Mark Reads ‘The Broken Kingdoms’: Chapter 12

In the twelfth chapter of The Broken Kingdoms, I realize the title of this book is actually REFERRING TO MY HEART. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Kingdoms.

Chapter Twelve: “Destruction” (charcoal and blood, sketch)

I AM NOT OKAY. THIS IS NOT OKAY.

Oree’s guest

Okay, so it’s not lost on me that yet again, Shiny has ended up as Oree’s guest by forces out of her control. With this, though, Jemisin turns this book into something even more shocking and surprising than it was before. AND IT WAS ALREADY RIDICULOUS AND TERRIFYING. As I brought up in the video, I didn’t expect Shiny to appear in any of these scenes. I mean, I initially thought this whole book would cover the experience of Oree living with Shiny, but clearly, that’s not at all what this story is about. But by injecting Shiny into the narrative, N.K. Jemisin has done THE VERY BEST THING and THE VERY SADDEST THING and I promise I’ll get to the latter.

Obviously, there’s a lot of flailing to be had by what Jemisin does here. Dateh and his associates have no clue who Shiny is, and that means that nearly every sentence out of their mouths is the most horrifically ironic thing in the world. Oree is well aware of this, but she smartly keeps quiet about it because for now, this secret is power. And I love that idea because it’s in stark contrast to how secrets were used to hurt her in the past few chapters. In this instance, she has an advantage. She uses Shiny as leverage: If Dateh keeps her pleased, she’ll become more amenable to their cause.

It’s a gamble for sure, and initially, Oree is more irritated than pleased. I picked up on this as I realized that while she was happy not to be only, that happiness quickly turned to fury because of Shiny – well, being Shiny. When he’s first placed in her room, I could tell that Dateh’s comment about him possibly needing assistance wasn’t an exaggeration. Yeah, how did I not realize this?:

Beneath the mortal veneer, he was the god of light, and he had spent five days trapped in a lightless hell.

Of course he was going to be fucked up! And despite that Shiny was indirectly responsible for her current predicament, Oree does what she can to comfort him. Also, I can’t get over the fact that THIS IS THE MORTAL EMBODIMENT OF HER GOD. This is all so surreal on about a billion levels, y’all, and I can’t deal with it. I think it speaks volumes about the kind of person Oree is, you know? She’s not even necessarily comfortable with using her own body to warm Shiny, but she does it anyway. And then Shiny is – at least at first – physically affectionate towards here. I know that’s a huge deal based on what I know of Shiny through Jemisin’s writing and because I place a lot of value in physical affection myself.

Things don’t remain simple for Oree very long, though. As obstinate and stubborn as Shiny is, there are these brief glimpses of something else. Yeah, he’s being a jerk when he commands Oree to stay, but then I can’t ignore that he is asking for MORE PHYSICAL AFFECTION. FROM A HUMAN. Well… from a mortal, I should say. I guess I still think of Oree as human, despite that she’s a demon. Regardless, this, coupled with Shiny actually used the word “please,” combine to inspire a bit of sympathy in Oree, as well as add more depth to Shiny’s characterization. And it’s so satisfying to read!

The Dinner

WHAT IS WITH THIS BOOK AND HORRIFYING DINNER SEQUENCES? I thought the one in chapter eight was bad, but this one is A BILLION TIMES WORSE. Again, I can’t quite figure out why, but I’m so disturbed by how direct these people are whenever they’re talking about ways in which they’re trying to manipulate and control Oree. Sermyn outright confirms that they are depriving Oree of any activity to bore her into submission, and that sort of arrogance terrifies me. Perhaps it’s their certainty that is so jarring and scary, you know? Regardless, it takes two fucking minutes for everything to turn into a disaster. There’s no slow-burn of dread here. No, this is CHAOS IMMEDIATELY>

“We are still devoted to the ways of the Bright Father, after all.”

I should have known what that would set off.

“In what way,” Shiny asked suddenly, startling me in midswallow, “does attacking Itempas’s children serve Him?”

IN AN INSTANT, THIS BECOMES THE VERY BEST THING IN THE UNIVERSE. Dateh has no idea HE IS TALKING TO THE VERY GOD HE CLAMS TO RESPECT AND REVERE. So that means every sentence is cringe-worthy, and every claim can possibly set Shiny into a rage. This is one of the most relentlessly uncomfortable and tense scenes to ever be read for this site, and I’m so happy with it. Well, perhaps “happy” is the wrong word because there’s no way you can be happy about how this ends.

Regardless, Dateh arrogantly continues to speak about Itempas while Itempas sits at the table with him, detailing why it’s completely reasonable for them to kill the godlings as a way to honor the Bright Itempas. Not only that, but Dateh REVEALS HOW THEY ARE GOING TO DO IT! This is like Villain Monologuing 101 but a thousand times more terrifying. See, this whole time, I had assumed that Oree’s magic was what they were going to use to kill Nahadoth. I didn’t know how that was going to work, but I was so fucking wrong. No, they’re using Oree herself to kill the gods, and Dateh says this horrifying thing:

“Those with power – the Arameri, and to a lesser degree the nobility and priests of the Order – kill with impunity. No others may do so without their permission. The right to kill has become the most coveted privilege of power in the world, as in the heavens. We worship Him not because He is the best of our gods, but because He is, or was, the greatest killer among them.”

If this is unsettling to read, it’s designed to be, and there are incredibly upsetting parallels to our own world. I don’t think it’s difficult to see this in our own world, you know? Racist police brutality cases, the murder of the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill, of those who don’t conform to gender normativity, of those who aren’t men… power is used in our own world to gain the privilege to kill with impunity. It’s here that Jemisin demonstrates how the New Lights plan on doing this very same thing, not to necessarily honor Itempas, but to ensure their own power stays in their hands.

“Our blood has grown thin over the ages,” said Dateh. He set the thing down on the table in front of him. “It was said that Itempas needed only a few drops to kill Enefa.”

Just seconds later, this turns into a nightmare, but I wanted to put Dateh’s words into context. He is telling Oree how they’ll kill the Nightlord by using the same method Itempas used to kill his sister, and he is doing this IN FRONT OF ITEMPAS. I realize now that Itempas shouting “Demon” was him identifying Dateh as a demon because he would totally know what the man was talking about. But given that Itempas is working out his own issues with his brother, including the love he feels for him, this would feel like the most horrifying slap in the face to him.

Understandably so, Shiny bursts into a rage and EVERYTHING IS SO SCARY. Not being able to see what’s going on is bad enough. Knowing there is no magic being used is even worse. But then, Oree – brilliant, inspiring Oree – DOES THE MOST AMAZING THING YET:

I felt around, closer to the fire, ready to snatch my hand back if I encountered something hot. My fingers fumbled over a hard, irregular lump, quite warm but not painfully so. Bits of it crumbled away as I touched it. A chunk of old wood that had been burned to charcoal, probably over several days.

The color black.

Obviously, I picked up on the fact that Oree was going to draw another portal. (I LOVE THAT I GET TO TYPE THAT SENTENCE, Y’ALL. IT’S SO SATISFYING.) The chapter’s title clued me in on that. But I didn’t guess that she was drawing a portal to THE EMPTY. AND THAT SHE WAS GOING TO PULL MADDING OUT OF IT. Incredible. One of the most mouth-dropping scenes in this whole series, I swear! And I couldn’t ignore that Shiny and Madding were in the same room, full of inconsolable rage, and it meant that Serymn and Dateh WERE SO DEAD, and I was convinced that this was the destruction referenced in the title of the chapter, and I don’t think I’ve ever so dearly wished that I was right. Oh no, oh no.

To my surprise, however, Madding gasped, the light of his facets dimming abruptly. He did not get up.

Faintly, through shock, I heard Shiny cry out, in something that sounded much like anguish.

NO. NO, I DON’T LIKE THIS.

There was no light in his belly. The rest of him shone as usual, though dimmer than I’d ever seen, but that part of him I could not see at all. He clutched at it, and I followed his hands to find the smooth, hard substance of his body broken by something long and thin, made of wood, that jutted up. A crossbow bolt.

OH, FUCK YOU, DATEH. This is so destructive, isn’t? Dateh used Oree’s own blood to kill the godling she loved. I hate him. No, hate isn’t enough of a word now. This is so upsetting and gutting that hate isn’t enough. Oh my god, Oree telling Madding not to hide from her, begging to see him, it’s too much. It’s one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever read, y’all, and I know there are a lot of hyperbolic statements in this review. I love this book, as much as it is hurting me forever. It’s brilliantly written and executed, and it hurts. This death in particular is so deeply unfair, too, because Madding was back in this world for just seconds before Dateh killed him. But that in and of itself wasn’t the worst thing. No, it’s the revelation of why Role’s heart was removed from her body:

“Killing the Nightlord runs the same risk, so I’ve spent years researching where the seat of a god’s soul lies when they incarnate themselves in flesh.”

It’s in their heart. So, Dateh removes Madding’s heart and consumes it.

Destruction. He’s destroying gods for all eternity. And in the process, N.K. Jemisin JUST DESTROYED ALL OF US.

Please note that the original text and the videos contain variations on the word “mad.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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About Mark Reads

Vegan cyclist, Internet community nerd, atheist bookworm, high-five purveyor.
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