Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin

The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin
Published: Orbit, 2011
Series: Book 3 of the Inheritance Trilogy
Awards Nominated: Nebula Award

Spoiler warning! This is the 3rd book of a series, and past this point there are some major spoilers of the first book (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms)!

The Book:

“After Yeine’s rise to godhood and the freeing of the enslaved gods, the Arameri family’s power  is on the decline. Years later, the godling of childhood Sieh may now be free, but he is still confined by his fundamental nature and haunted by the betrayal and torture he has endured.  As the oldest of the godlings, he is also very alone—not powerful enough to be one of the Three, but still separate from his younger siblings.

In his loneliness, he meets and cautiously befriends twin Arameri children, Dekarta and Shahar.  However, when they attempt to swear an innocent pact of friendship, something much stranger and more dangerous occurs. While Sieh and others attempt to make sense of what has happened to them, secrets from the past are beginning to come to light—secrets which threaten not only Sieh’s life, but the existence of the entire universe.” ~Allie

With this book, I believe that I’ve read all of N.K. Jemisin’s published novels!  It looks like she’s going to have another book for a new series in 2015, The Fifth Season, so I’m looking forward to that coming out. I read this novel with a group read-along, and you can find our spoiler-filled discussions here: 1,2,3,4,5. This novel fits into my “I Just HAVE to Read More of That Author” Challenge, the “Fantasia” Challenge, and “The Second Best” Challenge (as a Nebula nominee).

My Thoughts:

The Kingdom of Gods takes place years after the events of the first two novels, and the main character is the godling of childhood, Sieh.  I thought he was a really interesting protagonist, but he’s not extremely sympathetic. He’s the oldest of the godlings, but he obeys his nature by deliberately behaving in childish, bratty ways.  By his words, he always “does what feels good” in the moment, which is not always great for the people around him.  He also indulges in quite a bit of adolescent melodrama, and he often lingers over his desperate loneliness and desire to be loved.  I really appreciated that his flaws were not glossed over by the story, or easily forgiven by the characters within it. I also really enjoy these kinds of capricious, faux-childlike characters, and I felt like his loneliness and whining were understandable, given what he’d suffered during his long life.

It’s Sieh’s loneliness that prompts him to initially begin his friendship with the other two major characters, Shahar and Dekarta Arameri.  Together, the three of them learn about friendship, love, and how to deal with hurting or being hurt by the ones you love.  However, I sometimes felt like they didn’t spend enough time together to really support the intensity of their connection.  Their relationship was not exactly instant-love (it was a bit more complicated), but it was somewhere in that area.  Aside from Sieh and his friends, a number of old characters also make reappearances in the novel, and I enjoyed seeing what had happened to them in the intervening years.

While I did enjoy the story, I think that it was a little less focused at times than the previous two novels.  For instance, I felt like the personal story of Sieh didn’t always gel especially well with the larger political and cosmic plots that were happening around him.  I can’t say the larger developments were not foreshadowed, but many of the main players were new and only very lightly developed.  The story was still really entertaining, though, and I especially liked how various characters arcs echoed different ideas.  There was a lot of examination of parent-child relationships, and of how being harmed does not excuse one from taking actions that harm another. Especially in Sieh’s case, the story also examined the conflict between the need to grow, change, and heal, and the need to remain true to oneself.  I thought all of this came together beautifully in the climax and resolution of the story.

My Rating: 4/5

The Kingdom of Gods was a fitting conclusion to an enjoyable trilogy. The story features the godling Sieh, who does his best to behave like a child. I adored his narration and his carefully impetuous nature, but I can see how he could be a difficult character to like.  The novel combined the personal story of Sieh’s loneliness with some more momentous schemes, and I didn’t always feel like the two fit together especially well. Even so, I really enjoyed how everything came together in the end, and I also enjoyed seeing a bit of how life had turned out for some of the characters from previous novels. I’m looking forward to N.K. Jemisin’s next book!