In the fourth chapter of The Broken Kingdoms, I promise to be patient and discuss other stuff before I get to the most shocking thing I’ve read in ages. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Kingdoms.
Chapter Four: “Frustration” (watercolor)
I seriously have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into. Oh my god, this book just changed so much.
In order to force myself not to write a one-sentence review for this massive, game-changing chapter, I’m going to address all the cool shit that happens before the most disturbing, fucked-up plot twist I’ve read for this site pretty much ever. GOOD GOD.
I’m kind of totally into the first-person narration that’s present in The Broken Kingdoms. It reminds me of Yeine, but it’s not the same. Tonally, it makes this feel like it’s a part of the trilogy, and it’s satisfying in that sense. But it also gives a much more intimate sense to the novel because it feels so conversational. I don’t think this is for a greater narrative point, like how all the asides/the tense was a clue to Yeine being dead/a god, so I’m enjoying it just for what it is.
How the World Changed
Oh, y’all, IT’S SO FASCINATING. I love it. N.K. Jemisin does take the time to explain how Sky moved away from being run by the Itempas-worshipping Arameri, and it’s just so rich and layered. Given that the Arameri are obsessed with order (because of Itempas’s inclination towards it), I was surprised that the Order-Keepers gradually allowed Sky to not only become Shadow, but to move away from what it once was. Gone was the days of state-sanctioned monotheism, and now people openly worshipped many gods or none at all. That doesn’t mean all heresy is allowed, but the Order-Keepers are far more lax about it than they once were. I’d like to believe that this was Yeine’s doing, but we don’t know. It’s left to our imagination, and I kind of like that.
There’s a part of me that’s deliberately sympathetic of who Lil is because it’s not like she can help having an affinity for hunger. Still, like a certain character in Midnight Riot, I cannot deal with the thing she does with her mouth. On top of that, since this chapter largely picks up where the previous one left off, we find out that she literally eats the dead Order-Keepers left in the alley. Her desire for “flesh freely given” is on display multiple times throughout this chapter, but this is the first time we truly understand her capacity for hunger.
Then, Shiny has a terrible reaction to Oree’s attempt at discerning his injuries, and I felt like this whole sequence reflected more on Oree’s character than anyone else. Shiny is angry – his hatred for mortals has never felt so palpable in this book – and yet, Oree is able to put aside her own pain and her best interests so she can offer him a place to stay. After he throws her into a wall. Ugh, I love her sympathetic generosity because it never feels condescending.
There are a lot of unexpected bits to chapter four (THAT THING THAT THING OH MY GOD OH MY GOD), but the inclusion of a lengthy explanation for Oree’s relationship with Madding is one riddled with subtext, detail, and emotion. We’ve gotten plenty of hints that something went down that caused/inspired Madding to break things off with Oree. What’s so interesting to me is that this is very much unlike Yeine’s relationship with the Nightlord. Mainly, that’s due to the fact that with the godlings appearing in the mortal realm with a higher frequency, it makes sense that god-mortal pairings would happen more often. Plus, this is stripped of the mystical significance between Yeine and the Nightlord, given whose soul was within her body. Instead, Madding is attracted to Oree simply because he finds her attractive, and their relationship feels more like the power dynamics are closer to one another. That’s not me unintentionally ignoring said dynamics, though; I think it’s important to acknowledge that Madding is a god, and his affinity is obligation, which makes a relationship with him very difficult. So much of relationships rely on obligation anyway, so navigating one with someone who takes them as serious as Madding must be a challenge.
We can still see that raw energy in the two of them. It’s easy for Oree to imagine Madding sliding up next to her as they start up their romance without a second thought. At the same time, it’s easy to see them hating one another for the rest of their lives. At any given moment, these two exist in the space between those two extremes, and it fluctuates rapidly between them. That’s why I used the word “raw.” The wound is still fresh; their affections and distastes are still too new to be ignored.
I think it’s also important to analyze their relationship with the context of how these two met. It’s not lost on me that the goddess of mercy essentially forced the two of them together, and now I wonder if Madding’s interest in Oree was based in Mercy. Granted, Oree had never met someone who enjoyed the entire package that she offered, so I don’t think I have any business questioning their love. Instead, I’m more interested in Madding’s intentions. Because of that battle with the unnamed god (where he sent her to another world GOOD GOD HELP ME IT WAS FORESHADOWING THE ENDING), he ends up noticing Oree and is drawn to her instantly. But he eventually parts from her because she is a mortal. He knows he’ll outlast her, so he broke her heart. And it really does explain a lot about why they act the way they do with one another, so I’m thankful that I got to finally read about it.
The Most Awkward Breakfast
Yeah, breakfast time with Lil and Shiny? Awkward and horrifying and unreal. Lil is creepy enough all by herself, especially when she’s trying to demonstrate the only situation in which Shiny is able to use his power, but then Shiny starts speaking. In multiple full sentences. TO OREE. LIKE TO HER FACE. Like Oree, I found this to be the most jarring thing imaginable. Even Lil eating up burned human bodies wasn’t as shocking as this. (But there is still one thing more shocking I AM SORRY FOR ALL THE INTERRUPTIONS BUT I’M NOT OKAY.) Y’all, he apologizes, and he’s polite, and his voice is beautiful, and this is so weird???
But then someone is looking for Oree. At first, I assumed it was Shiny, but then half a second of thought made me realize that Lil would be able to recognize the hunger as coming from the person right next to her. So who hungers after her? Was this yet another clue about the end of this chapter? Did she mean Rimarn? Or is there yet another mystery at the heart of this story that I don’t know of?
Because there is now a new plot thread that feels bigger than anything else introduced in The Broken Kingdoms thusfar, and y’all, it’s not okay. I am not okay. And look, the final scene of chapter four is important because it’s the first time we get a chance to see Oree at work while she’s creating art. It’s always been a part of her from the get-go, but the actual act of creating that vivid drawing on the sidewalk in front of her table is magical, both literally and figuratively. She knows that she’s got an unusual talent, but she draws because it satisfies her. We know that she’s poor, so it’s astounding and brilliant to me that her art – the truly wonderful shit she does for herself – is never for sale. As evident here, she could get tons of money if she exhibited her art in public.
The problem is that it’s a cursing as much as it’s a blessing. She attracts attention. Initially, she sells out of her wares, her fellow hawkers thank her for the extra business, and she speaks with someone who is a part of the New Lights order, a newer Itempan sect, who is amused with her talent and makes a vague promise to see her again. However, her paintings, as I mentioned earlier, are literally magic, which allows Rimarn Dih to locate her just minutes later as she’s leaving the park. Her confrontation with him is terrifying, not only because we know the horrible power that the Order-Keepers possess, but because he’s furious with her after what happened before.
And then the thing happens, and I don’t know that I have ever been less prepared for a thing in the history of all things:
Somewhere, elsewhere, there is a sky. It is a hot, empty sky, overhead as skies should be, blazing with the light of twin suns. The sky I drew – do you understand? Somewhere it is real. I know this now.
UM, OKAY, HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? She can glimpse other worlds???
When I screamed and pushed at the Order-Keepers, the heat behind my eyes flared into light. In my mind’s eye, I saw legs fall into this sky, upside down. Legs and hips, appearing out of nowhere, kicking, twisting. Falling.
There was nothing else attached to them.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME
Abruptly I realized I could not see my entire drawing anymore. It was there – I could still see the edges of it. It’s glow was oddly faded and growing fainter by the second, as if its magic had been spent. However, what remained of it was occluded by three dark blotches, spreading and overlapping. Liquid, not magical.
NO, N.K. JEMISIN IS NOT KIDDING ME. THIS JUST HAPPENED. IT’S REAL.
Y’ALL, OREE MADE THE EARTH OPEN UP AND EAT PEOPLE AND IT LITERALLY SENT THEIR LOWER HALVES TO ANOTHER WORLD.
HOW IS THIS FUCKING POSSIBLE
WHAT KIND OF MAGIC IS THIS
HOW IS SHE NOT GOING TO BE EXECUTED
I CAN’T FUCKING DEAL WITH THIS. IT’S TOO UPSETTING.
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