In the twenty-third and final chapter of The Kingdom of Gods, it comes to an end. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Kingdom of Gods.
It kind of goes without saying that choosing to switch to Shahar’s point of view in the final chapter of this book is just downright heartbreaking, and Jemisin spells it out on the first page:
As I pushed myself up from where I’d been curled on the ground, my hands clamped over my ears, Lord Nahadoth appeared, carrying my brother. Then came Lord Ahad, bringing a newly revived Lord Itempas and a badly wounded Glee Shoth. A moment later, Lady Yeine arrived, bearing Sieh.
I am Shahar Arameri, and I am alone.
There are a lot of repeated motifs in the end of this chapter, and this is not the only one. But loneliness has played such a vital part in this narrative and in the utter emotional destruction of my very being. It’s fitting, then, that Jemisin explores what loneliness means for the only one of the core trio to survive. Ugh, I just had to type that sentence. SHE IS THE ONLY ONE TO SURVIVE. It’s too much, obviously, because of the difficult path that Shahar has been on. But you know, I appreciate so much that even amidst all this tragedy, we get to see the sort of person Shahar truly is.
One who is tired, one who is alone, and one who wants her own life.
In realizing this, Shahar lives up to her mother’s prophetic statement that she would be good for the world by giving up everything: the Arameri’s power, their wealth, their military… all of it. And when she gathers all the world leaders and godlings that she can within the Temple in Echo, she reveals that there will not be a single ruler to take over the power and determine how to redistribute it all. No, it’ll be a single body, made up of everyone. And not just the heads of countries or nations or kingdoms! There are representatives from the poorer and downtrodden parts of Sky-in-Shadow, and Kitr and Nemmer show up, too. In what amounts to a couple of minutes, Shahar brilliantly washes her hands of her entire rule and her entire family, and I fucking love it, even more so when I read her justification for it to Usein Darr:
“I’m tired,” I said. “The whole world isn’t something one woman should bear on her shoulders – not even if she wants to. Not even if she has help.” And I no longer did.
So, aside from that barely-veiled reference to Deka and Sieh’s fate, this is actually something that makes me really happy. Shahar’s decisions over the course of this book were always influenced by the knowledge that at some point in her life, she’d have to hold the entire world “on her shoulders.” I think it speaks to one of the reasons for her betrayal of Sieh earlier in the novel, though that is complex as hell. But in these last few chapters, Shahar saw something else in the world, not just through Sieh’s love for Deka, but in Remath’s quiet love for her daughter. She saw a realm of possibility that her mother had never shown her, and it was only right before she died. Why would Shahar willingly agree to live that sort of life as the Arameri head? What good would come of that? And why would so do it without her brother and her best friend?
Which is even more heartbreaking to think about when Yeine arrives and reveals that ITEMPAS HAS BEEN RELEASED FROM HIS PUNISHMENT. None of the Three died, and even if their “reconciliation” is complicated and layered, they still have one another. As it turns out, it is with Sieh’s death that Itempas finally met one of the conditions: He learned to love truly. SWEET MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, THIS IS NOT OKAY. So there’s a direct parallel I see here between Yeine and Shahar, in that they both inherited a history fraught with messy emotions and contexts, and they choose to withdraw in the end. Shahar withdraws from Arameri rule while Yeine and the Three choose to withdraw from the mortal realm for a while while existence heals from the Maelstrom. And really, it makes sense that Yeine, whose destiny was forged by the Arameri, would seek out the family head who just gave up that title and created the most significant change in the world in the process. Like, it’s not lost on me that as a god, Yeine couldn’t do much to change the way that the Arameri treated others or wielded their power. She tried, and Echo is evidence of that. But Shahar did so much more, didn’t she?
She did it all on her own. It’s sad, yes, and I won’t deny that. It’s especially so when Yeine finally explains why Itempas couldn’t find anything wrong with Sieh ages ago. He had said that Sieh was meant to become what he was turning into, and I had assumed that this was due to the existence of Kahl. While I’m sure that played a part in his aging, his initial bond with Deka and Shahar was because he was always going to change. Except it was more like leveling up in his case, since HE WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY BECOME A GOD. His loss of magic was a stage, and since he was the oldest godling, that meant the Three had never seen a godling grow into a god.
Oh my god, the trio – Deka, Shahar, and Sieh – could have been a new Three in a new universe. I’ve spoken a lot about potential lost, but there’s the biggest tragedy ever. Why must you hurt me in this way?
There’s a bit more poetry in the end of this book. First, Nemmer reveals that the name of the group of humans and godlings that will be running the world is called the Aeternat (which I grossly mispronounced since I didn’t even think that it’s Latin-based), which… shit. Eternal. Immortal. It’s something close to that, and now I know why Nemmer says it was “pretentious and needlessly poetic.”
And then there’s Shahar’s final reveal that she found En on Sieh’s body. She has no idea what it was, but it’s a sad reminder of what they could have been if Sieh and Deka had survived. En was part of Sieh’s orrery, his own little universe of possibility. Shahar is the only surviving part of that potential, so it fits that she’s got the last part of Sieh with her.
I’ll save my final thoughts for next Wednesday’s post and for the massive Q&A party we’ll have on March 14th. But I have no qualms saying that this is, without a doubt, one of the most incredible and fulfilling trilogies I have ever read. I’m so thankful and honored to have read it with and to all of you.
Please note that the original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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