Mark Reads ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’: Chapter 24

In the twenty-fourth chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Yeine makes a decision involving the Nightlord that will forever change her relationship with him. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Chapter Twenty-Four: If I Ask

Before we get to Yeine’s decision, I must be a tad repetitive: I don’t get these weird conversational pieces? Are they from the future? Who is having the conversation? Is it Yeine and someone else? Why is it formatted in the way it is? I feel like these are clues, but I can’t put it together. I thought it might be Enefa, but everything is ambiguous enough that I’m questioning myself constantly. I admit that this is partially because this process of discovering the book is so public. I don’t think I’d be so frustrated about it if I was just reading this all in one go. But no, I’m making a fool of myself on the Internet for all to see. I’M SELF-CONSCIOUS ABOUT HOW WRONG I AM BECAUSE I AM WRONG ALL THE TIME.

Anyway, let’s get to discussing Yeine and Nahadoth. I’ll start off this way: I like this a lot. I have said before that if you had told me earlier into my read of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that Yeine would have an intensely sexual relationship with the Nightlord, I would not have felt it was a good choice. But consider me convinced, and that’s largely because of one reason: power dynamics.

I think it’s a risky choice to pair these two together in general, but the execution of such a relationship appeals to me because N.K. Jemisin appreciates the power dynamics at hand between these two characters. She does not ignore Yeine’s fear, but she also doesn’t erase Yeine’s agency. This is so wholly and completely about Yeine’s choice, not some mystical influence on the part of a god. That could have made this a disaster, but for me, it doesn’t come off that way.

Yeine’s characterization has been about choice and agency all along. She was the one who chose to resist assimilation into the Arameri culture. She was the one who chose to save the Darre people, despite that she knew it was a risky and dangerous move. She was the one who chose to bring Nahadoth with her to the Mencheyev people and use him as a weapon. That’s important to me because the root of Yeine’s story comes from a lack of choice. Her mother didn’t ask her permission to stick another god’s soul in her body, and Dekarta didn’t ask Yeine to be a part of the succession ritual. No, her hand had been forced and her consent was violated from the beginning, but within this, she found the power to choose her destiny for herself. Even Nahadoth recognizes this:

“You seek to control your death as you cannot control your life. I… understand this.” So much unspoken meaning in that brief pause. I wondered, suddenly, whether the Nightlord had ever yearned to die.

That’s a direct parallel that Jemisin draws to highlight the inherent injustice of controlled lives and the empowerment that can be found in gaining agency. I think it’s vital that Yeine rejects Nahadoth’s assertion that Itempas “stole whatever tenderness there once was in [his] soul” because it touches on this idea that these characters still do have a choice, a freedom in one another.

For me, though, the best part of this is the way in which Jemisin subverts the idea of an all-powerful god. Granted, Yeine is scared and is very much aware of the power that the Nightlord possesses. But her choice to have sex with him brings out this painful vulnerability that puts them so much more on the same level than they ever had been. Nahadoth admits to needing. He admits to fear. He admits to feeling inadequate for Yeine! Y’all, A GOD IS WORRIED THAT HE ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR YEINE. DO YOU REALIZE WHAT A HUGE MOMENT THAT IS? Yeine is a mortal who made a god fearful of her.

That’s why I enjoyed this sex scene and Jemisin’s decision to do this. It avoids the more common tropes about this sort of relationship while giving tons of character growth to Yeine. And y’all, could you imagine if your orgasms were THIS INTENSE AND AMAZING? What the hell, that isn’t fair.

Bravo, Yeine. What an incredible way to spend one of your last nights alive. (THAT IS SO UPSETTING TO TYPE IS SHE SERIOUSLY GOING TO DIE AT THE END OF THIS BOOK.)

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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