Reading these discussion questions will tell you how most of the story questions are answered. If you don’t want to know the ending, DON’T READ AHEAD!!
1. Femininity, fertility, and sexuality: Are these concepts related? Should they be? In the story, how are holidays and patron deities used to compare and contrast these concepts?
2. Mothers: Aurelia Onyx’s voice is “smooth and rich, like ice cream, and just as cold” whereas Joy Carmine is known for “taking things in, shining them up, and making them useful again.” Are these two women really as different as they appear? How are they different? How are they similar? Do you think either loves her children more than the other? How effective are they at showing their love?
3. Lamia: Lamia commits horrible crimes in the hopes of having a child of her own. Does her motive make her sympathetic? Does the fact that she is mentally ill excuse her actions? Would Lamia make a good mother? If not, should she be prevented from having a child? In the end, Lamia got what she wanted, sort of. Do you think her fate was reward or punishment?
4. Parental expectations: Noon’s parents seem conflicted about who and what she is. Noon herself is riddled with self-doubt. Are these two facts related? How much of who we are is due to our parents’ perception of us or their idea of who we ought to be? Is rebellion against parental expectations healthy? If so, in what ways?
5. Tough women: Ari tells Noon that he’s never met anyone who is as strong as she is… or as soft. Is this a compliment? What challenges do women in traditionally male dominated careers face when they want to be viewed as “tough”? Is it possible to be seen as “tough” and “feminine” at the same time? If so, how?
6. Quod me nutrit, me destruit (that which nourishes me, also destroys me): This Latin phrase is fairly well-known, and has even inspired a famous tattoo or two. The phrase is sometimes used to refer to drug use or food binging. In the book the phrase is used (somewhat flippantly) to refer to mothers and fire. Are there other examples of this paradox? Can creative and destructive forces co-exist? Should each be given equal respect?
7. Sacrifice for a loved one: Joy Carmine tells Noon, “There are worse fates than dying for someone you love.” Do you believe this? Under what circumstances would it be worse to live, rather than die? Noon was willing to die for Ari, but Nergal wasn’t willing to die for Lamia. Should he have been? Was Nergal’s fate worse than death? Did Nergal deserve what happened to him? Was he really more culpable than Lamia because “he couldn’t use madness as an excuse”?
8. Acceptance versus encouragement to change:
Ari: “I love you for who you are. He wants to turn you into something you’re not.”
Peter: “I want to give you your life’s dream, Noon. And then I want to live that life with you.”
Which perspective is right? What’s more important to you? Do you want a lover who loves you as you are? Or do you want a lover who encourages your dream to change yourself?
* Bonus Question – Ari Carmine:
I was surprised by how passionate readers’ reactions to Ari Carmine were. What are your thoughts? Is he really a “bad boy”? He has demon blood and an executioner’s past, but within the legal system of the world where the story takes place, is he a rebel? Or is he the one who is actually upholding the law? What things has Ari done (or not done) to warrant the “bad boy” label? Is Ari Carmine a bully? Does he go too far in trying to assert his will over Noon? What are his motives for acting the way he does? Do you think loving someone excuses them from being overly protective and controlling?