Mark Reads ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’: Chapter 13

In the thirteenth chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Yeine has a disturbing meeting with Scimina, where the truth about her Darre past comes to light. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Chapter Thirteen: Ransom

Trigger Warning: Due to Yeine’s backstory, we have to talk about rape/sexual assault.

  • I’m seriously stoked by how different the narration is here. Yeine is an uncertain narrator. I don’t know if that’s due to Enefa’s soul being inside of her or what, but I love that she questions the very story she’s telling. I wouldn’t say that this is a meta-narrative or anything quite yet, but it’s a twist that I didn’t expect.
  • That’s how chapter thirteen opens: Yeine realizes she forgot a very important incident that happened before she learned the truth of her creation. (It really is like she’s sitting before us and telling a story, isn’t it?)
  • One of the more disturbing aspects of this chapter comes from the faux concern that Dekarta and Scimina show for Yeine. We know they despise her, and we know that both of them would be pleased if she died. And yet, they deal in these false sincerities and platitudes, and it’s so fucked up. But it’s indicative of the larger Arameri culture, which is something N.K. Jemisin then expands upon by introducing us to the horrifying conflict between the Uthre and Irti people. Well, it’s not just about false sincerity; this speaks to the gross form of “order” that Itempas and his followers cling to, one that has eerie implications for our world, too. Essentially, one nation can simply overpower another, violating and ignoring their sovereignty, simply because they are stronger. It doesn’t matter that the action is an act of war any way you see it. No, as Jemisin describes, “What was right mattered far less than what was orderly, and the Uthre had proven their ability to keep things orderly by the simple fact that they’d taken Irt without shedding a drop of blood. That was how the Arameri would see it, and the order, too….”
  • So it wasn’t surprising to me that after such a garish display of inhumanity, Yeine experienced another one: Scimina inviting her to lunch, but only with a vague threat about Darr attached to it. Scimina’s genuineness lies only in her threats of violence or her sarcasm, not in any of her polite gestures.
  • (Again, I am so happy when I see this idea pop up in fiction. The truth is, some of the most vile and horrific things are wrapped in politeness and protocol, and it’s why I have zero tolerance for respectability politics.)
  • I am forever fascinated by Ras Onchi, who exists both as a nod to a fantasy trope and a complete destruction of that. She’s the wise elder, but at the same time, she’s a giant middle finger to that idea. She does provide context and information that Yeine lacks, but she does so in a way that doesn’t necessarily position herself higher than Yeine. There’s no condescension from her. In fact, based on the final few lines of their scene together, it seemed clear that Ras Onchi respected Yeine and truly wanted her to find a way to beat these Arameri fools at their own game.
  • And then we get Scimina’s apartment, and everything here is uncomfortable in a stratospheric sense of the word, and I mean that as saying that my soul is in another stratosphere after reading this.
  • Like, first of all, bravo to N.K. Jemisin for creating a character like Scimina, because just seeing her name gives me the creeps. Like, how do you find it within yourself to write someone so conniving, manipulative, and downright cruel? Genius, as far as I’m concerned. Scimina’s behavior here in this chapter is categorically evil, and just reading her words aloud was a treat. Jemisin perfectly captured that villainous way of speech, and I love it.
  • But (unless I’m wrong, and I could be because I’m balancing five fictional worlds in my head right now) this also marks the first time we see the Nightlord in his entirely human persona, and it is relentlessly awful. What’s so shocking about this is that Nahadoth comes across as a completely different entity. However, Yeine knows that this being is one and the same with the more attractive version of the god that she has come to know, and I think that’s an important admission for her to make. “This creature was my taste of the Nightlord,” she says later, after Nahadoth pins her to the wall, and then she immediately realizes that she’d be foolish to ever want this god.
  • When Scimina does show up – and I do imagine that she was watching this horribly rape-y display from Nahadoth the whole time – her words drip with condescension, violence, and power. It is a spectacle, y’all.
  • Scimina reveals that it was Yeine’s kindness towards her own nation that prompted other nations surrounding Darr to believe that Darr might pose a threat, now that they had a “power” in Sky who was Arameri.
  • However, this chapter takes a turn I never could have predicted. I have to remind myself that it was Scimina who thought it appropriate to bring up Yeine’s warrior initiation as if it were nothing more than some banal moment in her past. She is purposely trying to hurt Yeine, to imply that she’ll never be more than a savage, and to try and tell her that she is weak because she was raped in front of her village.
  • But this also served another purpose. We’ve spent the bulk of this book in Sky, and that means that most of my ire and disgust has been directed at Sky and the Arameri culture. Because of that, it made me think of Darre as a more desirable culture. Surely, it must be! That society produced Yeine. And then N.K. Jemisin reminds us of the horrible things that are perpetrated by other people, reminds us of the patriachal horrors in Darr, reminds us how doubt and mistrust can make people awful. And then there’s Yeine, who murdered her rapist. Even if she hadn’t intended to kill him, it still happened, and she did what she needed to in order to get what she wanted.
  • “That is when I went to Viraine, and that is what led me to the library and the secret of my two souls, and that is how I ended up here, dead.”

Part 1

Part 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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