N. K. Jemisin – The Kingdom of Gods
Length: 584 pages
Started: 30 June 2012
Finished: 08 July 2012
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the series enough to want to see how Jemisin wrapped things up.
Growing up’s the worst
thing you can do to a god
who feeds on childhood.
Summary: Sieh is the oldest godling, the first child of the Three. And yet he’s also the god of childhood, drawing strength from children, their wonder and innocence but also their immaturity and selfishness. This story takes place roughly one hundred years after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, ninety after The Broken Kingdoms. In some ways the world has changed, but in other ways, it has stayed very much the same. The ruling Arameri are still the Arameri, after all. Or so Sieh thinks when he meets two Arameri children roaming the halls of the underpalace. He is expecting them to behave as Arameri have always done, but these children manage to surprise him, and convince him to swear an oath of friendship. But something goes terribly wrong in the act, leaving Sieh unconscious for years… and when he awakes, it is as a young man, a mortal, with his godly power draining out of him, and the processes of age weakening his fundamental nature. Sieh can no longer command the strength of a god, but he must somehow make his way in the world if he is to figure out a cure, and protect the Arameri heirs in the process.
Review: I’m perpetually frustrated by the fact that I don’t like Jemisin’s books more than I do. She’s an excellent writer, a writer with great power, able to craft beautiful bits of prose and wield them to stunning effect. She’s also a great world-builder; the world of the gods and the Arameri and the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not like much else I’ve encountered, and it’s textured and vivid enough to feel real and immediate. And the stories she tells in that world have all been interesting, in summary as well as in specifics. But for all that, there is always something about these novels that seems to be keeping me at arm’s length, something that keeps me from really getting emotionally involved with the characters and their stories. Intellectually, I can stand back and admire these books, and say that, yes, they’re good. But I never quite connect with them, they never really get under my skin the way that books I love often do.
So, that’s a problem I have with the series in general. It was unfortunately true for this installment as well, and even more unfortunate, I thought this one was actually the weakest out of the three. The premise and the story were sound, and the writing was excellent, as usual. But I didn’t find the ending particularly satisfying as a way of wrapping up the questions of a single book, let alone the trilogy as a whole. Furthermore, ever since he was introduced in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Sieh’s been one of my least-favorite characters. He’s just not as interesting to me as Yeine, or Nahadoth, or Oree, or Itempas, and so I correspondingly found it even more difficult to get invested in his plight. (Part of my initial distaste for Sieh may have been Casaundra Freeman’s way of voicing him on the first two audiobooks; thank goodness I read this one in paper, as I don’t know if I could have handled an entire book’s worth of that.) The best parts, for me, were the moments when Sieh was interacting with one of the Three – I thought his relationship dynamics with his parents (and with a lesser extent, with his siblings the godlings, and the mortal Arameri) were more compelling than Sieh ruminating on his own.
The good news is that this book was well-crafted enough to keep me interested, if not always (ever?) fully absorbed. I’m well aware that my reaction is likely to be idiosyncratic, and I’ll keep reading Jemisin’s work in hopes of eventually finding one that sparks. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Hmm. Since I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t love it, I can’t really say whether another reader would or wouldn’t love it. This book relies quite a bit on knowing the backstory, at least for the gods, so it’s not really an effective standalone. If you loved the first two, then, dive in.
“What do you think magic is? Communication. We gods call to reality, and reality responds.” –p. 135
First Line: She looks so much like Enefa, I think, the first time I see her.
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