In the sixth chapter of The Broken Kingdoms, I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO DONE WITH A BOOK SO EARLY INTO. WHAT THE HELLS HAVE Y’ALL GOTTEN ME INTO? If you’re intrigued by yet another garish display of me being ridiculous, then it’s time for me to keep freaking out over The Broken Kingdoms.
Chapter Six: “A Window Opens” (chalk on concrete)
OH MY GOD, I UNDERSTAND THE CHAPTER TITLE. Except WHERE DID THE WINDOWS OPEN TO?
Y’all, this is unreal. Terrifying, bewildering, and utterly satisfying. I love that N.K. Jemisin accepts that we understand this world, and so she immediately drops us into an utter nightmare. Honestly, I can’t think of a better word to describe what’s happening here because it feels so otherworldly, so bizarre and surreal that it belongs in our imaginations. Just as one disaster is nearly understood, the reader is dealt a narrative blow that is one of the SCARIEST THINGS EVER.
First, though, we get a bit of a surprise that may have only been surprising to me and no one else because I hadn’t even thought about what the ramifications of Oree’s power meant. The casual reminder of history in the Hundred Kingdoms that opens chapter six puts Oree’s power into perspective: IS SHE A DEMON? She inherited a form of magic, clearly. Actually, multiple forms of magic??? IS SHE A SUPER DEMON??? I don’t know what this means, so this particular line DIDN’T HELP AT ALL:
For us, the divine inheritance was a blessing. For the gods, one drop of mortal blood doomed their offspring to death.
Apparently, no one realized what this meant for a very long time.
APPARENTLY, I DON’T KNOW EITHER.
The chapter moves on from this to the seconds after the attack on Shiny, and it’s a frantic and frightening affair. Yes, this chapter is shorter than some of the others, but it brims with an energy that is ecstatic. (I’m sure you can see in the video how I basically on the edge of my seat the entire time.) The thing is, WE don’t know exactly what happened, we have no idea who that man was that confronted Oree and Shiny, we don’t know why there was a splash of blood on Oree’s face, and so we’re left at the mercy of Madding and his people to figure out what the hell is going on. It’s an ingenious way to control the story, you know? And I know from writing my own novel and getting to passages that I want to be scary and suspenseful, it’s really difficult to devise scenes that can inspire things like fear or worry. Why should I care? How is the information in the scene being passed along to the reader? What makes it suspenseful?
For me, this whole chapter relies on discovery. Through the characters struggling to piece together what little information Oree is giving them, I found myself desperate to understand the unfolding horror. And it was this specific line that brought a new sense of fear to this book:
“Mad, that man wasn’t after Shiny at all! If he was an Order-Keeper, he would’ve wanted Shiny, wouldn’t he? They know he killed the ones in South Root.” The more I thought about it, the more certain I became. “I don’t think that man was an Order-Keeper at all.”
Then what the fuck is going on? Does this have to do with that weird interaction Oree had in the marketplace prior to opening portals to another world? Why the fuck are there no bodies or body parts anywhere, given how much blood there is?
On top of this, though, this re-opens old wounds with the godlings, and Oree begins to understand the hatred and anger these gods feel towards Itempas. It’s clear that Itempas despises humanity because he doesn’t even bother trying to respect his “mortal” body. Shiny kills whenever he can, and he puts his body at great risk at every opportunity. It really does make it significant that he was trying to apologize prior to this because… well, it’s just so unlike the Itempas we know, right? It’s fascinating to me, then, that Shiny’s offensive claim that Oree didn’t like Madding is what inspires her to realize that she truly does love him, so much so that she’s willing to compromise her life goals just to be with him and make him happy. Even while he’s convinced that humanity has nothing to offer, he’s inspiring humans to prove that they do.
And then it all goes to hell. And holes. And absolutely nothing is okay forever. Y’all, this is one of the most relentlessly terrifying things I have ever read. The second that scrivener was sucked into the “perfect circle of darkness,” I was just done. It’s so fucking creepy, obviously, but I can’t deal with the idea of these people being pulled into some horrifying place. AND A DOG. NO, DON’T DO THINGS TO DOGGIES, NOT FAR. I was straight up heartbroken once Madding vanished via a hole behind him, because these fucking things can just show up anywhere in space and suck people into their vacuum jaws of death, and I DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY ALL WENT.
I got three steps into the house before the air tore behind me, and I flew backward off my feet, and a sound like trembling metal filled the world as I tumbled away.
GODDAMN IT. WHAT JUST HAPPENED? WHAT IS THIS? The scrivener recognized it, so… THAT ACTUALLY DOESN’T HELP ME. Oh gods, what is this book.
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