In the twenty-second chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Yeine discovers who truly set into motion the events that have so strongly influenced her life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to shout at people because that’s a totally rational reaction to reading a book, right?
Chapter Twenty-Two: Such Rage
Anger is a gift.
I feel like I don’t need to repeat myself in terms of why I am so in love with a book that examines anger and vengeance and still manages to find a positive and validating reason for the main character to be angry. Truthfully, anger is in every aspect of this story, isn’t it? Jemisin opens with this chapter with a heartbreaking look into what it must have been like for Kinneth to learn that her father murdered his wife (and her mother) for a ceremony. Yes, Yeine never knew her mother, but she’s getting to discover the full scope of her mother’s vengeance through other people and through the ordeal she’s been forced into. And this is important:
Anger is pointless.
I disagree. I think anger can be very powerful under the right circumstances.
In the case of Kinneth, her betrayal at the hands of her very own father drove her to an act of revenge that took so long to complete, she died before she could ever see it acted out. But the details of this long con help explain how anger can be a “powerful” force of encouragement.
I suppose it must be said that I have a personal stake in this because despite appearances, I am an angry person. The worst part is that I have anger without closure because who and what I experience that fury for can never really answer or satisfy my rage. I’ve heard the same thing from people I would consider close friends for many, many years: Just let it go. Stop being angry at the world, at your parents, at your exes, at the futility of existence. Anger is pointless. It does nothing.
But I know that’s not true, because my anger made me who I am, and I am not pointless. It was my utter and complete rage at my parents’ homophobia and mistreatment of me that inspired me to run away from home when I was sixteen. I never went back. That anger fueled my quest to support myself, and guess what? I did it. I worked to pay rent while my peers were years from having to worry about adult responsibilities. I paid for my own college applications, filled them out on my own, sent them in, and made the decision about where I would go on my own. I have made it to this very second that I am writing this review with anger in my heart, and I will be damned if I’ll agree that anger doesn’t do anything. Do I wish I was so angry all the time? No, not really. It’s not like I enjoy being mad; it’s a stressful and emotionally draining sensation. But it got. shit. done. I can’t reject or deny that!
And I know that’s a huge reason why I have fallen so hard for this book and for Yeine. I know what it feels like to be betrayed by people who are supposed to love you. I know what it feels like to be born into a world that is deeply unfair because you didn’t choose to be who you are. And I know what it’s like to let hatred and anger consume you, too. I’m biased in that regard, so sometimes I feel like it’s a little challenging to engage critically with the text because I just want hug Yeine forever and hang out with puppies. I mean, there’s not a bone in my body that doesn’t understand why she feels so compelled to ask Nahadoth about her mother. She needs to know. She needs that closure. Oh my god, I spent years obsessed with getting closure over my first relationship, and, sadly, it never happened. So I get it. I do!
It’s interesting to me that Jemisin has made Nahadoth this nearly-omniscient, ever-powerful god who is innately dependent on humanity. He created this world, and now, this world helps create him as he heals. Specifically, it’s Yeine’s presence in his room that shapes his appearance, and that back-and-forth between them imbues this chapter with a palpable tension. How is she supposed to stop herself from affecting Nahadoth if what he tells her about Kinneth reveals that she has been shaped so much by outside forces?
It’s that symmetry of ideas that is so fascinating, y’all. In particular, I loved this little exchange:
“I’m tired of being what everyone else has made me,” I said. “I want to be myself.”
“Don’t be a child.”
I looked up, startled and angry, though of course there was nothing to see. “What?”
“You are what your creators and experiences have made you, like every other being in this universe. Accept that and be done; I tire of your whining.”
The same can be said of Nahadoth. The same can be said of me. And it was an amazing day when I finally realized that I didn’t have to remain the victim of my own circumstances. No, I could claim them as my own and move forward. That motivated my departure from home. It motivated my desire to find a partner in this world who was a perfect fit for me. It motivated me to pursue writing.
And if we’re talking about motivation, I think it’s important to bring up how Jemisin finally reveals the full scope of Kinneth’s motivation, too. For real, y’all:
My mother had created her own vengeance. She had betrayed her people, her heritage, even her god, all to strike a blow against one man.
Just holy shit.
Scimina was right. I was nothing compared to my mother.
Oh, the context is so horrifying, isn’t it? Yeine is the product of vengeance, which only makes me think about how she will get vengeance for what was done to her. I can’t ignore the parallel between Yeine and Kinneth anymore, can I? Both were born into a cultural terror without their permission, and now they’re plotting to undo it all. But there was one more revelation waiting for Yeine, and IT HURTS SO MUCH.
There was another source of magic in Sky besides the Enefadeh. Another who could wield the gods’ power, albeit weakly. The Death had killed only a dozen people in Darr that year; a minor outbreak by all the usual standards. The best a mortal murderer could do.
“Viraine,” I whispered. My hands clenched into fists. “Viraine.”
It was just sitting right there. Viraine even said he wasn’t happy when Kinneth started pursuing Yeine’s father! HOW DID I NOT FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT. Right, because I never do.
But this chapter serves another purpose, too. Yeine and Nahadoth come close to something even more physical than before, but Nahadoth pulls away. The two frankly discuss the idea of choice, which is relevant give that the Nightlord doesn’t always have a choice in how he appears to others. However, he makes a very significant remark to Yeine:
“When I am free,” he said, “I will choose who shapes me.”
Yeine tries to argue that this isn’t freedom, but I’m gonna agree with Nahadoth: I think that is the essence of freedom. We are all shaped by the people and forces around us, and I find it immensely freeing as I get to choose who those people are of what environments I am in. Ultimately, I think Yeine is going to make that choice herself. I don’t know what the details of that are going to be, but I can tell that she craves freedom. She needs it, and she wants to be free of this world that she’s been forced into.
Please note that the word “mad” appears in the original text and the video.
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