Mark Reads ‘The Kingdom of Gods’: Chapter 2

In the second chapter of The Kingdom of Gods, Sieh visits his father, who has unnerving suspicions about the future, and the Arameri children he owes a wish. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Kingdom of Gods.

Chapter 2

There’s something N.K. Jemisin does in her books that I don’t think I’ve ever completely acknowledged or discussed, and I wanted to open this review with a discussion of that. I think a lot of what she’s created in this trilogy relies on being able to describe the intangible. Emotions. Feelings. Thoughts. Non-physical things and universes and beings. The opening of chapter two features one of the more haunting examples of this: Sieh coming upon his father, who shifts in form every second. (It reminded me of Uusoae from The Immortals!) We travel through realms that are, by design, inconceivable to humankind. We deal with family epics that have lasted thousands upon thousands of years. I’ve held a grudge for maybe a decade tops, so it’s truly unreal to try and comprehend what we’ve experienced over the course of this series.

At the same time, I get it. Jemisin conveys these concepts or ideas with a ferocity of diction and poetry:

From any direction, one could look into the distance and there he was, defying logic as a matter of course. Almost as noticeable were the lesser presences that drifted nearby, drawn toward all that heavy, dark glory even though it might destroy them. I beheld my siblings in all their variety and sparkling beauty, elontid and mnasat and even a few of my fellow niwwah.

Even without necessarily knowing what those words were, I understood that they were different types of godlings. I knew why it was a “good sign” that Nahadoth was in corporeal form, which comes up later when his fury renders him incorporeal. It’s just so… impressive? Yes, that’s the word. Because even amidst this – decadent worldbuilding that’s as thrilling as it is revealing – Jemisin never strays from the emotional core of these characters. We know exactly why Nahadoth is nowhere near as furious as Sieh is upon learning that his brother, Itempas, is with his sister, Yeine, and LOOK AT THIS CHARACTER GROWTH, Y’ALL:

“The past is gone,” he said. “Mortality made me cling to it, though that is not my nature, and it damaged me. To return to myself, I must reject it. I have had Itempas as an enemy; that holds no more appeal for me. And there is an undeniable truth here, Sieh: we have no one but each other, he and I and Yeine.”

Again, we see how loneliness plays a bitter part in the evolution of the Three, and this brief section reminded me of Itempas’s own history with feeling alone in the universe. It affects Sieh, too, who, very much like a child, craves his father’s attention or his mother’s comfort. However, something else is at work here, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t quite know what’s going on. Something is changing within Sieh that disturbs him. It’s not lost on me that he confesses this to the god who thrives on change and chaos, and I also noticed that Naha changed form, almost as a protective measure. Plus, there’s this:

I went very still, wondering which was the greater blasphemy: Yeine loving Itempas, or me loving our slavemasters?

Maybe Sieh does feel love for Shahar and Deka, but why now? Why those specific children? Is it because he has hope that they’ll be able to resist Arameri assimilation? Is that the same sort of hope that Nahadoth has that one day, he’ll be able to forgive Itempas? (I said “one day” because of the passage where Naha says, “Inevitable is not the same as immediate, Sieh – and love does not mandate forgiveness.” WHICH IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE SENTENCES IN THIS WHOLE SERIES, OH MY GOD.) And how is this all connected to the Maelstrom? That I definitely did not understand. What does the Nightlord sense there?

The narrative shifts at this point to Sieh’s pre-dawn wandering in the palace at Sky, where he notes that the “Arameria had been forced to protect themselves more conventionally.” Interesting. I don’t know why, except to suggest that SOMETHING IS HAPPENING, and I AM DISGUSTINGLY UNPREPARED FOR IT. He eventually wanders into the bedrooms of Shahar and Deka (in that order), and I loved the focus on physical objects here. They demonstrated to Sieh the clear favoring of Shahar, most likely due to her physical appearance being more “acceptable” to Arameri cultures. So it makes sense, then, that Sieh spends a great deal of time pondering whether or not these objects – particularly the scepter – reflect the inevitable future of Shahar. Will she grow into the ruthless Arameri that’s expected to her?

Sieh does nothing, so I’m curious to know why he is resisting what appears to be (to him) sound reasoning: This girl will be raised to benefit from the explicit suffering of others, often by her own hand. But he resists. He is reluctant. HMMMM.

And then there’s Deka, whose room is nowhere near the spectacle of his sister’s, full of toys that are not objects of love and affection, but then there are his books. Oh god, THIS PART:

I closed my eyes and lifted my fingers to my lips, breathing the scent and sighing. I could not make a child with such a soul heir. It would be the same as destroying him myself.

In just two sentences, Jemisin delivers a brutal condemnation of Arameri culture. It’s devastating to read because Sieh is right. That kid’s imagination and quest for knowledge will be utterly and succinctly destroyed if he was suddenly made heir. How could he thrive under this culture?

We’re also introduced to the children’s mother, who still remains nameless. She’s an interesting one, not just in terms of her appearance, but in the details Sieh discovers. Unmarried, but has a single lover that she’s been with for a long time; possibly hoping that Shahar’s grandchildren will be her heirs; has a taste for the decadent, but only in a minimalist sense.

The most revealing part of this chapter, though, comes near the end, when Deka and Shahar come to find Sieh at the bottom of the Nowhere Stair AND ASK TO BE HIS FRIEND. Not as the fulfillment of a wish – as Sieh incorrectly assumed – but BECAUSE THEY WANT A FRIEND. Yes, initially, Sieh is furious with the children, as he thought that they were trying to ask for the eternal favor/comfort of a godling, but good god, y’all:

But Deka continued, compounding the miracle. “I didn’t think. You were a prisoner here once – we read about it. They made you act like a friend then, didn’t they?” He looked over at Shahar, whose expression showed the same dawning understanding. “Some of the old Arameri would punish him if he wasn’t nice enough. We can’t be like them.”

WHO ARE THESE CHILDREN? I know this is going to sound weird, but why haven’t they been ruined? Why aren’t they like everyone else in their family? Gods, this is just so fascinating. These children are both innocent and aware of the heinous world around them, and it’s so incredible to realize this. They both understand what they’ve asked of Sieh, but they’ve done so without the cynicism that he holds dear to his heart, the very thing that normally keeps him safe from the Arameri. They make a blood pact that GOES WRONG WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE. WHAT THE FUCK. ARE THEY ACTUALLY STUCK TOGETHER AND FLOATING WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED. WHO IS SIEH TALKING TO. I AM SO CONFUSED.

Please note that the original text and the videos contain uses of the words “madness,” “stupid,” and “idiot.”

Part 1

Part 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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