Monday, January 27, 2014

Read-Along: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Part 4 (END)

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 PicturesThe 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).


  1. I was sad to see Oree and Shiny part ways, mostly because I felt like it was more of a punishment for Oree than for Shiny. Like you, I'm glad it wasn't an awkward and fake breakup, but rather an acknowledgement of what happened and why the separation is necessary. I wonder if their child will show up at all in the next book.

    1. Yeah, I guess it really was unfair to her, especially since Oree had already sacrificed and endured so much. I think my opinion was swayed by the fact that I haven't wanted Oree and Shiny to end up together since the beginning. It will be interesting to see what happens if the identity of her child becomes known. With Itempas leading by example, maybe there will be tons of new half-godling children being born.

  2. 2. Hmm, I hadn't thought about them forcing her to have a child but that would make sense. And make it worse. I would also want to live but having lost Madding I don't think Oree could stomach they idea of being used to kill more godlings. Not to mention helping the rich and powerful stay rich and powerful while trampling all over the poor. I think living could mean hating yourself for being a giant hypocrite.

    3. So glad it was blunt and honest. I hate those "I don't love you" scenes.

    5. You're right, book 1 did have a big whirlwind romance with the ultimate bad boy. I remember thinking that I hate this kind of thing but I'm kind of enjoying it...

    1. 2. I suppose that is true, but there is no hope at all for her future if she isn't alive.

      3. Yeah, me too.

      5. Yeine and Nahadoth were fun to read about (even though I'm usually not into that sort of thing, too), but when it comes to romance, I like the kind in this book more :).

  3. I also preferred this one to previous one, I think mostly because of Oree. I really liked her character even though at times I didn't understand her. I did find her view on life something that should be emulated though, she just seemed so reasonable at explaining how to take advantage of what life offers to the fullest. And she was right. :)

    1. I agree, and I also really liked Oree. She was very pragmatic about her life, relationships and happiness.

  4. I am with you on choosing life, even if it is a captive life. Things change. The Arameri could be overthrown, etc. Or perhaps a group of Madding worshipers would whisk Oree away through the sewer pipes. You just don't know until you live it.

    And, yeah, she would be comfortable, have a choice of entertainments, foods, bedpartners. It might be like an all-expense paid vacation until she found a way out of it.

    You make a really good point about punishment versus rehabilitation. Nahadoth & crew need Itempas punished, but they also deeply crave his love and affection. How can Itempas ever learn how to love without cruelty if he is not rehabilitated?

    True, Oree is just Oree, and not defined as a blind person. In some ways, we all have handicaps and most of us just learn to incorporate those handicaps into ourselves. Shiny hasn't really managed to do that with his emotional issues.

    1. Yeah, where there is life, there is possibility!

      Shiny hasn't really managed that yet, I agree, but I like that he didn't heal completely within the space of one novel. I think we got to see only the first step of a long path for him.