In the nineteenth chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NO ONE PREPARED ME FOR THIS. OH MY GOD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
Chapter Nineteen: Diamonds
OH MY GOD, OKAY, OF COURSE I AM GOING TO FREAK OUT ABOUT THE THING BECAUSE NO AMOUNT OF ANYTHING EVER COULD HAVE HELPED ME DEAL WITH THAT. But! There is so much more to this chapters, specifically if you view it as yet another way that Yeine has changed since coming to Sky. Oh gods, I have thoughts and feelings and y’all are going to get them all.
Darre Culture Is the Exception
I have not seen (or can’t recall) a society within the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that is matriarchal in nature like the Darre people are. Given this, it’s clear that for the most part, other cultures do not value women in the same way that the Darr do. So much of Yeine’s interaction with Gemd, Rish, and the Mencheyev people is rife with misogyny, both obvious and unspoken. Hell, she’s the intended target of multiple misogynistic slurs. (Given that I just read chapter 7 of Lady Knight, I couldn’t help but think of Kel’s speech about how men seem to go straight for the easiest slur to denigrate them with. You don’t ever see the same thing in reverse to a similar degree, do you?) This leads me to believe that for the most part, the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are patriarchal in nature, and the Darr are viewed as freaks for reversing the power dynamic. I think that might also be why Yeine insists to herself that she’s not very intimidating. She doesn’t feel like she can inspire fear in her current state. (Oh, how this changed.)
She Is Not Arameri
Y’all, this is so fascinating because of what I’ll write next, but let’s first discuss Gemd’s claim that Yeine is not Arameri. A huge part of this novel has been Yeine’s struggle with her mother’s past and her own Arameri heritage. She is so repulsed by Arameri culture and values, and she’s done everything she can to resist becoming Arameri. And yet, it’s almost insulting for her to hear that she’s not Arameri. In this case, Gemd means to declare that she has no power, that she has no authority, and that there’s nothing she can do to get him to stop the war against her people. So the context changes. Being Arameri would be good here, and it’s a neat way to complicate the issue in an engaging way. She threatens the Mencheyev with “absolute power,” gives them ten minutes to decide what to do, and then hopes her bluff will be effective.
Yeine Is Arameri
Except it’s not a bluff at all, is it?
Yeine’s struggle with being thrust into this culture she despises is complicated by her decision to essentially become Arameri. They are a brutal people, willing to use any sort of horrifying technique to get what they want. They use power to harm and to horrify. They value certain lives over others. It’s everything that Yeine doesn’t believe in, and it’s why she has such a hard time hearing that Kinneth was a true Arameri. It’s a repetitive idea that’s popped up time and time again whenever Yeine tries to find out more about her mother.
But then we’ve got her actions here in front of Gemd, and it’s undeniably that in some way, she’s become Arameri, at least in spirit. It’s horrifying, obviously, and it’s necessary in another context. How else is Yeine going to save Darr from an invasion that will certainly destroy her people and everyone she loves? How can she demonstrate that the threat she just leveled is real and carries weight?
I’ve got a lot to say about the Nightlord and his role as both Yeine’s ally and her weapon, but let’s just say that in no universe ever would I have guessed that Nahadoth had the power to TURN A HUMAN BODY INTO A LITERAL BLACK DIAMOND. This is one of the most relentlessly disturbing things I have ever read, and the more I think about it and all the details Jemisin provides (THE THROAT TURNING TO DIAMOND IS THE WORST THE LITERAL WORST), the more I can’t get it out of my head.
Now, while I think Yeine’s use of the Nightlord to demonstrate a monstrous power is terrifying, I also don’t think we should ignore the fact that Rish was about to strike Yeine, and that act was coated in power and privilege. He was “putting her in her place,” as Yeine describes it, and that is as much about the physical pain he causes as it is a reminder that in that world, Yeine is supposed to be below him. So I am just tickled by the idea that the very misogynist action that was supposed to denigrate Yeine is used to bring about the end of his life. Like, I can recognize how unsettling this process is, and I can see how it’s changing Yeine as a person, and then I can still think SHIT YEAH, SEXISTS BEING TURNED TO DIAMOND FOR BEING HORRIBLE PEOPLE. Yeine realizes all of this. She’s sickened by what she’s done, but she also recognizes that people will do whatever they can to protect the ones they love, even the Arameri.
In this case, Yeine killed two people.
Yeine and Nahadoth
You know, I think if you’d told me earlier in this novel that there’d be a distinctly romantic side to Yeine’s relationship with the Nightlord, I don’t think I would have believed it or wanted it. But I can’t help but feel very interested by what Jemisin does here. Nahadoth is a weapon, one who can’t be controlled. (We hear that multiple times in this chapter alone: “The Nightlord cannot be controlled, child. He can only be unleashed. And you asked him not to kill.”) So why does he voluntarily do things to please Yeine or to act in her favor? Is it really just because he’s sees more use in her alive? If that’s the case, how else does he value her?
Given that Nahadoth is so cold (quite literally sometimes LOL SORRY I HAD TO), it was just shocking to me that he was so affectionate toward Yeine as she suffered through an emotional breakdown after leaving Menchey. The physicality of his affection is new because… well, before, it was always laced with the danger of death. But there’s not an ounce of that suspicion on my end. Is he being genuine?
Oh, gods, this book is so good.
Please note that the words “maddening,” “harlot,” and “whore” appear in the original text and the first video.
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