The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms read-along part 1

The Hundred Thousand KingdomsI’ve had a fantastic start to this read-along. Although I don’t often read epic fantasy, this book had me instantly intrigued with the complexity of its worldbuilding, its female POC protagonist, the enslaved gods at the core of the plot, and the way it seethes with secrets and danger.

Part 1 of the read-along covers chapters 1-9, and our host is Susan from Dab of Darkness. Head over there to start the blog hop and feel free to leave your link in the comments here as well. You’ll find the full schedule here. If you want to join in leave a comment on one of the host’s blogs, and we’ll add you to the list to get the discussion questions.

1) We’ve met our narrator, Yeine. What are your first impressions? Do you like the chosen form of story telling so far?
Yeine strikes me as a very resolute character. She doesn’t go to pieces when her grandfather rips her from her home, thrusts her into an unfamiliar and prejudiced society, and basically tells her to kill or be killed. She adapts quickly and goes about the business of dealing with her new situation – the rivalry with Relad and Scimina, overseeing three provinces, and forming a relationship with the gods. Very impressive for someone who is only nineteen.

To be honest, I find her slightly intimidating, so I like the fact that her narrative style is so personalised and self-reflective. Yeine fills in details as she has need of them, or chooses to withhold information if she does not yet want to talk about it. The uncertainty of this style makes Yeine feel a bit more human, more companionable.

I’m curious about the way she seems to be using storytelling as an act of remembrance, also this also gives us greater cause to doubt everything she says. What happened to her that she needs to piece her memory together like this? Is there anything she’s forgotten? Anything she’s remembering wrong?

2) Yeine essentially has two families – the Darre (her father’s people) and the Arameri (her mother’s people). What do you think of her two halves? Do you think one will win out over the other within Yeine?
Yeine’s heritage is a revolutionary combination – one of the poorest races  and the most powerful. While it makes her something of an outcast among both, it also means she has both an understanding of inequality and injustice, and the potential to do something about it.

The power of her Arameri side is quite seductive, particularly the power to command the Enefadeh, but the Arameri are deceptive and morally repugnant in many ways so I don’t really see Yeine embracing this side of herself. However, she might use it to her advantage, and for subversive or revolutionary purposes. I don’t know if her Darre side will win out per se – it might be more of a synthesis – but I think it certainly guides her character, her ethics.

3) We meet the Enefa, the enslaved gods. Which do you wish to know the backstory to the most? What do you think of their enslavement?
Gods on a leash? I fucking love this. Because what I really, really want to see, is what happens if (probably when) the Arameri lose control of their slaves. Even on a leash they’re dangerous; a loosely phrased command can lead to all sorts of death and destruction, as one of Yeine’s dreams proved. Then consider how they’ve been used and humiliated. Sieh in particular has revealed that he’s been used by paedophiles. What if he gets the chance to turn on them?

He’s the one that intrigues me the most. Nahadoth’s backstory is probably more important, but I find Sieh’s character more interesting. He’s charming and unnerving at the same time, and his need for physical affection is a very ungodlike trait. Plus he’s a trickster, so I can never be sure what he’s playing at or what he might be hiding.

4) Nahadoth finally catches up to Yeine and his first words and actions are mysteries to her. Gibbering or meaning?
I’m inclined to think that it has meaning; I’d hate it if it was just random weirdness. My first thought was that she might be a reincarnation of someone Nahadoth loved. Later I linked this to the story about the human woman who Nahadoth had a child with. More on this in question 6.

5) We’ve met the competition for the unspoken throne – Lady Scimina and Lord Relad. How do you think they will complicate Yeine’s life?
Scimina is the most obvious threat; her very first reaction upon seeing Yeine was to have her attacked! Relad on the other hand seems too drunk to care about anything except perhaps keeping himself alive, drinking, and sleeping with women who look like his sister. I hope Yeine can somehow use their strange relationship against them. I’m quite worried about the vulnerability of her position. I don’t have any speculations as to how this will play out, so I’ll just chew my nails and see what happens.

6) The Enefa obviously want something from Yeine. What do you think that is and how do you think Yeine will react to their wants?
I assume Yeine has something that will help liberate the gods in some way, although not necessarily to break their bonds completely. Viraine the scrivener mentioned that the gods lost the ability to reproduce millennia ago. The first thing Nahadoth did when he caught up with Yeine was kiss her and say he’d waited a long time for her. Then there’s that story Yeine tells about the woman who bore a child with Nahadoth. My first guess was that Yeine is a reincarnation of this woman, or that she can somehow restore the god’s fertility. Perhaps she’s even a descendant of the demon that the woman gave birth to.

Alternatively, I wondered if Yeine is somehow related to Sieh’s mother Enefa, “The Betrayer” – a reincarnation, or some diminished form (like the Enefadeh, trapped in human bodies). If Yeine is connected to her somehow, then Sieh’s requests to sleep in her bed make more sense.

Yeine is careful and calculating, but she has good reason to form an alliance with the gods, given that they’re the only ones who really want to ally with her at this point and they’re powerful and knowledgeable. But, as she mentioned, “An alliance made in fear or haste will not last” so she’ll no doubt tread very carefully here, no matter how eager she is. Personally, I want her to join them as soon as possible because that’s when the trouble will really start 😀

– I loved the altarskirt metaphor for the city. Yeine noted the rose’s infertility, it’s artificial nature, and the fact that creating it produces monsters that must be destroyed. I can see how this relates to the palace – the way all the people who live there are related, the fact that it could only be created with the help of the enslaved gods, and the necessary monstrousness of those gods. The rose can also be linked to the Enefadeh themselves – they can’t create new life and they’re in a tamed, unnatural form. When they tried mating with humans, they produced demons who had to be killed. But what if, amidst those demons, there was something worthwhile?

My people were audacious builders once […] but we could never have built anything like Sky. Nor could the Amn, of course, not without the aid of their captive gods, but this is not the main reason Sky  is deeply, profoundly wrong in Darre eyes. It is blasphemy to separate oneself from the earth and look down on it like a god. It is more than blasphemy; it is dangerous. We can never be gods, after all – but we can become something less than human with frightening ease.


See what the others thought:
Dab of Darkness
On Starships & Dragonwings
Little Red Reviewer
Books Without Any Pictures
All I Am – A Redhead
Many A True Nerd
Nashville Book Worm