In the twenty-fifth chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Yeine is offered a chance to give her people better odds for survival. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
Chapter Twenty-Five: A Chance
I’m going to admit this straight up: I am incredibly nervous for the end of this book. Jemisin has done a fantastic job of pacing this book because it has never felt slow or prodding, and yet there’s a clear attempt to build the tension and the terror over these twenty-five chapters. We know the stakes at hand; we know Yeine’s possible outcomes, all of which seem to end in her death, and we know by the end of this chapter that the moment of the succession ritual has arrived. It makes my stomach hurt in anticipation! OH GOD IT’S GOING TO END I AM SO SCARED.
Okay, so that’s definitely Yeine and Enefa arguing with each other in the opening passages, right? I finally feel confident enough to assert this based on the information provided in this dialogue. But the tense of it means it’s happening… in the future? How? How is this possible? WHY CAN’T I FIGURE ANYTHING OUT?
So, while I’m doomed to embarrass myself over this for the remainder of my reviews for this book, let’s get into the new developments for these characters and the story as a whole. There are a lot of surprising things revealed in this chapter, the first of which is the knowledge that the daytime version of Nahadoth has been lying the whole time. He has specifically played a role for Scimina for his own purposes, and he hasn’t told anyone that he figured out Enefa’s soul was in Yeine’s body, either. His appearance and demeanor changes for Yeine after she wakes up, and it’s implied that it was the lovemaking that had a part in that. Now, that could also mean that daytime Naha wasn’t exactly lying, but had chosen to manifest himself in a way that correlated with Nahadoth’s emotional state. I don’t want to ignore that context. But there’s that line from Naha where he says he knows a little about sharing a body with two beings, and IT’S SO POWERFUL. I can’t believe I never thought about that deliberate character parallel, but it was there all the time.
At the root of all of this, though, is the idea that the daytime Nahadoth wants to be free as well. After the last chapter, which was concerned with ideas of agency and choice, it makes sense that this Naha wants to choose his own demise, too. This same theme pops up again when Sieh arrives. (It was fascinating to me, by the way, that daytime Naha immediately reverted to his old behavior when Sieh arrived. He’s acting for the Enefadeh, too.) Sieh’s emotional state is in flux because of what has happened to him after the Gods’ War, so his own desire for freedom from slavery is an important part of his character. He knows that Yeine is his key to that. Still, he is endlessly affectionate towards Yeine regardless. He tells her about Relad’s message, despite that he knows that it’s not a good idea, because there’s a chance she might be able to protect her people. Well, not just that, but she was able to give Nahadoth a kind of happiness he hasn’t had. Sieh appreciates that:
“Love can level the ground between mortals and gods, Yeine. It’s something we’ve learned to respect.”
Help SO MANY FEELINGS BECAUSE OF THIS.
And then there’s Relad. Good lord, this was surprising! We haven’t spent much time with him, but his characterization just became so much more complex than it ever was. He offers Yeine mercenaries that can greatly distract the forces who are to attack Darr on the night of the ritual in exchange for her choosing him in the ceremony. I honestly didn’t think that this would play a part in the story at all, given that Yeine had already agreed to free the Enefadeh during the ceremony. The rest of the kingdoms would be too distracted by the ensuing Gods’ War to attack Darr. But could Yeine instead offer a blow to Scimina and give her people two-to-one odds of survival? The stakes here are so dire that she’d rather risk a possible loss rather than a guaranteed one.
Which makes this book so much more tense at this point. I mean… hell, I never expected Yeine to make a deal with Relad. I never expected him to be so nice, and based on what Sieh and Yeine read into the situation, he actually appears to be genuine about what he’s offering. Y’all, Scimina is going to be SO PISSED, and that is terrifying.
The end of this chapter continues to explore the similarities between the gods and mortals, much like the previous chapter did. Sieh’s desire for affection from Yeine speaks once again to the power dynamics at hand. Sieh, a god, must go to a mortal for emotional closure and stimulation, and I find that so fascinating. At this point in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, she has so much power! She’s the one with the power to save her people, to release the Enefadeh, to please Sieh and Nahadoth in a way that no one else can, and to destroy the Arameri grip on the world. Yeine is. It’s fulfilling to me that she’s the center and focus of all this because it gives her so much weight within the narrative.
So does she have any tricks up her sleeve? We’re so close to the succession ritual, and I fear that I haven’t quite figured out the ending of this. How are Dekarta and Scimina going to react when she chooses Relad and then frees the Enefadeh? OH GODS, I DON’T KNOW.
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