I’m running a little late this week, but here is the final post for the read-along of N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms. I’m hoping to finish up an overall review of the novel for later this week (or this weekend), and I believe there is a week’s delay before we start up with the read-along of the final book in Jemisin’s trilogy, The Kingdom of Gods. Many thanks go to our hosts, Dab of Darkness, Violin in a Void, and Books Without Any Pictures. It has been very excellent sharing discussion with all of the participants, and I hope that I will see you all again in the next read-along!
The questions this week are courtesy of Books Without Any Pictures. The questions and answers below will contain spoilers for the full novel, so beware!
1. We finally meet T'vril in his new role as Lord Arameri. Is he what you expected?
He seemed suitable for a leader of the Arameri that might remain in power—ruthless, but not unnecessarily cruel, and above all concerned with retaining the power of the Arameri. His offer to Oree was probably the kindest he could be without risking his own interests. His punishment of Serymn seemed very calculated, in order to hide his secrets (by removing her tongue) and placate Nahadoth’s fury (by giving him someone alive to torture).
2. Oree is given a choice, to live as the Arameri's weapon, or to die. What would you do in that position?
I guess I’m with Hado on this one. Given the option to live or die, I would always choose to live. Living as the Arameri’s weapon didn’t seem so bad, anyway. It’s likely they would never even use her, so she would just live as a kind of captive almost-noble. It would probably be a relatively comfortable life, except for the fact that they would insist on her having children. Even for that, I see no reason why they would dictate her choice of lover. Of course, I would prefer freedom, but there are many things that I think I could endure if the alternative was death.
3. Do you think that Oree made the right decision by sending Shiny away? How do you feel about Yeine's role here?
I thought this was a very interesting dilemma, and I think Yeine handled it as best she could. I feel like the situation with Shiny approached the question of punishment, vengeance and rehabilitation. In terms of justice or vengeance, he probably deserved to lose Oree. However, if he is ever to be able to rejoin his family, he needs to be rehabilitated—which probably won’t happen if Yeine and Nahadoth remain obsessed with making him suffer. It’s possible they can slowly switch from vengeance to punishment to rehabilitation over the next few thousand years. In that case, allowing him to love Oree is clearly too soon.
I actually really loved how Oree broke up with Shiny. I was afraid there was going to be one of those awkwardly fake “I don’t love you anymore!” scenes. Oree started out that way, but then they ended the conversation with honesty. I think that Shiny understood that Oree only had to tell him to leave because he hadn’t yet re-earned the privilege to be loved. I think that the way they parted may well set him on the path to rehabilitation, as Oree had hoped.
4. What did you think of the ending of the book? Were you satisfied?
Yes, I was very satisfied. Oree changed so much in the world, even down to causing the prohibition on godling travel outside of Shadow to be lifted. At the same time, her experiences have cost her dearly. I didn’t want her to get together with Itempas, but I am actually pretty happy with the way they parted. Also, she may no longer have any magic, but she has a magical child to raise and love. It seems right that the story does not end with Oree alone.
5. How did The Broken Kingdoms compare to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms? Which did you like better?
It’s been a while since I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I did like it pretty well. I think I prefer The Broken Kingdoms, though. Oree is just such a wonderful protagonist, and I loved the world with all the godlings in it. Having the story from a blind woman’s point of view was a very interesting choice, even though she could kind of see some things (magic). I liked that she didn’t magically regain her sight at the end of the story, and that her disability was never shown as either good or bad, it was just part of who she was.
I also feel like the first book was more of a romance, with Yeine and Nahadoth, and the history with Nahadoth, Enefa, and Itempas. There was some romance in this one, too, but it seemed to be less of the passionate, whirlwind variety, so I found it more emotionally compelling. Also, I loved the juxtaposition of Itempas and the Itempas cult, and the slow development of Shiny from a total jerk to not-quite-as-much-of-a-jerk (asking more in this short time scale would probably be unreasonable).