In the twenty-second chapter of The Kingdom of Gods, nothing will ever repair the damage done by this chapter. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Kingdom of Gods.
…and they all lived happily ever after. The end.
It’s hard to ignore all the signs along the way that this was always going to be the end of this story. There are hints towards fairy tales executed in ways that suggested that to believe in fairy tales endings was silly and unnecessary, and it’s with this final quote that Jemisin uses at the start of chapter twenty-two that it all comes full circle. No one lives happily ever after because even for gods, there’s still death. And Jemisin was always hinting towards that with the titles for each of the books:
“Four Legs in the Morning”
“Two Legs at Noon”
“Three Legs in the Afternoon”
“No Legs at Midnight”
It’s a clever reference to the ancient riddle about mankind, and that’s what Sieh inherited in this book. I remember believing that due to the title of this trilogy, we’d always be dealing with the complicated and literal inheritance rites of the Arameri. But each of these three books deals with characters inheriting some part of the past in their own way. With Yeine, her participation in the Arameri succession and her assumption of Enefa’s role, she inherited history. Oree inherited Itempas and the metaphysical, godly struggle that was part of his existence. And now, Sieh inherited the responsibility that came with being a father, one that Enefa tried to hide from him, but ultimately failed to do so. I admit that it’s sometimes grating to be reading this final book from the point of view as Sieh, especially since Jemisin doesn’t shy away from potraying Sieh as… well, unbearable. His treatment of Shahar is pretty horrid at times, even if he believes he was justified in doing so. At the same time, I can’t imagine this book in any other form. I can’t imagine a better way to end this series than by analyzing the kingdom of the Gods through him.
I just love the pacing here, from the slow, unnerving doom and gloom to the shocking end for multiple characters. Goddamn it, y’all, THE WORLD IS ENDING. LITERALLY. IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE. And Jemisin doesn’t provide us much hope at all, either. As the people of the world quietly (and sometimes, violently) give up on there being some last minute plan to save the universe, it was difficult to believe that someone could stop Kahl and the Maelstrom. It’s all so surreal, too, since it’s hard to picture some of the things that Jemisin talks about. Which is why it’s so incredible that Jemisin is able to convey the horror that is the encroaching Maelstrom! By definition, you can’t describe the Maelstrom, and yet she does it anyway.
And since a great deal of this book is told from the perspective of gods and godlings, it’s important that their ultimate plan is one that is godly in nature. The gods do not behave as mortals do most of the time, and I think Jemisin has done a fantastic job explaining why that’s the case and then showing us how they operate. A perfect example of that is the “plan” that Itempas vocalizes to Sieh: to let the world die. Of course, the Three would ostensibly live on with Kahl as the new form of Itempas, so it makes sense that they’d consider an option that involved the complete destruction of the universe. Even in terms of Itempas’s nature, it is logical that he’d want the easiest transition, one that is “cleaner.”
Nothing would ever be the same for any of us. Would it not be easier, somehow – cleaner – to start over with someone new? Knowing Itempas, the idea had some appeal for him, too. He did like things neat.
Even more horrifying is Sieh’s realization that Nahadoth likes the idea, too.
“Perhaps we should do nothing,” Nahadoth said. “Worlds die. Gods die. Perhaps we should let all of it go, and start anew.”
I don’t think this is apathy at all. I think it’s about an easier option that ends the suffering quicker, that makes the transition less painful, and one that might even be rooted in… well, mercy. Maybe. It’s hard to tell because these are gods and they’re so unreadable. And perhaps it’s wishful thinking because of what follows this: the absolute most affection that Nahadoth and Itempas have ever shown one another. It’s a tender scene that’s also intensely awkward that’s also unsettling that’s also revelatory. It’s a lot of things at once and it has to be. The conflict between these two is central to The Inheritance Trilogy, and reading about Nahadoth allowing Itempas to be affectionate towards him was just so intense, you know? Again, like so much of this book, we’re given so much potential, all for it to be (ostensibly) taken away from us. (There’s still a chapter left, SOMEHOW, so I can’t say anything with absolute certainty.) I mean, I GENUINELY THOUGHT THAT YEINE AND NAHADOTH DIED RIGHT AFTER KAHL APPEARED AND THEY DISAPPEARED. I mean, Deka says, “Yeine has fallen. Now Nahadoth –” WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO THINK?
Oh god, as soon as Kahl summoned, this turns into a terrible nightmare that was at times exhilarating to read, but mostly ENDLESSLY TRAGIC AND EMOTIONAL. Right off that bat, after Naha and Yeine disappear, Kahl reveals his target: Itempas. He’s going to take out Itempas as revenge for what Enefa did to him, reasoning that while Itempas is not the best target for his rage, he’ll be the easiest to kill. And that is when Glee Shoth – daughter of Itempas – objects, and it’s one of the most amazing scenes in the entire trilogy. She erupts into white flame and reappears, clad in all white, and clasping the very sword that Itempas used TO CREATE NAHADOTH AND BRING ORDER TO THE UNIVERSE. I JUST… HOLY SHIT. I love her transformation so much, and I adore that at least for some period of this fight, she posed a credible threat.
Ugh, I hate that I even have to type “for some period of this fight.” Ahad, Sieh, and Deka take Itempas away from the battlefield, just in case Kahl defeats Glee and comes looking for Itempas. Ahad transports them TO THE RUINED SKY BECAUSE WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU. Oh gods, it doesn’t matter, does it?
But whatever Ahad might have retorted died in his mouth as his eyes widened. he whirled, looking north, and we all saw it. A great amorphous blotch of blackness was fading from view, but against its contrast we could see a tiny, blazing white star.
Falling, and winking out of sight as it fell.
This is the first in a procession of devastating moments in this chapter, and I did not want it. There’s a bitter irony in Ahad learning his true nature at this point, one that revolves around love, and Sieh’s explanation of why it took Ahad so long is so brutal and sad that I can’t even feel anything but numbness anymore:
No wonder it had taken Ahad so long to find himself. He had lived the past century in the antithetical prison of his own apathy – and his centuries of suffering in Sky had probably not predisposed him to attempt love, even when the opportunity came along.
JUST DIG THE KNIFE DEEPER IN, N.K. JEMISIN. OH MY GOD.
So, I was definitely wrong about what I thought Sieh was going to use Itempas for. Upon asking Itempas how long he stayed dead and where he went, I assumed that this is where Sieh could hide from Itempas. That’s because I missed the clue Jemisin gave me:
I was tired. It would be easier, so much easier, if I could just lie down now and rest.
But as I thought this, suddenly I knew what could be done.
I may start crying again just reading this. Goddamn it, I fully admit that it’s really hard to read these last few pages of chapter twenty-two because I can see that both Deka and Sieh knew that this would be the last thing that they would do. And even before this, I couldn’t ignore that Sieh was rapidly aging. His body was over eighty years old in mortal terms. Unless Kahl was gone from existence and from Sieh’s memory, how would Sieh ever counteract the aging in his body? And would it be worth it to force Sieh to forget everything all over again? As I said, this is about inheritance and responsibility, and it would have felt hollow if Sieh had found some easy solution to kill Kahl and banish him from his mind.
Instead, Sieh accepts what Kahl’s purpose always was: to get revenge on his parents. After Itempas kills himself and his soul/essence is transported to Oblivion, Sieh and Deka make one last trick. Together. My god, he really did set up the perfect trap, one that spoke to Kahl’s nature, one that would guarantee that he would turn away from Nahadoth and Yeine and fall right into Sieh’s last-minute plan. Amidst this, we learn of Deka’s love and dedication, and I can’t even think about it without wanting to burst into tears. Even as his body was shredded apart and his bones were crushed, Deka held on to Sieh as Sieh revealed his secret: he had Itempas’s knife with Glee’s blood on it. He had a literal secret weapon that could definitively kill Kahl, but this wasn’t enough.
Now I see why Sieh asked Itempas where he went when he died. Without him in this reality, Sieh could assume the role as one of the Three by putting on Kahl’s mask. And upon doing so, he could guarantee that no one would ever use this mask again. It’s such a huge decision for Sieh because in putting the mask on, Sieh realizes that he could achieve what he always wanted:
I won’t say I wasn’t tempted. I had what I’d yearned for. It would be easy, so easy, to go and kill Tempa with the knife, as he had killed Enefa long ago. Easy, too, to absorb the Maelstrom, make the transformation permanent, take Itempas’s place. I could be Naha’s lover in earnest then, and share him with Yeine, and make all of us a new Three. I heard a song promising this in the Maelstrom’s ratcheting scream.
Oh my god, all of that backstory and character development was always leading to this point, where Sieh would be granted his sole desire, and he would throw it away to save all of existence. Oh my god, y’all, I seriously can’t.
Thus I raised the knife coated with my son’s blood. There was plenty of Glee’s left, too, I hoped – though really, there was only one way to find that out.
I drove the knife into my breast, and ended myself.
It hurts. That’s all I have left to say. It hurts so much.
The original text contains use of the words “mad” and “stupid.”
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