the Little Red Reviewer

The Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin

Posted on: December 9, 2014

the-awakened-kingdom-by-nk-jemisinThe Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin

published Dec 9 2014 as part of The Inheritance Trilogy Omnibus

where I got it: received eArc from the publisher (thanks Orbit!)

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For those of you who are new to N.K. Jemisin, her newest novella The Awakened Kingdom takes place after the events in The Inheritance Trilogy.  I highly suggest you read the trilogy before reading this bonus novella. Luckily, it all came out today in handy dandy omnibus format! (Oh, you’ve already read the trilogy, and are joining me in singing its praises? No problem, The Awakened Kingdom is available on it’s own as an e-book)

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In some ways, godlings are just like us.  Sometimes, they want the same exact things we want. They want the love and approval of their parents, they want to make friends, they feed bad when they mess up and people get hurt. The newest godling, Shill, is no different.  She desperately wants to see her parents happy. She assumes they made her to help them be happy.   Her naivety is utterly charming, and the novella begins with Shill not even knowing to how to tell a story properly.

 

Have you ever had a four year old tell you a story? They tell it out of order, lose track of what’s happening, explain things in detail that you already know all about, and don’t explain the things you would like to learn more about. There’s plenty of backtracking, of remember of details and forgetting of others. it’s completely adorable, and there’s a part of you that doesn’t even care about the actual story, you just want to spend more time with this little person who is so very excited to tell you about their day, because you hope some of their joyful innocence will rub off on you. When we first meet Shill, she’s a little like that. Don’t worry, she’s gets better.

Human children grow through time.  There is an average weight and height for children of different months and years old. An average age at which you start to walk, and to talk, and eventually the time comes when you grow into yourself. When you are a godling, time is something you are apart from. Godlings do not grow or learn on any schedule but their own, and their growth is dependent on experiences. They grow by doing, instead of waiting until they are old enough to do something. Make sense?

 

All Shill starts out knowing is that her parents are very sad. They have been grief stricken  since her sibling went away. She grows through experience, and it would be beyond cruel to give her the experiences required to understand the hows and whys of grief and mourning.  She wrongly assumes her parents created her to replace her lost sibling. She thinks if she can imitate him close enough and fill the hole he left behind, then their grief will go away. She’ll need to be someone she’s not, but it’s worth it for their approval, right? Because then they will be happy! This is where you raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to be someone you’re not for the sake of someone else’s happiness.

 

Before long, Shill ventures to the mortal realm. It’s a messy few hours, since she doesn’t understand how to interact safely with mortals. She lands in Darre, befriends a young man named Eino, and is taught some manners by a  sibling who is bound to the mortal realm.  If Shill wants to learn about her nature, to learn about mortals, and to learn about the risks of being someone you’re not, she couldn’t have chosen a better place.

 

Eino too, is being pressured to be someone and something he isn’t.   He’s beyond caring less about his family’s love or approval, but his clan’s future is at stake. If he doesn’t do what’s expected of him, there will be serious ramifications. There is a lot about this part of the story that I am not telling you, but I can say that  it involves epic fantasy tropes and assumptions that Jemisin  deftly flips on their head. You can practically feel the wind get knocked out of you when it happens, you can hear the “whumph” when they hit the floor. This is not about crushing or defeating assumptions, it is about seeing them in a different way.

 

The biggest difference between Eino and Shill is that he knows exactly how to be the person his family will approve of and love.  It’s actually quite easy.  But it would destroy him as a person, and he will not go willingly to his own destruction.

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This is one of the most life affirming and person affirming stories I’ve read in a long time, and damn did I love it. My favorite parts were Shill’s interactions with her family. I sympathized with her parents, that even they aren’t sure how to explain that every time they look at her they want to cry, because of who she reminds them of, and of who she can become. Without understanding her nature, she can’t possibly understand that lumps in throats and tears in eyes can be pain and joy all at once and all in the same instant, and that even The Three require experiences to grow.
If you are a fan of Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, you will love every word of The Awakened Kingdom. You’ll love Shill for who she is, while still missing the person she won’t ever be.  I imagine it’s no accident that Jemisin presented Shill’s story in such a way that the reader feels the same pain and joy her family is feeling.

5 Responses to "The Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin"

I still got the third book to read as I only finished book two last week! Then I will read this as well, if nothing else because I absolutely love the sound of the narrative style. I love unique narration.

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I can’t wait to pick up the Inheritance Omnibus🙂

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I loved reading this. It was a breat return to a beloved fantasy world, and it made me want to read the trilogy all over again! Jemisin’s a freaking master of storytelling!

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my thoughts exactly!

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Woot! I’m a big fan of Jemisin’s works, so I am looking forward to reading this one. (And picking up the omnibus, too, because why not?)

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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