Mark Reads ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’: Chapter 4

In the fourth chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Yeine learns of the gods’ interest in her and Dekarta’s intentions. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Chapter Four: Magician

I can tell that reading this book is going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’m already willing to meet. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a lot denser and more layered than most of what I’ve read for this site, and Jemisin liberally uses words, phrases, and names that I’m struggling to remember. But I am getting more familiar with this world in the process! This is what excites me about worldbuiling so much. It’s like I’m getting to travel without ever leaving home, and I’m using this novel like a guidebook to some mysterious place. I mean, right off the bat, chapter four deals with a lot of heavy shit, including more gods, one god’s daughter, a couple marks of protection, and a rather intense conversation about what Yeine’s purpose is in Sky. Throughout all of this, I learn more details about this fictional universe, and it makes me so happy to say that I’ve literally never read anything like this in my life.

So! Nahadoth is not dead, though Yeine’s attempt to kill him is looked on favorably by Sieh and a new god, one of Nahadoth’s daughters, Zhakka. It was unclear to me what her realm was or what she was the god of, but I’m sure that’s not important yet. What I did understand was that these gods had plans for her. Plans! To do…. a thing! Which involves… something? The entire meeting is rushed so that Sieh can get Yeine to Viraine in time, but I was struck by Sieh’s insistence that if they just explained themselves to Yeine, she’d understand. Would she??? I got that this was always supposed to a matter of winning Yeine over to their side, not any sort of manipulation, but due to time constraints, Zhakka puts some sort of invisible mark on Yeine anyway.

“You will look like one of them, but in truth you’ll be free.”

“Are they…” All the sigil-marked Arameri? Was that who she meant? “… not free?”

“No more than we, for all they think otherwise,” said Nahadoth.

What the fuck are you talking about? Free how? Free from the constraints of the Arameri family customs? Free from the world? Death? There are so many things that this could mean! Oh, now you’re just teasing me, N.K. Jemisin. YOU ARE JUST TEASING ME.

I wonder, then, if this is why there’s that brief interruption of the story where Yeine talks about how Yeine’s mother held her head up high despite the wave of unending abuse and bullshit she got in Arrebaia. Have the gods done something to Yeine that will earn her the scorn of the Arameri? I imagine this has to be the case, but why would the gods be opposed to the Arameri? WHAT AM I MISSING?

Viraine provides some much-needed information as well, and the exposition for this world is neatly woven into the narrative in a way that’s never distracting or unrealistic. First of all, we find out that he is a scrivener, one who “made a study of the gods’ written language.” Is that why he’s the one to give out new blood sigils? Are you annoyed by my thirty million questions? I’m just so intrigued by all these little details that Jemisin reveals to me! Like how scriveners seek to “create and extend life.” And that’s something Viraine admits willingly to Yeine. That’s part of his characterization, though, because he seems so eager to make Yeine uncomfortable. Now that is something I definitely don’t understand. What interest does he have in taking advantage of her or exploiting her naïveté? It’s refreshing, then, that Yeine knows more than this guy thinks she does because it gives her a certain power over him, at least in the sense that she’ll be able to properly tell when he’s trying to screw her over.

There’s even a revelation or two about the culture of Sky itself. One such thing is the fact that this place heavily relies on the power of euphemisms to hide their brutality in plain site. In particular, when Yeine questions the very idea of calling the Enefadeh “gods” if they’re little more than servants, Viraine replies with:

“We don’t call them gods.” Viraine smiled faintly. “That would be an offense to the Skyfather, our only true god, and those of the Skyfather’s children who stayed loyal. But we can’t call them slaves, either. After all, we outlawed slavery centuries ago.”

This was the sort of thing that made people hate the Arameri – truly hate them, not just resent their power or their willingness to use it. They found so many ways to lie about the things they did. It mocked the suffering of their victims.

There’s about a 0% chance I’m going to dislike this book if this is a sign of the type of brilliant commentary I’m going to get. BECAUSE HOLY SHIT, THIS IS AMAZING. It reveals so much about this world of gods and humans, especially once you factor in Sieh’s reveal that the gods rebelled against Itempas for killing Enefa. Who, by the way, is colloquially referred to as THE BETRAYER. See? It’s language that holds some of the power here, and the ability of a ruling force to name an “enemy” like this is invaluable to them. So, that makes me wonder: Did the gods just enlist Yeine in some sort of epic struggle to break free from their oppressors??? Maybe???

I admit to being confused about the ink spilling and the whole bit about something being the “first time.” What exactly happened? What did Sieh do??? However, I was just as floored by Yeine’s realization of how blatant Dekarta was when he assassinated his mother. She knows just how fucked up of a future she’s got to face. This is going to be a nightmare, and her mother died knowing this was in store for her. And yet, Yeine is ready to press on. She knows she has to face this because, as she says:

“And a Darre woman does not run from revenge. “

I AM SO INTO REVENGE NARRATIVES, Y’ALL.

Mark Links Stuff

– I have redesigned MarkDoesStuff.com! Check out this post explaining the new changes, which includes the start of a permanent archive of all Mark Watches videos!
The Mark Does Stuff Summer Tour is happening soon! Check out the posted dates, suggest new ones, help bring me to YOUR TOWN.
– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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