The Broken Kingdoms read-along END

The Broken KingdomsAnd here we are at the end of The Broken Kingdoms read-along! Our host is Grace from Books Without Any Pictures, so head over there to see what everyone else had to say. Also feel free to leave your link in my comments and I’ll put you on a blog-hop list 🙂

If you’re interested, the read-along for the final book, The Kingdom of Gods, begins on 10 February, but I’ll post the full schedule later this week.

There will, of course, be SPOILERS below.

1.  We finally meet T’vril in his new role as Lord Arameri.  Is he what you expected?
Yes. T’vril’s a smart, organised man and I thought he deserved to be on the throne. He seems to be a good ruler, not crazy, lazy or tyrannical (like Scimina or Relad would have been) I found him a bit harsh in the way he treated Oree and when he cut out Serymn’s tongue, but it’s understandable.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was almost exclusively between gods and the world’s highest-ranking aristocrats, and the society of both books is based on hierarchy. This book is told from there perspective of a commoner. Naturally, T’vril would not treat Oree the same way he’d treat Yeine, and Oree would also perceive T’vril very differently. And of course T’vril sees her primarily as a weapon, given that demon blood has just been used to kill a bunch of godlings and almost brought the wrath of Nahadoth down on Sky/Shadow. At this point Oree presents a danger and an opportunity that needs to be dealt with so I can understand why T’vril is being so severe about it. I thought it was cruel of him to cut out Serymn’s tongue until it became clear that this prevented her from identifying Oree as a demon.

I imagine T’vril hasn’t had the easiest time as Lord Arameri either. He’s not a full blood, he was never in line for the throne, and he only got it because Yeine commanded it after overthrowing Itempas. Obviously the highest-ranking Arameri would not welcome him with open arms, and it’s probably only the magic of his sigil that prevents him from being killed by one of them. He can’t afford to be a nice guy; he has to be strict and ruthless. However, he seems to have some underlying kindness, and is very rational.

2.  Oree is given a choice, to live as the Arameri’s weapon, or to die.  What would you do in that position?
Erm… I don’t think I have an answer for that. The weapon choice seemed ok at first – the idea of getting a salary and living in Sky or somewhere comfortable  without having to work certainly appeals. I could study, paint, work on my magic skills, and every now and then someone would take a blood sample. And I’d be easy to rescue if kidnapped or wounded.

But it’s a leash, as T’vril admits, or a “Golden Chain”, as Oree named the chapter. Being unable to leave with the possibility of being murdered remotely? No thanks. Plus, it would mean living amongst snooty Arameri, or living in relative solitude in some safe location. I’m not the most sociable person, but that sounds like a very lonely life.

It seemed like an impossible situation for Oree, so I was relieved when Itempas came up with a solution that satisfied T’vril.

3.  Do you think that Oree made the right decision by sending Shiny away?  How do you feel about Yeine’s role here?
As much as I didn’t want Oree and Shiny to become a couple, I liked them together. Perhaps because they didn’t suddenly jump into bed while still in Sky but gradually became intimate friends. Oree had time to come to terms with Madding’s death, and eventually having sex with Shiny just seemed like the natural thing to do.

So I was upset when Yeine came in and ruined everything to appease Nahadoth. Nahadoth seems overly cruel, acting too much, as Yeine suggests, like the evil god people believe him to be. Shiny may still be human for hundreds or thousands of years – can’t he spend a few years with Oree?

But Yeine has to balance rehabilitation with punishment. Ten years would be like a few minutes to a god as old as Nahadoth to it would seem like Itempas has hardly been punished at all yet. Leaving Oree seems a small thing compared to, for example, the way Sieh and Nahadoth were tortured and used as sex slaves. And according to book 1, Itempas can shorten his punishment if he learns “to love truly”. I just hope that forcing him to lose a chance at love and be alone again will not be detrimental to his rehabilitation. After all, the God’s War was started because of his loneliness. And as Oree says, it’s natural for humans to love, and mortal lovers may be what Itempas needs.

I think Oree made the right choice. Naturally I’d prefer her to live, and I think she’s right in her concerns about how her death might affect Shiny. I was also relieved that he understood that she sent him away only because Yeine and Nahadoth had forced her to; it eases the pain for them both.

4.  What did you think of the ending of the book? Were you satisfied?
Bittersweet; every good thing has a tragic counterpart. Dateh’s defeated by the dead godlings are lost forever. I was upset that Oree lost her magic, but at least she gets to live on in freedom, even though T’vril and Yeine know she’s a demon. Yeine is content to let Oree live and might even know about the baby, but she also has to keep punishing Itempas for Nahadoth’s sake. I was sad that she had to send Shiny away, but I’m glad he realised why she was sending her away. Also, the prospect of the child is exciting – what will come from a demon/god union? Very promising for the final book. I’m not sure that forcing Oree and Shiny to part was a good idea though. So, not entirely satisfied with the ending, but I don’t think it’s meant to be that satisfying.

It was good to hear the rest of Shiny’s side of the God’s War story. His actions were still contemptible, but it gives a completely different view of his madness, and once again it’s very relatable in human terms. I also liked that his tale provides the link to Shahar Arameri. She was the child who asked Itempas to kill her father and got a knife from him instead (this story was also told in the Appendix of book 1). And then she grew up and became his mad, manipulative, murderous lover. I’d like to read a story about her actually; she sounds really fucked up and she basically created the Itempas we saw in book 1. Fitting origin for the Arameri family.

5.  How did The Broken Kingdoms compare to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms?  Which did you like better?
I think I prefer book 1. Several of the characters I liked in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms were quite harsh and less likeable in The Broken Kingdoms – Sieh, T’vril, Nahadoth and Yeine. I can understand the difference in the portrayal though – this book is narrated by a commoner and I know the characters would be more relatable if we saw more of them and got their stories. But I miss the ones I got to know in book 1. The Broken Kingdoms puts a bit of a damper on my nostalgia.

The first book also had a much more triumphant, satisfyingly happy ending. This one was partly happy, but also quite sad – lots of dead godlings including Madding, Oree loses her magic, and Shiny has to leave. It’s not really a fair way to judge the book, I know, but I will add that it doesn’t make the book any less good, just a bit less enjoyable.

That said, I found Oree to be a slightly more interesting character than Yeine, and I like her relationship with Madding more than Yeine’s relationship with Nahadoth. I also like learning more about the godlings and their different affinities, and the magic in general is more dynamic. Overall this is a more colourful book. Looking forward to the read-along for the final book!

Other
 – Wouldn’t there be some New Lights who know Oree is a demon? The ones who helped take her blood, for example.

– Lol, I love how Oree’s joke about saving money on firewood by sleeping with Itempas comes true.

Links:
Books Without Any Pictures
Dab of Darkness
All I Am, A Redhead
Book Bound
Tethyan Books

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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