Mark Reads ‘The Broken Kingdoms’: Chapter 2

In the second chapter of The Broken Kingdoms, the news of Role’s death upsets Shiny, and he ventures out for a disastrous afternoon. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Kingdoms.

Chapter Two: “Dead Goddesses” (watercolor)

HOLY SHIT, IT’S BARELY THE SECOND CHAPTER. And this is what I’m expected to deal with???

I’m just so happy that this book is already dense, complicated, and emotionally intense. TWO CHAPTERS IN. I mean, this chapter opens with an exploration of racial fetishization and ableism. One of the things I’m enjoying about The Broken Kingdoms is how Oree is absolutely nothing like Yeine. She has such a distinct voice, and part of that includes how she views herself. She hasn’t had the same upbringing that Yeine did, and because of that, she approaches life with far less anger than Yeine does. (Though that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get angry, of course.) It’s interesting, then, to get so much insight into her own self-esteem, how she feels validated by others, and why she’s been in relationships with godlings like Madding. I think that’s partially due to the fetishization Jemisin describes here, and I know that from experience. Sometimes, when you can’t seem to get the sort of attention you want from others because you don’t have traditional looks, you’ll make do (and make poor decisions) because there’s not much else. And that’s a simple way of talking about the dangers and harm that fetishization causes, because, truthfully, it’s an incredibly complex issue. I only wanted to bring it up because I know exactly what it feels like to let loneliness get in the way of my own desire not to be fetishized. It’s a hard thing to deal with, especially if you’re someone like myself who always felt lonely.

Anyway, I think this information helps me understand why Oree reacts the way she does in this chapter. I haven’t quite figured out why these chapters are meant to be the titles of paintings, but I at least got a greater sense of Oree as an artist, especially how that informs her life in Shadow. Her trinkets are to help her make money, and her paintings – which she can somehow see??!?!?!? – are for herself. Completely for herself. As far as I understood, she never sold them. So her life is much like many people I know – including many years of my own – who spend their free time exploring their creative side in the pursuit of something more. For me, I was initially a musician trying to use a job in the entertainment industry to keep moving forward, but when that didn’t pan out, I moved and eventually ended up doing… well, this. And now it’s my thing??? Sometimes, I can’t wrap my head around my life, y’all.

This is relevant because it’s within this framework of a life that Shiny has come to exist, and it’s here that I have to bring up something I mentioned in the video. Given what I know of Itempas, it is so fucking unreal to see him behaving the way he does here. There is this genuine kindness to the way he makes breakfast for Oree, and I can’t deny how nice it is. He’s sensual with her in a way that isn’t erotic, but real. And I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that he cares about Oree, but… oh god, why is he acting this way? Is it a strange way of thanking Oree for taking him in without judging him?

Of course, her casual reveal over breakfast that Role is dead upsets Itempas so much that he agrees to come with her to the market for the first time ever. Again, I’m being repetitive, but it’s impressive to me that in the span of forty-odd pages, I’m able to understand why this is a big deal, and why Shiny speaking is a “momentous event.”

… he had shown concern for something in the world besides himself.

From this point, Shiny’s/Itempas’s behavior is only more confusing, given that we know how apathetic he’s been with Oree. When Order-Keepers arrive at Oree’s stall to interrogate her about Role’s death (OR SO WE ARE LED TO BELIEVE), Shiny does something that’s just… holy shit, what the fuck???

Before we get to that point, I do want to just briefly admit that this whole interrogation is out-of-this-world scary. Granted, I now know that the Order-Keepers aren’t the same as they were in the previous book. With gods and godlings all over Sky/Shadow, it’s hard to keep the heretics in line. Plus, the people in the Row are usually left alone, but in this case, Oree knows it will be very easy for this group to take that away from here. It’s all these factors plus Previt Rimarn’s surprises – that he is a scrivener and can sense Oree’s “magic” – that lend themselves to an oppressive, frightening atmosphere. Something terrible is brewing here, and Rimarn’s suspicion of Oree is made all the worse because HE DOESN’T KNOW THAT HER HOUSEGUEST IS THE VERY GOD HE SERVES. Which does make me wonder: Does the rest of the world know that Itempas was cast into a mortal body by Nahadoth? I’m guessing they don’t? If so, this behavior wouldn’t quite make sense. Aren’t people still worshipping Itempas in the White Hall? And how long ago did Nahadoth destroy the Maroland? Was Oree referencing the original Gods’ War, or the events of a decade earlier, when Yeine freed the gods?

Even if I didn’t understand many of the details, I definitely got the idea that when Oree realized she’d insulted the Arameri and recognized Rimarn as a scrivener, she became so terrified that Shiny knew she was scared. AND HE DEFENDS HER BY ATTACKING RIMARN. Y’all, HE KNOWS HOW HERETICAL AND ILLEGAL THIS IS. THERE IS NO WAY HE DOESN’T. So why does he do this? WHY DOES HE HAVE THAT HORRIBLE SMILE ON HIS FACE? Clearly, he’s planning something, but I’d be hard-pressed to come up with any sort of theory about this. I DON’T GET IT.

The end of this chapter isn’t as heavy on mysterious behavior because friendship everywhere. We get another chance to experience Oree’s friends Vuroy, Ru, and Ohn, who all comfort Oree as best as they can while also addressing the fact that clearly, Oree has been hiding Shiny from all of them. They recognize that he’s important to her, though they make the mistake of assuming that he’s a romantic interest. Which I guess is understandable, given that she had a relationship with Madding.

AND WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED WITH THAT? Why did he break her heart? Why does he owe her something? Why are Oree’s friends so great? Because they are great friends. I can answer that one. Damn, y’all, the action in this book is already here, and I LOVE IT.

Please note that the original text and the videos below use the word “madhouse.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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