In the fifteenth chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
Chapter Fifteen: Hatred
WHY WHY WHY WHY OH MY GOD THIS IS GOING TO BE HORRIFYING, I CAN ALREADY TELL.
Almost as soon as I woke, there was a knock at the door. When I went to answer, a bony-faced servant boy stood very straight and said, with painful formality, “Lady Yeine. I bear a message.”
Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I nodded permission for him to continue, and he said, “Your grandsire requests your presence.”
And suddenly I was very, very awake.
NOTHING GOOD CAN COME FROM THIS. Nothing!!! He is not going to invite her to tea, reveal this is a candid camera show, and gift her a puppy. It doesn’t work this way. (But what if it did? Someone go write that.)
“Have you enjoyed your week as an Arameri, Grandaughter?”
A WEEK? IT’S BEEN A WEEK? Oh my god, it has. Holy shit, it’s like the worst week ever.
“Kinneth said much the same thing to me once. She included herself, however.”
I’m repeating a bit of what I said in the commission for this chapter, but what the fuck, y’all. I need to know Kinneth’s entire backstory right this second. It’s such a fascination characterization choice for an author to make! This is inherently a journey of Yeine through the deconstruction of everything she knew about her mother, and I don’t feel like she’s any closer to understanding these seemingly contradictory parts of her mother’s life. But you know what I do like about this? Jemisin is saying that people are complicated, and that often, we only know what we perceive. Yeine knows her mother only through her interactions with her and through the lens of being a daughter. The mother I knew as an eight-year-old is not the same mother I know now at nearly thirty.
So what happened?
Silence rose between us for the next several breaths. It plateaued; stalled; broke.
“Tell me why you killed my mother,” I said.
I am so in love with Yeine, and it is time I declared that. Here is a woman of color as the main character, who discovers that her body was stolen from her before she was born, and she walks up to the man who will certainly try to murder her at some point, and she does not act afraid in front of him. I respect her. I adore her. She displays a kind of bravery that I can only hope to match.
“You love her and mourn her; it’s your own fault and you mourn her, and you want her back. Don’t you? But if Itempas is listening, if he cares at all about order and righteousness or any of the things the priests say, then I pray to him now that you keep loving her. That way you’ll feel her loss the way I do. You’ll feel that agony until you die, and I pray that’s a long, long time from now!”
SHE SAID THIS TO DEKARTA’S FACE. OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD. I don’t even know what to say. I guess I’m just endlessly fascinated by Yeine’s journey through her own anger. She’s using it as a weapon, and I love that. I mean, if y’all aren’t that familiar with the trope, there’s a horrible stereotype that people of color (and women of color specifically, especially black women if we bring this to another level) are shrill, angry beings who can’t ever be calm. We just complain about racism because we have nothing better to do! And yet, Jemisin has put Yeine’s (justified) anger front and center and made it part of her character. Her fury is what’s getting her closer to the truth. I love this!
Then Dekarta drops another bomb: He is holding a celebration in honor of Yeine’s “elevation to heir,” and it’s clearly a hint that the succession ceremony is going to happen. In seven fucking days. A week! She has just a week to find out more about her mother’s true life, about why her mother was murdered, and how to get revenge on the Arameri terrors which will end in her own death. How? How is this going to work?
Things were bad enough at this point, but then Yeine returns to her apartment to find the Enefadeh waiting for her, and Nahadoth is furious with her. Actually, he’s so enraged that he sticks his hand through her chest, prepared to rip Enefa’s soul out of Yeine’s body. Literally none of this is an exaggeration:
I stared at the hand through my chest. There was no blood, and as far as I could tell there was no wound. I fumbled for his hand and found that it was immaterial, like a shadow. My fingers passed through his flesh and waggled in the translucence of his fist. It did not hurt exactly, but it felt as though I’d plunged my fingers into an icy stream. There was a deep, aching coldness between my breasts.
Again, though, “Hatred” is about how hatred and anger give Yeine clarity, which feels like a conscious thing on the part of N.K. Jemisin. Her hatred for what’s been done to her, for the family she has been forced into, and for the gods’ meddling in her life is what brings about some of her most vicious (and justified) moments:
“I never wanted this thing in me in the first place. If you want it, take it!”
“Yeine!” Sieh clutched my arm. “That could kill you!”
“What difference does it make? You want to kill me anyway. So does Dekarta – he’s got it all planned, seven days from now. My only real choice lies in how I die. This is as good as any other method, isn’t it?”
My god, I love that this rejection is so focused on the fact that Yeine’s consent has been violated and how her Arameri heritage means absolutely nothing to her. Her choice has been taken away from her, and so she’s going to take it back in the one way she can: by choosing how she dies. Because death is at the end of this any way you look at it, isn’t it? Dekarta might kill her; Scimina will surely kill her; Relad might not, but I don’t really expect him to survive over Scimina; and to get revenge, Yeine has to die herself, after freeing the gods. (If she chooses to do so, that is. She still could choose otherwise. There are so many ways this book could end.)
I’m curious, then, if the weird vision that strikes Yeine (and is apparently seen by Nahadoth) is from Enefa. I’m still not sure if we’ve ever seen her or if her thoughts have appeared in the text. I theorized that we had, but now I’m not so sure. I guess Enefa could be the one screaming, “Is this what you want? Is it?” BUT I DON’T KNOW. I am wrong so often these days that now I just expect to be wrong every time I predict something.
What I do know is that things are more complicated than ever. This vision makes the Enefadeh realize that they can’t take Enefa’s soul out of Yeine. At least not yet, that is. It’s “fragile,” Sieh describes. “…too fragile to be drawn out safely.”
Safely for the soul, he meant, not for me. I shook my head, too tired to laugh.
THIS IS MESSED UP ON EVERY LEVEL. Do any of these gods care that they’ve used a human vessel for their plans of liberation? It seems like Sieh is the only one, but maybe he just cares about the soul within Yeine, not Yeine herself. Regardless, after all this, Yeine is still ready to take on the demanding and absurd task ahead of her. Do I know what she’s going to do? Hell no. Because honestly, I don’t see a positive solution to this nightmare. How is she going to get out of this???
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