In the twentieth chapter of The Kingdom of Gods, NOPE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Kingdom of Gods.
Let the record show that this book has utterly destroyed me.
I know I rely on notions of emotional devastation to convey just how much I can get attached to a fictional narrative or certain characters, so yeah. I say stuff like a lot. So I don’t want that to make it seem like this is just any ol’ plot twist. This is PURE DEVASTATION IN EVERY SENSE. It’s upsetting on a molecular level, and I’m pretty sure the atoms that make up my body are crying right now. Really, there’s no way out of this, and what Kahl has done will have irrevocable effects on the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Which is the goddamn understatement of the century. THIS WHOLE SERIES WAS JUST… UGH. OH MY GOD.
This is certainly one of the most frightening and surreal chapters in the entirety of the trilogy, and it’s one of the reasons this all feels so huge. Never has there been such a credible threat to the Arameri before! But with hundreds (possibly thousands) of maskers, standing impossibly still, awaiting Usein Darr’s orders, it’s hard not to think that this was going to be an epic showdown, one that was easily in favor of the invading force. On top of that, this really feels like the criticism that the Arameri have always deserved, doesn’t it? After two full novels (and most of this one) full of the Arameri largely getting away with their oppressive power structure and the heinous things they’ve done to those below them, Usein acts as the series’ final condemnation. Her demands are based in a redistribution of wealth; they’re about dismantling an oppressive power so completely that it would be immensely difficult for the Arameri to ever return to their previous graces; and they’re based in a desire to let the world of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms sort themselves out. Usein even acknowledges that without a central power, she may very well be opening the world to anarchy. But it’s worth it to her because the alternative, which has been in place for a seemingly endless number of centuries, is so much worse. The Arameri’s idea of peace and prosperity only benefits them.
I wasn’t surprised that Remath rejected Usein’s demands. She is an Arameri, after all, and I quietly wondered if there was some secret master plan she was hiding from everyone. However, when she finally speaks to her remaining family members, I REALIZE JUST HOW MUCH I WASN’T PREPARED FOR THIS AT ALL. As the maskers begin to converge on Sky on Usein’s orders, Remath admits that she had a dream about this very day. Not just any dream, though, because she casually reveals that every dream she has ever had has come true. Oh god, her lineage includes a godling, so… it’s possible???
“I have seen Sky fall,” said Remath, and Shahar jerked beneath my hand. “And I have seen myself die with it.”
Y’ALL, I JUST REALIZED THAT REMATH IS SPEAKING LITERALLY. OH GOD. OH GOD.
“I have dreamt of more than Sky.” Remath suddenly looked away from Shahar, he gaze settling on me and Deka. “I have seen all existence fall, Lord Sieh. Sky is merely the harbinger. Only you can stop it. You and Shahar and you, my son. All three of you are the key. I built Echo to keep you safe.”
I admit I don’t understand all of this, but I have an inkling of what Remath is referring to. But did she always know of the connection between these three? Did she know what Deka and Shahar could do with their powers? And did she see Kahl’s attempt at becoming the fourth God, which would cause all existence to shatter and disintegrate? I feel like I am precariously close to putting this all together, and yet? I’M SO FAR FROM THE TRUTH.
There’s a procession of moments that follow this that are all subtly devastating in their own right. Remath makes reference to her lover, Morad, who won’t get to say goodbye before Remath perishes. She then begins to speak with a shocking vulnerability (for an Arameri, that is) about her children. She admits that when Sieh blew apart that staircase all those years ago, she could only protect one of her children, and it ended up being Shahar. It’s such a raw and painful scene because it speaks to a potential that will never come to light. Remath couldn’t find the words to vocalize how she really felt about her children, and instead, it all passes unsaid between the parties who are watching Remath say her last words.
Maybe that’s part of the reason that Shahar reacts as she does. Maybe it’s her frustration over loving someone who took so long to love her back. Honestly, there’s a lot of shit at work here, and it leads Shahar to do something drastic and surreal and ridiculous and un-fucking-believable.
She holds hands with Deka and Sieh and forces them to become one giant metaphysical entity.
I adore the way that Jemisin writes this portion, and it’s yet another example of how she’s able to convey complicated topics, points-of-view, and narrative devices with apparent ease. Seriously, it seems so effortless, and I AM SO IMPRESSED. Whatever it is that these three friends have become, it’s powerful and it’s scary. They’re one being, but they still retain the elements of their own identities, as evidenced by the segment where they all come to understand that the concept of a mother means something different to each of them. Regardless, they fling Echo across physical space in a matter of seconds and begin to attack the maskers who are fiercely climbing up the World Tree. The whole thing is electrifying and exhilarating, and I’ve simply never read anything like it in my life.
My excitement over this turn of events is partially responsible for me forgetting that Sieh had already mentioned that Kahl needed a lot more power for his mask. It made me forget that that in this very chapter, Usein Darr had reiterated the fact that Kahl had his own agenda. He’s a wild card, and I should have expected. But let’s say I did. Would that have helped? Probably not. Kahl’s appearance here is part of a bold and daring choice from Jemisin, who takes the story and gives it an emotionally draining and disastrous twist. As far as I can, Kahl manipulated everyone to make this moment happen, and upon realizing what he could do, he activated the masks at once for their true purpose, a purpose built into the masks through the power subliminal suggestion. (Which explains the earlier moment when Nsana knew that someone was intruding in his realm.)
Kahl wanted to destroy it all. He’s the godling of retribution, isn’t he? And in doing so – in killing MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN ONE MOMENT – he gains the power he needs for his mask.
Y’all, millions of people just died. The World Tree has been destroyed, and with it, Sky has fallen. Literally. It’s all over, and it’s all gone. And to add a somewhat humorous insult to injury:
Usein would be pleased, at least: the Eyeglass was small and unassuming, nothing compared to the ocean’s vast grandeur. Only a mile of distance would now separate the palace from the shore; people could swim to it if they wanted. Remath’s plan to isolate the Arameri had backfired. The Arameri, such as remained, would be henceforth more accessible than ever, and far, far closer to the earth.
I’d laugh, but I’m numb after this. I truly, truly have no idea how this is ever going to pan out. Just… how? HOW IS THIS BOOK REAL?
Please note that the original text/videos contain use of the word “mad.”
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