The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms read-along part 3

The Hundred Thousand KingdomsThings are getting really twisted and tense in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,ย and as usual there are a ton of things to talk about.ย Our host this week is Andrea, the Little Red Reviewer, and I’m going to get straight into her questions without further ado. SPOILERS everywhere, obviously.

1. T’vril takes Yeine to the servant’s party. What did you think of that party, and of Sieh’s part in it?

“we can celebrate without highbloods coming here to ogle our ‘quaint common-folk customs’ like we’re animals in a zoo.”

I like this. Coming from South Africa and living in Ethiopia, I often see people treating traditional customs and the people who participate in them as tourist attractions. I’ve done it too, although I try not to. There’s nothing wrong with taking an interest, but it can easily turn into objectification. I imagine it’s particularly bad in the tiny, hierarchical Arameri society. I love the party as a bit of rebellion against the highbloods, and I wonder what other things the servants do.

It’s so in character for Sieh to do something like this – thoughtful and unifying but mischievous. I wonder if the other gods are involved though – he says they owe it to the servants, but he seems to be the only one helping with the party.

The difference in his appearance is interesting. He reverts to a twenty-something when weakened, and later becomes an old man when tortured. Yeine wonders what his default state is, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. It seems more like the child state reflects his ideal image – playful, impulsive, affectionate. When weakened, he projects something more representative of his true age and experience – a bitter twenty-something. When tortured he becomes the complete opposite of his ideal: a broken old man. It’s like a god’s version of showing different moods. As humans we can seem like different people when we’re happy, stressed, in pain, etc. Or like Kinneth. we’re different people in different contexts. I think Sieh is the same, embodying change, which was also Enefa’s reason for creating him.

2. Yeine presents herself as such a nice, compassionate person. Did your feelings about her change after the meeting she and Nahadoth had with Gemd?
No. She is a nice, compassionate person, but usually in comparison with the Arameri or the gods, who don’t exactly embody kindness. I don’t see Yeine as being much nicer than the average person, but rather as someone who will speak out or take action in the face of cruelty or injustice, whereas most people would be too cowardly to do so.

However, I think she can be utterly ruthless when she needs to. She mentioned that her initiation ritual (where she murdered a man) taught her to do whatever was necessary to get what she wanted. When she met Gemd, she needed a show of power to save her people. She would have chosen something less brutal, but Nahadoth is her only means of showing power, and “the Nightlord cannot be controlled. He can only be unleashed”. Once the men start turing to diamond, she can’t show weakness or she will betray her cause.

But she’s not heartless. She acknowledges the cruelty, and feels remorse. There’s a little interlude where Yeine’s sort of trying to convince herself that the men got what they deserved, but she fails, knowing it was too much. If not for that uncertainty, I might have changed my opinion of her.

3. on page 230 we learn about the Darre concept of “esui”, of attraction to danger. Have you ever experienced Esui? did it help you, or hurt you? Do you think it will help Yeine, or hurt her?
Don’t we all have at least mild esui? The urge to do something thrilling and reckless? Or just stupid but exciting? Like drink to much, drive too fast, fool around with the wrong people, push someone (or yourself) too far. Things you might regret forever or remember with a satisfied smirk. You never know if it will help or hurt but it’ll probably do both.

For Yeineโ€ฆ Well, calling Nahadoth in the middle of the night while her other lover slept in the next room totally seemed worth it ๐Ÿ˜€ But I’m worried. In this book, sex is always associated with danger, rivalry, and/or manipulation. “Pleasure is often used as a weapon” Zhakkarn tells Yeine. What consequences could come of having sex with Nahadoth? Or – and this could be quite cool – is Yeine playing Nahadoth? Even more dangerous.

I’d also like to think that Yeine and T’vril slept together just for pleasure and comfort, but in this contextโ€ฆ. In chapter 17, Yeine perceives that T’vril supports her as part of his own rebellion against the vile Arameri. This is great, although I keep wondering if he’s using her in a more sinister way. I hope not, I quite like him.

On another note, I wonder why Yeine chose to mention esui in the middle of the horror in the oubliette.

4. What did you think of the reveal regarding Ygreth’s (Kinneth’s mother) death? Was it something you expected?ย  How does being forced to do something like that (or knowing you’ll be forced to) shape a person?
I didn’t see that coming at all! But it feels like a missing puzzle piece fell into place. I had the sense that Kinneth was planning something big, but I couldn’t imagine what because I didn’t know why. I’m still wondering why Kinneth never told Yeine about this, never even told her her grandmother’s name.

This creates such a major parallel between Yeine and Kinneth – both are looking for revenge because their mothers were murdered. Last week I wondered if Kinneth had actually used her own death as a strategy, and this supports that theory. Kinneth knew what effect a mother’s murder could have on a child. Could she have arranged her own ‘murder’ to motivate Yeine to complete her revenge? When Yeine learned that the gods wanted her to die for them, she agreed specifically because it would give her the chance to take revenge on Dekarta, the man who supposedly murdered her mother, and sacrificed Kinneth’s mother.

How could the sacrifice shape someone? Knowing you’ll have to make a sacrifice like that might actually make it easier. If you know about it for years in advance, you’ll be thinking constantly about your choice and then start deadening your feelings for that person. Or not have close relationships at all. This seems like the path Scimina and Relad took.

On the other hand, someone might be so dedicated that they’d actually cultivate their love for the person they’d want to sacrifice, to make it more sincere. Like in a biblical animal sacrifice they’d slaughter the best animal, not a skinny sickly one no one wanted.

And actually I think that could give you an incredible kind of strength. A terrible, fucked up strength, but one that shapes you into a ruler, and gives you the determination to make extremely difficult decisions. Or carry out the will of a god with serious emotional problems.

5. If I’m reading it correctly, the ceremony can require a human sacrifice (to show that the heir is strong enough to kill anyone, if asked).ย  Who might Scimina sacrifice? Who might Yeine sacrifice?
The only decent candidate I can imagine for Scimina is Relad, although I’m not sure she cares about him much. For the god’s plan to work though, she’d have to pick Yeine wouldn’t she? Which she might do, just to be cruel.

The only person I can imagine for Yeine is T’vril. Which makes me wonder if he wants to be her sacrifice, and that’s why he’s being so nice to her. For a moment he will be one of the Three, and perhaps he has his own plans for this.

6. The ball is only a few days away. What do you think will happen?
Something epic ๐Ÿ˜€ I feel like all sorts of plans will reach their conclusion or climax – Dekarta’s, the Enefadeh’s, Yeine’s (if she has her own), T’vril’s, Kinneth’s. They may even bring the Sky down.

Other
I could write another blog post just for all the other things I’d like to mention! But I’ll cut it down to a few ๐Ÿ™‚

– I’m a bit confused about how the ceremony works. Yeine said that in exchange for her life, she wanted to win the contest. But if she wins, she won’t be the sacrifice who briefly becomes one of the Three and transfers the ruler’s sigil. Unless she wins and then chooses someone else? And what if the winner doesn’t choose Yeine as the sacrifice?

– I like the surprisingly affectionate scene between Nahadoth and a younger Sieh in the dream sequence at the beginning of chapter 17, particularly the bit that says love is their defence against the pain they feel. It’s a completely different side to Nahadoth, especially since he tried to strangle Sieh the first time they were in a room together. Again, we see how complicated Jemisin’s characters are.

– About Enefa and Sieh:

“She was going toโ€ฆ kill you?”
“Yes.” He chuckled at my shock. “She killed things all the time, Yeine. She was death as well as life, the twilight along with the dawn.Everyone forgets that.”

I like the parallel between Enefa and Kinneth here – neither were as nice as Yeine believed, and neither conform to the ideal of motherhood. They’re so much darker and more complex.

– Wow, Yeine has T’vril AND Nahadoth in one night! Just when I thought she would never get lucky.

– The Arameri eat human flesh as a delicacy?! Mind you, cannibalism doesn’t even seem shocking after Scimina’s use of torture, and the horrors Viraine performs for the high blood’s amusement at parties. Honestly, this might just be the most fucked up family I’ve ever read about.

What did you think? Leave a comment, and if you have your own post leave your link as well so I can check it out!

Here’s what others had to say:
Little Red Reviewer
On Starships and Dragonwings
Dab of Darkness
All I Am, A Redhead
Books Without Any Pictures
Many a True Nerd

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9 thoughts on “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms read-along part 3

  1. Pingback: Hundred Thousand Kingdoms read along, part 3! | the Little Red Reviewer

  2. I like your thoughts on the servant’s party and having it tucked away so the ruling class can’t objectify it. I live in the US desert Southwest and near many Pueblos, who have various celebrations throughout the year. They don’t allow people to photograph the ceremonies or the dances, and I think it is for the same reasons.

    Maybe it was esui that, in part, prompted Yeine to order Nahadoth to first heal the man, and then kill him. Yeine didn’t know at first that Naha couldn’t do either, so she must have expected some kind of retribution/revenge/back blow from whoever ordered the man tortured and left alive in the first place. She didn’t know what she was risking when she ordered Naha.

    Yes! I love how complicated all the gods are. Sieh brings it home with the little bit you shared above – about Enefa being both the twilight and the dawn.

    • Oh yeah, I didn’t think of the possible dangers of ordering Nahadoth to heal the man. I thought it might have something to do with the esui of the highbloods who had the man tortured, but that’s not exactly dangerous for them so it didn’t make sense. Ordering Nahadoth to do anything is always a risk.

      I’ve finished the book now, and that quote from Sieh is even more notable than I thought.

  3. 4. That is some twisted thinking you did here. ๐Ÿ™‚ I wonder how much could be true?
    I’ve read a bit on and it seems someone else did much of the back-stabbing and I didn’t see that coming at all. I can’t wait to finish the book now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I love your observations of Sieh’s different “bodies” reflecting his ideal, and the opposite of. i never thought about that!

    Yes, the sex is often a dangerous situation, but I didn’t mind that, i thought it was a refreshing change from normal, romantic sex scenes. And if she can survive and evening with Nahadoth, then maybe she really is who they say she is. Have you heard of Deathless, by Catherynne Valente? It’s been a while since i read it, but I remember the romance (and sex) being risky and dangerous.

    And speaking of manipulation, you’re right, there are a lot of parralells between Yeine and Kinneth. Kinneth manipulated men so she could get what she wants. I’m beginning to side with you that maybe Yeine is seducing Nahadoth more than he is seducing her, that she’s manipulating him.

    I too still have some confusion about the ceremony. I’ve already finished the book, but I really need to reread those scenes!

    • I love Valente, so Deathless is on my tbr list ๐Ÿ™‚ I do prefer the danger to the more romantic scenes, and the fact the danger isn’t about one person using the other for sex and then discarding them. It’s more like sex used for political or information-gathering purposes. And in Yeine and Nahadoth’s case, it’s a kind of proof and show of commitment.

      I went back to read some explanatory scenes, and will re-read the ceremony scenes as well. All the information is there, but it can be easy to miss, and some things make it confusing. Like sacrificing someone close to you is only necessary if there is only one heir, and it’s such an interesting thing that we all focus on that. But since there are two heirs, the sacrifice doesn’t have to be personal. Instead, that person has to choose between the heirs, and the heirs must compete to be chosen. Scimina’s strategy is to threaten Darre with bloody slaughter unless chosen.

  5. 1. Ah I love the observation that Sieh’s age reflects his moods, don’t think we can say quite the same for the others we haven’t seen much of them, and Nahadoth always seems to reflect those around him, so seems less able to have his own thoughts and emotions. He might have some but it may be a blurry line defining which is which.

    2. Yes ruthless but not needlessly cruel, like many of the people left in Sky, and so many people seem to think she’s weak just because she’ doesn’t revel in any type of cruelty.

    I noticed the parallels between Enefa and Kinneth at that point, i think this is definitely a book I’d re-read once finished. There are, I suspect a lot of things that will take on even more meaning once you know whats going to happen next. I do like it when things do that, like when you re-watch Fight Club ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 1. Yeah, we don’t learn much about Kurue or Zhakkarn, but there’s an Appendix that offers some info on the nature of Zhakkarn that I found quite interesting. Wouldn’t mind reading more textbook-ish stuff on all the gods.

      Oh, I haven’t rewatched Fight Club in ages! And I think there might still be one commentary track I haven’t listened to. Time for a movie night ๐Ÿ™‚

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