this stage, and the florid language only serves to add another layer of complexity to a world which is already verging on the confusing for this first time reader.

| 3. |

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?

The Court of Night-Blooming Flowers is one of the most confusing, disturbing and interesting aspects of this novel so far.  The Night Court is described in such a way that it seems as though it is the centre of noble society – a society seemingly made entirely of courtesans. Now I understand this is probably confusion on my part but, apart from the vaguest hints, where are all the other citizens? What do they do when they don’t belong to the Night Court or use its services? I know there’s only so much that can be put into these overlong opening chapters but I found this lack of clarity very confusing.

I also found the aspect that children grow up to serve Namaah and are essentially groomed to join one of thirteen houses of the Night Court incredibly disturbing and off-putting. While the children, Alcuin and Phèdre included, do make their own choice to serve Namaah when they ‘come of age’, and I’m all for sex positivity, it is a choice bred of grooming, psychological manipulation and a lack of worldly knowledge and I’m not entirely comfortable with that. There also seems to be much buying and trading of flesh between houses which amounts to little more than slavery. These aspects of the novel make me incredibly uneasy and I find Phèdre’s obsessive desire at such a young age, and the desire of numerous adults for those who can only be considered children, unbelievably disturbing.

| 4. |

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?

Both Alcuin and Phèdre seem content to blindly follow Delaunay to the ends of the earth, even though his motives are most certainly not clear at this stage. He  treats them well, or as well as you could treat someone you’ve bought with the intention of controlling, but he is not entirely honest and his protégés most definitely hero-worship with little thought to the reasons behind their purchase.

| 5. |

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

Phèdre’s choice of signale is both sad and beautiful. To have but one true friend in the world who doesn’t require anything in return for that friendship highlights what a lonely existence children of the Night Court lead. I am all here for Phèdre and Hyacinthe’s honest, beautiful and roguish friendship.

| 6. |

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?

While, for me, this was something of a slow start which wades through much of Phèdre’s childhood in excessive, flowery detail, the incredible number of good reviews from so many respected reviewers means I am more than happy to stick with it in hope that the narrative will soon start to kick off. I’m also looking forward to enjoying the story from Phèdre’s adult perspective as I find the childhood sexualisation and servitude somewhat disturbing.

| The Schedule |

Week One

[ Thursday 03rd September ]

Chapters 1 – 16 – hosted by Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More

Week Two

[ Thursday 10th September ]

Chapters 17 – 31 – hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness

Week Three

[ Thursday 17th September ]

Chapters 32 – 47 – hosted by Zezee at Zezee with Books

Week Four

[ Thursday 24th September ]

Chapters 48 – 61 – hosted by Mayri at BookForager

Week 5

[Thursday 01st October ]

Chapters 62 – 79 – hosted by Peat Long at Peat Long’s Blog

Week 4

[ Thursday 08th October ]

Chapters 80 – End – hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.

Stay tuned for Week Two of this Read Along on 10th September

What are your thoughts on this week’s instalment of Kushiel’s Dart?

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20 thoughts on “Read-Along: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – Week One

  1. Sounds like we’ve reacted very similarly to these opening chapters! The Night Court has really bothered me this time around for exactly the same reasons: the children are sold into it and have to work their way free (and if they say no to Naamah’s Service, how do they do that? I guess they get sold on again?). I could try and argue the case that in Terre d’Ange, apprenticeships are presumably the normal way of things and this is just another form of apprenticeship – for one of the most highly respected professions in the land, and with the bonus of living in the lap of luxury – but it’s a big ask (not least because we haven’t seen what ‘normal’ looks like yet; we’ve had a glimpse of the nobility and of their playground on Mont Nuit). I don’t know if you’ve read The Tethered Mage, but I have had Zaira on my shoulder muttering darkly throughout this first week’s read 😂

    I have more sympathy for Delaunay but only because this is a reread for me so I know some of his secrets (although I can’t remember all of them). I definitely find him suspicious based purely on what’s been presented so far though – and I think you choose the perfect description of Phèdre and Alcuin’s attitude with ‘hero worship’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right – it probably is intended to normalise the profession in this world, much like an apprenticeship. If Carey had simply mentioned it in passing, rather than devoting 150 odd pages to her childhood, I don’t think I’d find it so troublesome, but it is what it is I suppose! Phèdre seems to almost be an adult now at any rate so perhaps these issues won’t persist for the remainder of the novel.

      And I suppose we can’t really blame both Phèdre and Alcuin for hero-worshipping Delaunay. It seems that neither of them had been shown much kindness up until they met him and perhaps that is all it takes – they are still children (or near enough) after all!


  2. It’s on my bucket list – to take part in a read-along… But this time around I’m just too stacked out with books and slightly shattered after the book launch of Mantivore Warrior. Next time, maybe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure it will – I’ve heard so many good things about the series that I’m sure I will settle in soon! It certainly wasn’t a slog to read the first 150 pages even though I found them a little slow. Fingers crossed!!! 😀


  3. I like your initial assessment of the Night Court (‘The Court of Night-Blooming Flowers is one of the most confusing, disturbing and interesting aspects of this novel so far.’) As the story moves forward, you’ll get to see other aspects to society. It’s not all sex workers and nobles. And I think you’re right about the kids holding some hero worship for Anafiel, especially Alcuin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good to know, I suppose we can only experience what Phèdre experiences after all!

      And the hero-worship makes more sense the more I think about it. After all, children do tend to latch on to vibrant personalities, especially when they’ve been kind or have earned gratitude in some way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Do to the flowery writing and the many characters we are introduced to so quickly, this one felt a little overwhelming when I started. I didn’t feel as if I had a handle on the story until the chapter where Alcuin gets bid on, somewhere about there. I think I’ll need to reread this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt quite overwhelmed but things seem to have improved since Phèdre has grown up a little! I’m enjoying the politics and intrigue now, and Carey writes less of the issues that made me uncomfortable during the opening chapters. The flowery language also seems to work better in the moment than when you have such a large information dump!


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