In the twelfth chapter of The Kingdom of Gods, I CAN’T FATHOM HOW THIS BOOK IS REAL AND WE’RE SOMEHOW ALLOWED TO READ IT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Kingdom of Gods.
Yeah, I give up. There’s no way I can be prepared for this book, especially given that every time I think I have a grasp on the general story, N.K. Jemisin pulls the rug out from under me, laughs at me, and the kicks me off a cliff. While still laughing at me. AND MOST OF YOU ARE CACKLING ALONG WITH HER. Because how is this chapter fucking possible?
Good writing. Honestly, it’s really that simple for me. The spectacle of this chapter is all based on N.K. Jemisin’s awe-inspiring ability to mix some of my favorite prose of hers with complex plotting and characterization. AND HISTORY. HISTORY ALWAYS MATTERS. The history of the gods, the history of this series, it all matters, and I LOVE IT.
After the shocking reveals in the previous chapter, I kind of expected this chapter to be a bit more introspective, especially since it started off with Sieh aging ANOTHER FIVE YEARS from his experience in Darr. He aged five years in a matter of hours, y’all. Because of this, he’s literally no longer a child, and the experience terrifies him in a way. I mean, how does a godling who is the essence of childhood cope with life as a mortal adult? It’s the reason he so frankly discusses killing himself. It’s about choosing how to exit his existence. It’s about controlling something that’s entirely out of his control.
But that may come at some point later, and what happens after Sieh’s moment of despair may make him rethink all of this. I was struck by how similar Sieh’s journey was to Itempas’s in the previous book, in the sense that The Kingdom of Gods is forcing him to examine his own past and his own actions. Here, Sieh is shown some brutal truths by one of his godling brothers, Nsana, who’s a godling of mortal dreams. Like many of the interaction in this book, Nsana and Sieh’s relationship is largely defined by the Gods’ War and the subsequent years Sieh spent as a slave to the Arameri. But it’s also scarred by their own love for one another and the falling out they had as lovers. Even if we mortals don’t really compare in terms of how the godlings love one another, that still doesn’t mean we can’t see some truth or understanding in what’s discussed here. What if we got the chance to talk to the people we loved ages ago, the ones we’ve fallen out of contact with? Would we have a similar experience after being so detached from the original events?
Nsana is far enough away from them to be honest with Sieh in his scene in the early part of this chapter. He seems crude at first, since he tells Sieh that he needs to grow up. Given Sieh’s currently godless condition, that was kind of a fucked up thing to say, no? Except Nsana isn’t speaking literally here. He’s referring to Sieh’s refusal to be a mature being, not a mature physical being, and it becomes more clear to Sieh that this is the case when Nsana brings him to the First City, only to discover that the rapidly shifting landscape contains something that should not be there: a single, shining white tower.
It’s a physical manifestation of… well, it could be Sieh’s soul. His essence. His consciousness. It’s not named as such, but that’s fine. I understood that he’d “brought” this bit of architecture with him, and it represented a secret that he’d forgotten. Jemisin once more refers to Sieh forgetting something, only now she starts to tell us what she’s talking about, and DAMN IT, YOU ARE TOO MUCH. Again, this tower and Sieh’s flaws are all rooted in his history, a history which he has spent thousands of years trying to ignore, which has left him damaged and broken in a lot of ways. As Nsana says:
“As I am marked by your abandonment. As we are all marked by the War. Did you think the horrors you’ve endured would simply slough away when you became a free god? They have become a part of you.”
And he’s purposely ignored that. It’s clear to see how that’s affected him in the last book and in this one, and it’s also clear that his treatment of Nsana ages ago is rooted in a refusal to face his shortcomings. I admit that any time you start talking about loneliness and desire, I’m already interested, so yes, I’m quite biased in enjoying what Nsana and Sieh talk about here. But haven’t we seen truckloads of evidence that Sieh is a deeply lonely godling? Haven’t we witnessed his desperation for the kind of company that Nsana says he can “never have”? What Sieh wants is a love that’s possessive. It’s more than just unconditional or all-encompassing. Even if there have been rough patches between him and the Three, I’d say they have all clearly loved him. But Sieh desires a connection that is identical to the one the Three have. That Shahar and Deka have:
“… a closeness that few outsiders would ever comprehend or penetrate. More than blood-deep – soul-deep. She hadn’t seen him for half her life and she’d still betrayed me for him.
What would it be like to have that kind of love for myself?
This doesn’t negate how terribly Sieh treated Nsana, who reveals that Sieh actually abandoned him, not the other way around. But to me, Jemisin just made Sieh even more sympathetic than he was before. This explains his obsession with Deka and Shahar, as well as his behavior towards Yeine in the first novel. He wants that kind of love for himself. And where is he ever going to find it?
The narrative shifts after this to the Arms of Night, where Sieh walks in to a surprise meeting with Ahad, Glee, AND FOUR OF HIS SIBLINGS. Kitr, Nemmer, newcomer Eyem-sutah, and LIL. OH MY GOD, IT’S LIL. I MISSED YOU SO MUCH. Of course, I wasn’t surprised that Sieh interpreted this as his final living moment. He assumed that Ahad had sold him out to his enemies, and they were here to pick him apart. I get it! However, then everything gets EXTREMELY SURREAL, and it’s not some surprise execution for Sieh. It’s a strategy meeting for the gods on how they can best live in the mortal world.
WHICH IS WEIRD, RIGHT??? I mean, at first, it seems like all they’re going to talk about is the mask that Sieh was shown in Darr, but then Ahad shocks everyone by stating that they’re not actually going to go and destroy it. WHICH… OKAY. WHAT. THAT SEEMS LIKE A SENSIBLE THING TO DO, AHAD.
“It would make more sense –” Kitr began.
“No,” said Nemmer. “No. Remember what happened the last time a god got hold of a powerful mortal weapon.” At this, Eyem-sutah, who had chosen to resemble an Amn, went pale.
WELL, SHIT. WELL PLAYED, N.K. JEMISIN. WELL PLAYED. And thus begins her journey in absolutely breaking my brain.
“This group’s original purpose was merely to police our own behavior and prevent another Interdiction. To a degree, that is still our purpose. Things changed, however, when a few mortals used demons’ blood to express their displeasure at our arrival.” He sighed, crossing his legs and leaning back in his chair. “This was a few years back. You may recall the time.”
NAY, I CANNOT FORGET IT. Y’all, I love how integral the previous books are in this series, while Jemisin still manages to make each book in the trilogy stand on its own. And that’s part of the justification for what the group is doing here! The events of the last book inform the group’s decision to act in the best interest of the godlings who want to remain or visit the mortal world. They don’t want to risk Yeine revoking that privilege, and Sieh, of all the gods, understands why they don’t want to lose this. Ahad is the unofficial leader since Madding’s death (no NO NO DON’T REMIND ME), and it’s why they’re being so careful with the Darre mask… thing. Whatever the hell that thing is. Seriously, they really don’t know much about it or its effects, and I agree that it would be dangerous to just barge in and take it or try to destroy it. It could have catastrophic ramifications.
But Ahad makes the case that this is also about them refusing to become the very people they hate: the Arameri.
“We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. Again and again our kind have tried to dominate mortalkind and have harmed ourselves in the doing. This time, if we choose to dwell among mortals, then we must share the risks of mortality. We must live in this world, not merely visit it. Do you understand?”
OH GOD, YES. And y’all, it’s such a brilliant follow-up to the last book and a necessary direction for the final book in this series. If the first book examined Arameri terror, and the second one focused on Itempas’s role in creating the world, then it’s time that the gods look at what they have done, too.
Which brings us to what Enefa did: SHE MADE THEM ALL FORGET WHO KAHL WAS. This elontid godling was somehow hidden after Enefa did this, though where Kahl was hidden or who he was prior to this is a mystery. Then there’s Sieh’s fractured memory of Enefa telling him that he couldn’t be a little boy forever. UGH, WHY? Why would she do this??? What secret is hiding IN PLAIN VIEW? The only reason I say that is because of how obvious Glee’s identity was in hindsight, but seriously. Nemmer postulates that Enefa spared Kahl after the Gods’ War for her own reasons, but I can’t figure what they are at all. And how could send your child to a realm with NO ONE IN IT AT ALL? That would mean Kahl, while in hiding, was alone for THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF YEARS. WHY????
And I don’t think it’s impossible that Kahl is killing the Arameri and that the Darre are preparing for war. As for how much they’re working to satisfy the goals of the other party? Shit, I’m lost again. Kahl could be running the show. He could be in a mutual partnership with the Darre. Of course, regardless of this, we still don’t know why the masks are being used in the first place. UGH.
There’s one final surprise for us in chapter twelve. Jemisin finally reveals why all the godlings treat Glee with such reverence and fear:
The woman lifted an eyebrow, then let out a long, heavy sigh. “My full name is Glee Shoth. I speak for, and assist, Itempas.”
OH MY GOD
OH MY GOD IT’S OREE’S DAUGHTER.
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS BOOK. And all the signs were RIGHT THERE! The fear the godlings expressed? SHE’S A DEMON. SHE COULD KILL THEM ALL BY BLEEDING. Her stoic, stony nature? Pure Itempas.
And then the real nature of this group is made apparent when Sieh figures out that ITEMPAS IS LEADING THE GROUP.
Ahad opened his mouth, then closed it. ” ‘You will right all the wrongs inflicted in your name,’ ” he said at last, and I twitched as I remembered the words. I had been there, the first time they’d been spoken, and Ahad’s voice was deep enough, had just the right timbre, to imitate the original speaker perfectly. He shrugged at my stare and finally flashed his usual humorless smile. “I’d say the Arameri, and all they’ve done to the world, count as one great whopping wrong, wouldn’t you?”
DONE WITH THIS BOOK NOW. DONE WITH THIS BOOK FOREVER. OH MY GOD. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT FOR ITEMPAS WITHIN A PLOT TWIST FOR ANOTHER CHARACTER. HOW. HOW IS THIS BOOK REAL.
I just… my god. This book is just so much fun to read. The stakes keep getting bigger and more real, and LIL. LIL. LIL BEING NICE AND AFFECTIONATE TO SIEH. IT’S TOO MUCH. I have no clue where this is going next, but goddamn. I want to devour this book in one sitting because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON. Bless all of this.
Please note that the original text/videos contain uses of the words “crazy,” “insane,” “mad,” “idiot,” and “stupid.”
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