In the fifth chapter of The Broken Kingdoms, Oree learns how Shiny has truly affected her life, and everything is so much worse than I thought it could be, and gods help me get through this book. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Kingdoms.
Chapter Five: “Family” (charcoal study)
This is the fifth chapter. This is the fifth chapter.
Granted, I am already more than a third of the way through this novel; these past two chapters were massive, but I understand why I’ve needed so much information at this point. I don’t want that to imply that this has all been nothing but worldbuilding, because that’s not the case. INTENSE PLOT THINGS HAVE BEEN HAPPENING. MY HEART HURTS FOREVER. It’s just that N.K. Jemisin has wasted absolutely no time to give us an intensity that is usually built up over the course of a novel. We’re dropped into the chaos that is Shiny’s presence in Oree’s life, and it’s catastrophic. The scope of what’s happened is finally settling in, and even then? Jemisin still teases me with how unprepared I am for what’s to come. (What’s going to happen in twenty-eight days??? What the fuck???)
So let’s get to it.
You know, I initially suspected that because this chapter was entitled, “Family,” and the first section brought up Oree’s father, I kind of thought that most of this was going to be about the family that Oree left behind to come to Shadow. Instead, this merely frames what we’re about to experience. Oree grew up in a household where someone’s magic was stifled out of fear, and it strangely parallels her own experience with art. But because so much of this chapter also involves the reveal of Shiny’s identity and a discussion of the dismantling of Arameri rule, I think it’s important to note that the world that Oree now lives in might not have been quite as oppressive to her father. Still, that’s just speculation, and I hesitate to make any sort of grand conclusion here because clearly, Oree’s magic has FUCKED UP implications. So, like her father, there is a “danger that comes with [her] strangeness,” and now she’s got to deal with that.
But you could also say the same of Madding. Or Shiny. Oh god, it’s such a layered parallel, and I love it.
After Oree’s dream, we pick up where the previous chapter left off, and I’m thankful that of all people, Madding is there to comfort Oree when she awakes. He tries so hard to make her feel better, bless his heart, by telling her that this isn’t her fault and that she can’t blame herself too much for what happened. I appreciate it, though, that Jemisin doesn’t let Oree off the hook quite so easily:
“And you didn’t know what your magic could do. You didn’t intend to kill those men.”
“They’re still dead,” I said. “My intentions don’t change that.”
And even later, Oree admits to herself that these Order-Keepers that she killed most likely had families and dreams of their own, and her actions – unintentional or not – ended their lives. I suspect she’s going to live with the guilt for quite some time. That being said, Oree soon discovers just how complicated her life has become, so it’s also possible that she’ll simply be too preoccupied to feel all that guilty. Nemmer, who was commissioned by the Order of Itempas, informs Oree that she is the target. And it’s not even so much about killing the Order-Keepers as it is about maintaining order. I find this endlessly fascinating because the Order-Keepers operate without the knowledge of what really happened to their god, and this chapter provides the most direct confirmation of the fact that Lady Yeine did not allow news of Itempas’s punishment to leave the gods’ realm. In fact, very few mortals, if any at all, seem to know what’s happened. Why? Why do this? To allow for subtle change? To prevent full-blown chaos from breaking out? Actually, that’s not a bad idea.
Anyway, the most disturbing aspect of all of this for Oree is the fact that this traces back to Shiny in the end. It’s not that the Order has no reason to suspect Madding or Oree for their crimes. But a lot of this is rooted in Rimarn’s interest in what Shiny had demonstrated before. It’s why he thinks Oree might be a godling, and it’s why he even bothered to pursue Madding as a suspect in Lady Role’s death. It’s interesting to me that even as a mortal, Itempas has found a way to make events revolve around him, intentionally or not. It fits the selfish characterization we’d seen before of him and what we already know of him.
I’ll get back to Shiny/Itempas at the end because of the thing.
Oh, praise all the complicated and detailed interactions we get between these two characters. It’s unreal. IT’S SO SATISFYING. Now I know why I needed the huge backstory that explained how these two met because it completely informs their arguments here. Their love might be complicated, but I’d like to think that the events here reveal that their love is, ultimately, unconditional. Difficult, absolutely, and Jemisin isn’t afraid to address the uncomfortable logistics of what it’s been like for these beings to be together.
For instance: Oree’s sense of obligation. This flares up – badly so – when Oree tries to say that she’ll die for Madding. Her reasoning is that she’ll die eventually, so why should it matter that it’s now? I love what Madding says: It matters. It matters if she dies now, before she puts up a fight, before they try to find a solution to this disaster. She would be willing her life over not to Mad, but to the Order, as a concession, as if she were telling them, “Yes, you can always destroy mortals as collateral damage.”
In this vulnerable and frightening moment, where they are both talking about dying, they have sex. It’s a remarkably sweet sequence, and I think it’s proof that they do love each other, truly and deeply. Still, I can’t ignore that immediately after they have sex, Madding reveals that not only does Oree need to leave Shadow, but he organized her departure. Already. He’d already set it in motion, and I saw this as a clear demonstration of his power. Initially, it was so frustrating because I knew he was right. Her best chance for survival was to get out of the city, but did he have to be so transparent about it?
Except that this wasn’t the end of this conversation. Later, after sex and a nap, Oree overhears Shiny and Madding arguing, and everything falls apart. Part of me wonders if Madding was intentionally loud and crass during this argument so that Oree would come to learn who her houseguest really was. Regardless, it’s from this that Oree finds out the truth, which is vital for her understanding of the complicated environment that she’s in. However, it’s not until she actually talks to Shiny that the implications of this reveal hits her. (And hard.) No, it’s this initial conversation that allows Madding to bring up a possible solution to their problem: She could just stay with him and hide in his place. Oh god, can we talk about this part?
Every morsel of food I ate, every scrap of clothing I wore, would come from him. Could I bear that? I had traveled across the continent, left my mother and my people, scrabbled and struggled, to live as I pleased. If I stayed in Shadow, with the Order hunting me and murder dogging my steps, would I even be able to leave Madding’s house? Freedom alone, or imprisonment with the man I loved. Two horrible choices.
Now, I haven’t projected all over a fictional character in a few reviews, so bear with me. It’s hard not to see myself in this because I, too, ran away from home, literally at first, and then escaped the insular, horrible community I lived in after I was outed, and I moved to increasingly bigger cities so that I could do as I pleased. It was always an intentional thing. I wanted that freedom. No, that’s not quite right; I craved that freedom. And that is precisely why I was single for so long after being outed. For six years, I was terrified of losing my freedom, of signing myself over to another person. Granted, I wasn’t nearly mature enough to deal with a relationship until the last few years, so I was looking at monogamy in the wrong light the whole way. It wasn’t about imprisonment or losing freedom at all. Still, at the time, I had lived a grossly stifled life, and I was frightened to choose anything that might restrict my freedom.
So I understand Oree’s reluctance to commit to anything, even in the most dire of situations. It’s not as simple as survival for her. Her freedom of choice is her everything.
The Fallen Itempas
But nothing is as invigorating or mind-blowing as Oree confronting the literal god she once worshipped and discovering that nearly everything she believed about him was a lie. Jemisin handles this with grace, respecting the fact that such an experience would be bewildering and downright traumatic to anyone who went through this. Initially, she’s furious. She’s furious that Itempas views her as “just another mortal,” and then she’s furious when Itempas reveals that he’s trying to “express [his] remorse” to Nahadoth. BECAUSE THEN N.K. JEMISIN REVEALS WHAT THE NIGHTLORD DID TO THE MAROLANDS AND HE FUCKING PUNCHED A HOLE IN THE EARTH AND SANK MOST OF THE MAROLAND ALONG WITH MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED THERE. OH MY FUCKING GOD. So, understandably, she is fucked up upon learning what Itempas is doing because it makes no fucking sense. Why would he try to express remorse to his brother, who destroyed one of the three great continents?
Oh, Oree. When you realized it, my heart broke along with yours:
“You’re saying you started the Gods’ War,” I said. “You’re saying the Nightlord was your lover – that you love him still. You’re saying he’s free now and he’s the one who did this to you.”
“Yes,” said Shiny. Then, to my surprise, he let out a little laugh, so laden with bitterness that his voice wavered unsteadily for an instant. “That’s precisely what I’m saying.”
It’s how Oree comes to learn how wrong the human race has been, in her own words. How would you feel if everything you believed came crumbling down in front of you like this? You’d react as Oree does, with horror and disbelief and denial. It’s not until Shiny kisses Oree – in one of the most relentlessly uncomfortable scenes in this whole goddamn series – that she must accept this as truth. His unsettling statement following the kiss, that she doesn’t love Madding, is precisely the kind of selfish, horrific behavior that befits someone who murdered their sister out of jealousy.
We don’t get to explore this much more (MORE PLEASE, I NEED TO KNOW MORE) because some mysterious guy approaches Oree on the roof, and she vaguely recognizes him? AND THEN EVERYTHING IS AWFUL BECAUSE SHINY TELLS HER TO GO IN THE HOUSE BECAUSE HE WILL “REMOVE” THE MAN AND THEN:
There was a glimmer of magic – something occluded by the hazy shimmer of Shiny’s body. Then a flurry of movement, cloth tearing, the struggle of flesh against flesh. A spray of wetness across my face, making me flinch.
And then silence.
I misunderstood the next part and thought that Shiny had thrown the bodies off the roof, BUT IT’S JUST SILENCE. WHAT THE FUCK DID HE DO? OH MY GOD. WHAT DID HE DO?
This book is so fucked up, y’all.
Please note that the original text and the videos contain the words “demented,” “insane,” and “mad.”
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