In the ninth chapter of The Kingdom of Gods, Sieh’s despair lands him in Shadow, and he’s forced to figure out how he’s going to survive in mortal form. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Kingdom of Gods.
It had been too long since N.K. Jemisin has teased me, so of course, the bit that precedes chapter nine is all about me being utterly unprepared for the future. Whose perspective does this belong to? ARE YOU SAYING ITEMPAS FOUND ANOTHER MORTAL WOMAN TO HAVE A CHILD WITH? WHERE IS OREE, MY HEART IS BREAKING. Why do Nahadoth and Enefa want Itempas back? What’s about to happen? Why do I always have so many questions?
Chapter nine itself, however, is all about Sieh’s change in focus. After sinking far down to the city of Shadow (specifically South Root), Jemisin does further worldbuilding in her fictional universe through the character of Hymn, an extremely poor woman who happens to cross Sieh’s path and then can’t shake him. It’s so endlessly fascinating to me that Jemisin is willing to explore the multiple class levels in this massive city, and it’s not lost on me that we started off The Inheritance Trilogy at the highest point, and now we’re at the lowest one, both in terms of class and literal height. You could also ascribe an emotional metaphor to this, as I loved the idea of Sieh sinking with his own trip into depression and sadness. All of it fits in perfectly with his nature, too, especially if you consider how his childish nature now has to accommodate the sudden arrival of mortal life. The beginning of chapter nine is both a bit of a temper tantrum and a sad acknowledgment of reality. He’s been betrayed, terribly so, and for three days, he eats rotten food, drinks rainwater, and sits near his own refuse. It’s just sad.
So it seems perfect to me that Hymn, that cynical young girl, is the one to pull Sieh out of this. And that cynicism is a beautiful thing to me because so much of it is rooted in survival. That’s why she balks at the muckrackers when they enter the alley. It’s why she’s so averse to Sieh’s presence or his desire to fulfill his nature. It’s through this that Jemisin gives us a new group of people: the ones who don’t really give a shit about the gods. They’re not primortalists; they’re the people who often get the short end of the stick from a god’s good intentions, and as far as I can tell, they’re all poor, too. These people are used to being taken advantage of, they’re used to not having much of anything, and they’re unfortunately used to having to fight for what other people take for granted. YOU BETTER BELIEVE I’M PREPARED TO EMOTIONALLY PROJECT ALL OVER THIS.
And Sieh’s “defense” of Hymn is a fantastic example of what these people have had to get used to since the events at the end of the first novel in this trilogy. To Sieh, it seems admirable that he’s doing this for Hymn, and I can’t deny that it’s COOL AS FUCK. He literally covers the muckrackers going after Hymn in LAYERS OF TRASH AND SHIT. It’s incredible! Except this is not how Hymn reacts, and her fury confuses Sieh. Why? Why wouldn’t she appreciate the favor of a god who not only saved her life, but most likely prevented those jerks from ever coming after her?
“What I wanted,” she said, turning red in the face now, “was to do my business in peace. Shouldn’t left when I figured out you were a godling! And you’re worse somehow. You seemed so sad, I thought for a moment that you were more” â€“ she spluttered, too apoplectic to speak for a moment â€“ ” human. But you’re just like the rest of them, screwing up mortal lives and thinking you’re doing us a favor.”
Now, this may not be the first time we’ve heard this sentiment, but the way in which Jemisin examines this just feels so new. And really, isn’t this just the logical extension of what happened to Deka and Shahar? Didn’t his involvement with those two kids years and years ago set into motion something that may have ruined their lives? The thing is, Sieh’s good intentions for Hymn don’t really mean anything to her, especially when she has such basic and practical shit that she needs to fulfill. It’s why she asks for money. It may sound crass, but it’s true that that would help her in the most immediate and effective way. The whole passage reminded me of the many years I spent poor and on Welfare and how much asinine garbage I heard from people about how I could find happiness if I didn’t worry about money so much. SAYS THE PERSON WHO DOESN’T HAVE TO PANIC ABOUT HOW THEY’RE GOING TO PAY RENT NEXT MONEY AND HAS NEVER SPENT A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME HOMELESS.
Anyway, so Sieh is faced with the undeniable reality of his new life: He needs a job. HE IS A GODLING WHO NEEDS A JOB. There’s a wacky sitcom in this, I swear. And I don’t think Jemisin ignores how surreal this is! Gods and godlings have never needed to concern themselves with the worries of mortal life, but with diminishing powers and the inability to conjure things to help him out, Sieh has to analyze his own talents to see what he might be able to offer an employer. And while Nemmer might be able to help, he won’t see her for three days, so what does he do in the meantime? Y’all, it’s a sign of how much this narrative has shifted in 200 pages that Sieh isn’t all that concerned with who might be trying to kill him and other godlings.
It’s with this that Sieh and Hymn head to an infamous brothel in Shadow known as the Arms of Night, where Sieh might be able to find some employment. The place, just in terms of its appearance, is INCREDIBLE. It’s painted solid black, a direct contradiction of the old city ordinances that required buildings to be painted white in honor of Itempas. Even after Hymn confirmed that the people of the Arms of Night worshipped Nahadoth, I still didn’t figure out the obvious: who ran this place.
I turned slowly, my hands clenching into fists. He smiled with almost-perfect lips and gazed at me with eyes that weren’t quite dark enough. “You,” I breathed.
My father’s living prison. My tormentor. My victim.”
“Hello, Sieh,” he said. “Nice to see you again.”
HAHAHA HOLY SHIT, WELL THIS IS ALREADY AMAZING. This forced me to wonder if this was the reason this brothel had such a strange scent to Sieh. Given that Nahadoth’s physical form was also as much a slave as Sieh was, it makes sense that he wouldn’t run a brothel built on the same ideals of servitude. WELL, I WANT TO READ MORE OF THIS IMMEDIATELY.
Please note that the original text/videos contain uses of the words “mad,” “stupid,” and “whore.”
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