The Broken Kingdoms read-along part 1

The Broken KingdomsI read some really bad and boring books over the past few weeks, so returning to the Inheritance Trilogy felt like going out for drinks and dinner with a good friend after spending way too much time at work. Part 1 takes us from the Prologue through to the end of Chapter 4: Frustration (watercolour). Our host is Grace from Books Without Any Pictures, so head over to her blog for links to the other participants, and be sure to leave your own in her comments and mine 🙂

I mentioned in the introduction that this book can be read as a stand-alone, but I hadn’t realised how that would complicate things in this read-along. Grace’s questions are free from spoilers for book 1 (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), so it’s a good thing she was first instead of me, because it might not have occurred to me to be so careful!

I have included some HTK-spoiler content in my answers, but I put that in white text so you don’t accidentally read it if you don’t want to. If you’ve read book 1, just highlight the text to see it. If you plan on reading the comments, be warned that you might encounter HTK spoilers there. Since this is only part one, I’ve kept the main text free of spoilers for The Broken Kingdoms.

1.  What do you think so far of Oree Shoth?  Do you like her as much as Yeine?
I like her just as much, and I admire her even more. She’s blind, but I don’t think of her as disabled – she’s so adept at getting around, completely independent. I’m amazed at how sharp all her other senses are – how she feels people’s movements, detects subtle differences in sound, and can even distinguish different colours of chalk by their smells! Jemisin doesn’t reduce Oree to her blindness though; like Yeine and other major characters, you can’t think of Oree only in terms or one or two characteristics because there’s so much more to her. I particularly like how openly sexual she is; she’s even had a serious relationship with a godling. While I don’t like romance, I do appreciate it when an author takes this sort of approach to a character’s sexuality – making it an important and multi-dimensional aspect of their lives, but without defining them in terms of one all-consuming romance.

While Yeine could have been described, in part, as a woman [used by gods], Oree describes herself as “a woman plagued by gods”. The mortal/god relationships of the previous book was part of what made it such a great read, so I’m curious to see how that plays out here.

2.  Sky is now referred to by its inhabitants as Shadow, and we get to see the city from the perspective of the commoners rather than the ruling Arameri.  What do you think of the book’s setting?
I like the change of perspective. At first I thought that the city had turned into a tourist attraction or pilgrimage site after the growth of the World Tree and other changes, but then I realised we didn’t see the city at all in book 1, so the pilgrims and souvenir traders probably aren’t new. It’s just changed now that there are two more gods to acknowledge and a whole bunch of godlings living among the mortals.

The city is also so much more lively and colourful than the palace, especially with all the new religions clashing and seeing how the World Tree has become part of the city structure. I’m slightly surprised to find that [the Arameri are still so powerful and apparently stable. I thought they might get ripped to shreds after the Enefadeh were freed. Is T’vril still ruling? Whoever’s in charge seems to be doing their job well.]

Curious to see how the various socio-political aspects of the city play out – the fact that it’s illegal for commoners to use magic, the new religious sects that are emerging, clashes with the barely-tolerant Itempan priests, the strange presence of godlings as both gods and citizens, etc.

3.  The gods play a much different role in this book than in “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,” and spend their time interacting with the people of Sky/Shadow.  What do you think of the gods and godlings that we’ve met thus far?  Who are your favorites?
This is so much fun – the godlings can be friendly, helpful, terrifying, playful, sexy, quirky. They have jobs, or at least do the kinds of work that humans do. They’re chaotic and unpredictable. Even gross, like when Oree talks about how she’s used to seeing “god leavings” – a splash of bodily fluids left by a godling getting used to being in human form or just amusing themselves by adopting the bodily functions of humans. It’s such a stark contrast to the first book. Before, there were just four gods kept on a tight leash; now there’s a riot of them.

I’d wanted to learn more about them, and I find it interesting that they can be more powerful by being true to their affinity. Sieh, for example, is powerful because he’s made an effort to be childlike all the time, for thousands, perhaps millions of years. I suppose the human version might be becoming confident and successful by learning to take advantage of your strengths. I like that the godlings can’t just be powerful but have to work at it.

I like all the major ones so far. Madding is sweet, although a tad sleazy as a god of obligation, who works as a usurer (“investor”) and drug dealer (“independent apothecary”). Lil is fantastically creepy. And it was wonderful seeing Sieh again. I like that we saw the spiteful, cruel side to his childish persona as well. It barely emerged in book 1. The scene where his treatment of Shiny swings between violent rage and unhappy petulance was fantastic. I love the way his emotions shift when Yeine pitches up. At first he’s angry, but when his mother is there he reveals the vulnerability beneath that anger.

4.  Any predictions on who or what could be killing the godlings?
Not really. Given that both Shiny and Oree both have magical powers that they cannot fully control, perhaps one of them might have unintentionally played a part. Or maybe someone is channelling their power, kind of like [Itempas used Enefa’s power to bind the Enefadeh]. The murder (will it be murders?) might be the result of religious fanaticism – perhaps Itempans with a grudge against the godlings whose presence is an insult to what used to be a hegemonic monotheism. Itempas is all about order; the godlings are chaotic, and probably confusing to the Itempan faith. Which is probably why they weren’t allowed on the mortal plane when Itempas ruled solo.

Anyway, I wouldn’t bet on anyone or anything just yet.

5.  For everyone who read the last book, Shiny’s identity should be relatively easy to guess, even though it hasn’t been explicitly stated yet.  Do you think his punishment is suiting, or is it too much?  Is there any chance he’ll come out of this as a normal person?  How do you think Oree will react when she finds out?
[Too much? No way. That crazy fuckwit is getting exactly what he deserves. You know what one of my favourite parts of this section was? Sieh taunting Itempas and kicking him until his bones broke. At the risk of sounding like a complete sadist, I relished Sieh’s petty vengeance, mostly because of how I feel about Itempas, and but also because of how it builds on Sieh’s character:]

Why shouldn’t I kick him to death now and again? He’s not even trying to fulfil the terms you set. He might as well entertain me.

[And I just loved the irony of Itempas’s own priests dragging him away to be beaten to death. This is the kind of fucked up institution you made asshole!]

However, Oree’s friendship makes me more sympathetic. I dislike Shiny, but I could start caring about him because she does. Already I feel a teeny bit warmer toward him because he’s become some kind of companion to her, doing nice things like cooking breakfast and going out to buy her favourite fish. The way he stormed in to rescue her from the Order-Keepers seemed very impressive, at least until it became clear that he was compelled to do so because of the rules of his punishment. A scary possibility is that he might actually come to enjoy seeing Oree in danger because it means he experiences a temporary glow of magical power.

I don’t know about him being normal. [Can a god ever be ‘normal’? Rather I would hope for him to be… well-adjusted? Sane? Dignified?] I assume that his experiences as a mortal will eventually change him, but I don’t know how. Learning humility would be a good start.

I don’t know how Oree will react, but I can’t wait to find out 😀 What will be particularly interesting is how she reacts to [the fact that he’s the god of the Itempans, a sect that Oree knows to be violent and authoritarian]. Also curious to see how the readers who don’t know Shiny’s identity or history will feel about him.

Quotes:

He was always hot to the touch. Assuming we could come to some agreement on the sleeping arrangements, next winter I could save a fortune on firewood. 😀

Naked before Madding, I felt for the first time that someone saw the whole of me, not just my parts. He found my eyes fascinating, but he also waxed lyrical about my elbows. He liked it all.

Other:

– I like the way the chapters are all categorised according to a style of painting or artwork. It emphasises that this is Oree’s depiction of events, much like Yeine’s backtracking and side comments personalised her narrative in HTK.

 – Interesting that people not only form couples but “triples”. I like that. I wonder if the city has any other kinds of sexual partnerships.

– I wonder why Shiny is magical at dawn – [that was Enefa/Yeine’s time of day, not Itempas’s]

– Strange image when Oree is in bed with Madding and she can see him because he glows with magic, but she can’t see her own body except when parts emerge as a dark shape against Madding’s light.

– Wow, Oree at the end of chapter 4! Surely she can’t go back to the city after that? This is the kind of thing that makes read-along schedules tough, especially since I make myself wait until Friday to start the next section!

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9 thoughts on “The Broken Kingdoms read-along part 1

  1. I love that people even suspect that Oree has superpowers when she reveals just how little you can hide from her. 😛

    I feel bad for Shiny, mostly because he’s so depressed that he can’t even be bothered to take care of himself. Yes, he deserves it, but at the same time, I kind of want to give him a hug and be like there there, it’ll be okay. Of course, he wouldn’t take to that well, and that’s why I think Oree is so perfect with him. She accepts him for who he is, even though he quite clearly has a lot of flaws. She’s a genuinely nice person, even to moronic tourists.

    • Even if I think of Shiny as depressed I can’t feel sorry for him. He’s not like a normal person with clinical depression. More like an ex-dictator who is now powerless and bankrupt and can’t be bothered to take care of himself because he’s depressed that he doesn’t have servants and can’t kill people for disagreeing with him anymore. He’s having a rough time, but the Enefadeh were enslaved for 2000 years. I’ll feel better about him when he stops wasting his time being depressed and becomes a better person. I hope he learns to love Oree. Or anyone or isn’t Nahadoth at least.

  2. That was a pretty rough cliffhanger! I’m betting they’ll end up leaving Shadow, because I also can’t see how she could stay in the city after that (on top of the earlier issues with the Itempans). I don’t have all that much sympathy for Shiny right now either… maybe later, if he can get over himself and work on being a better person.

    • The only way I see them staying in the city is if the godlings shelter them or something. Oree can’t risk going out into the streets to buy food or work. I just realised that the plot might need to stay in the city in order to solve the mystery of Role’s murder though. Which isn’t linked to Oree at the moment, but it might be.

  3. I think Shiny has magic at dawn because he was the *spoiler ahead* – the sun god so it would make sense he would be at his strongest when the sun would be coming up. At least that’s how I read it.
    I’m with you on admiration for Oree – she is such a strongly formed, full personality that the fact she is blind doesn’t even register as a disability.
    And yes, Shiny’s getting his comeuppance, there’s nothing too much about it. 🙂

    • That makes sense, but in the last book dawn was Yeine’s time. Itempas only had full power when the sun was fully up. So Shiny should be magical all day, rather than at dawn. But maybe it’s because it’s Yeine who bound him?

      Yeah, I think Shiny’s having a fairly easy time compared to the 2000 years of caged slavery he made the Enefadeh suffer (after murdering their mother/sister).

  4. Pingback: N.K. Jemisin: The Broken Kingdoms read-along #1 | All I am - a redhead

  5. Sorry I am late to the party. Headcold this week has kicked me in the teeth.

    I too love that there is a touch of romance in this book, but that Oree, or any other character for that matter, isn’t defined by an all-consuming romance. The love interests are part of the whole, not the whole.

    All those godlings in one place! And they have a way of policing themselves too – apparently it is taboo to damage the mortals. I wonder how they force the idiots out and where they force them too? I also loved that Oree contemplated that some godlings had a hard time fitting in with humanity, and that Lil might very well be one of these. That made me like Lil a bit more.

    Love your comments about Sieh. It’s OK to be a little sadistic, especially when it comes to immortal gods.

    • Ah, sorry to hear that! I hope it’s cleared up!

      I’m not a romance fan at all but suddenly Oree and Madding are my favourite couple. I love them together, and I’m agonising over their troubles. But more on that in part 2.

      I suppose they just send the bad godlings back to their realm? And a more powerful godling could send a lesser one back, or a few godlings could overpower another.

      What I actually find a wee bit scary is that Lil is there because she’s actually better at fitting in that others who don’t come to the mortal plane at all.

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