the Little Red Reviewer

The Kingdom of Gods, by N.K. Jemisin

Posted on: May 3, 2014

the-kingdom-of-gods-by-nk-jemisinThe Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin (Inheritance trilogy, book 3)

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased new

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This is the third book in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.  It’s straight up fantasy, but it’s the kind of fantasy that’s tough to categorize, which means it’s the kind of fantasy I really like.  You can’t go into this novel blind, you really do need to read the first two books in the series.  Each book in the series is told from a different characters point of view. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is Yeine’s story, her journey from mortal heir to goddess. The Broken Kingdoms is Oree’s story, a blind artist who becomes the mother of a demon.  This final book is Sieh’s story, that of a godling who refused to grow up.

 

And why should he “grow up”? Sieh is the godling of childhood, after all. He’s the godling of tricks and white lies, spying, and coming home to loving parents. Above all, Sieh craves loves from his parents. He’ll never admit it, but he’s also the godling of not understanding the consequences of his actions. Not unlike your average ten year old.

 

The gods have been free of the enslavement of the Arameri family for generations, yet Sieh still finds himself drawn to their palace. This is where he grew up, where hidden caches of toys are mingled with horrible memories. These days, the palace is nearly empty. Sieh meets two young mortal siblings, Shahar and Dekarta, who are lost in the underpalace. He helps them, and befriends them.  The kids of course, want to be “friends forever”, like all eight year olds promise to their friends, but to Sieh, this smells of the enslavement of old. “Friends forever” means something different when you are Sieh. But he can’t blame these kids for the sins of their ancestors. What they want from him is completely innocent, right?   They seal their agreement with blood, and in a flash, the world ends.

Eight years later, Sieh wakes up.    He wakes up eight years older.  Thus, we come to the crux of the story: Sieh, the eternal godling of childhood,  is aging.  If you’re new to this series, you won’t understand how terrifying that is. Many of the gods and godlings have gone through changes and shifts of their lives. But childhood is his nature, so Sieh has always been immune to that, he’s always been protected. He is the eternal child, and all adults want to shield children from something that will hurt them.

 

But Sieh is aging, and he can’t control it or stop it.  He is being pulled away from his nature, from everything that defines him. How long can this possibly go on?  How long until his body reaches a human’s life span, and he dies? Is it possible for a Godling to die of natural causes? There is a scene early on, when Sieh and Shahar are in their late teens. An Arameri heir, Shahar will do whatever it takes to gain power and control over those who might take it from her. She does truly care about Sieh, but she seduces him, all for the point of getting pregnant by him. Sieh’s hurt response is more complicated than Shahar expects. When she mentions the possibility of conception, his response is “what, do you want to kill me?”. Fatherhood is, afterall, the antithesis of childhood.

 

It would have been just fine if Jemisin wanted to write an entire book on just that. But her world is a large one, and the universe doesn’t stop because one little godling is having a crisis. It’s of course not publicly known, but the once all-powerful Arameri family is struggling to survive. The palace is nearly empty, and an assassin is picking off cousins like it’s going out of style. It’s a strange mask that is killing the mortals. Rumored to give momentary godhood to anyone who wears is, mortals can not resist the mask. They put it on, and are dead within minutes.

 

So there is Sieh’s disease. There is something killing off the remaining Arameri family. And there is a third thing going on here, something lurking in the deepest realms of Sieh’s memory, something he can’t quite grasp, something that was purposely hidden from him.  He wants to remember it, but he doesn’t. More importantly, who could possibly have the power to do something like that to his memories?

 

I was so drawn to Sieh’s story, to what was happening to him, that the plotline about the deadly masks didn’t really keep my attention. I wanted this book to be all Sieh, all the time! No one wants their perfect child to grow up, but you still want your child to grow into their potential, right?  I felt bad for Sieh, of course, but as he ages, he becomes just slightly more okay with what’s happening.  That meant I felt more and more okay with what was happening. Which ultimately meant the ending didn’t break my heart as much as I expected it to.

 

These fantasy novels where humans have direct interactions with gods and godlings? I’m in a phase where I can’t get enough of it.  Us humans tend to treat the immortal with the same disrespect we treat other humans – we connive, we trick, we enslave, we manipulate, we do whatever it takes to get what we want. And the gods and godlings let us. maybe because they are amused by it? maybe because it’s their nature? I don’t know. But I sure as hell enjoy stories that deal with that dynamic.

 

What is your nature? what is your antithesis?  Gods and godlings are trapped in that which defines them.  Maybe they put up with us mortals because they are fascinated by our ultimate freedom from nature. We can change who we are. We can grow out of bad habits. Immortals can’t do any of that.

 

I was struggling with if I should recommend this series to my husband. I talked up the first book in the series left and right. I wouldn’t tell him what it was about, just that he needed to read it. I was a smidgen quieter in my love for the second book (even though I think the second is my favorite), and was even more tight lipped in my verbal praise for the third. Only to my husband, mind you. I’ve been recommending these books all over the place to my female friends.  Here’s why:  Each book involves a mortal having a sexual affair with an immortal.  And these are the kinds of sex scenes that would make a mortal male feel inadequate.

 

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1 Response to "The Kingdom of Gods, by N.K. Jemisin"

“Each book involves a mortal having a sexual affair with an immortal. And these are the kinds of sex scenes that would make a mortal male feel inadequate.” Hahahaha… sums it up rather well. I think my boyfriend would love them, but have been hesitant to demand he read them for exactly that reason.

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